A Siri Primer and Reference


[ Updated September 2015 for iOS9 ]

I am one who believes that digital personal assistants, like Siri and Cortana, are the future of how we’ll interact with technology.

But we aren’t using them to their full potential. Me included.

So I’ve put together this resource to remind me, and others, of what Siri is actually capable of. I read it regularly to remind myself that I shouldn’t be taking 20 seconds to log in and type something on my phone when I can just have Siri do it.

And I update the page regularly, as new features are added.

The missing manual

  1. Have Siri tell you when someone arrives (or leaves). If you’re sharing your location with someone (configurable in the Friends app or by clicking details while in a text with someone) you can then trigger events off based on their location, which is called Geofencing. So you can have Siri let you know if they leave, when they arrive, etc. Let me know when Jason leaves work.

  2. Have Siri send texts for you. You can simply say things like, “Tell Daniel to bring some coffee.” It’ll ask if you’re ready to send, and you say yes. That’s it. No looking at your phone, no opening the app, no special syntax. Just talk to Siri as if she’s a friend sitting next to you. Tell Mike I’m bringing the food and will be there in five minutes.

  3. Ask Siri what song is playing. Hear a cool song? Just say, “What song is this?” and she’ll identify it for you. What song is this?

  4. Have Siri remind you to do things at certain times, or based on location. You can be reminded to do something when you get home, when you leave work, or at a certain time. Remind me to pick up flowers at 5:30pm. Remind me to pick up the Fedex package when I get home.

  5. Have Siri play a certain song or artist while you’re driving. This also works for bands, artists, genres, etc. Play Purity Ring. Play No One Knows. 

  6. Ask Siri to find the best restaurants nearby. This one is killer. Everyone knows the Yelp shuffle, but Siri presents an alternative. Ask her what’s rated highest and and then have her take you there. Find the best Mexican restaurant nearby. What’s the best seafood within 20 miles?

  7. Have Siri make reservations for you. Make a reservation for two at Ken’s Steakhouse.

  8. Siri can take you to specific places. It’s nice to not have to go to Maps, enter addresses, start navigation, etc. Just talk to Siri and she’ll take care of it. Take me to Andrew’s house. Take me to work. Take me home.

  9. Siri can tell you where your friends are. If you’re sharing location data with your closest people this will become extremely handy. Where is Andrew? How far is Andrew from me?

  10. Siri can search your email for you. You can say things like, “Find an email from Chris about the new schedule.” Once she’s found it, she can also read it to you. Check my email for a message from Mike about schedules.

  11. You can establish relationships by saying, “Kristen is my boss.”, or “Michael is my brother.” This will allow you to speak to Siri more naturally, e.g. Tell my boss I’ll be 5 minutes early to the meeting.

  12. You can have Siri call you a nickname going forward, like Sir, or Mistress, or Holy One. Mostly fun, but could be useful. Call me Master from now on. 

  13. When Siri tried but failed to interpret your command correctly, you can say, “Change that.” and edit it to what you meant.

  14. You can have Siri turn on Do Not Disturb or Airplane mode for you. Just tell her like you’d tell anyone else. Turn on Airplane Mode

  15. If you install Wolfram Alpha you can do all sorts of crazy stuff through Siri, like seeing what planes are flying above you at this very moment, asking how many calories are in a food you’re eating, having it create you a secure password, etc. How many calories in a hot dog?

  16. Have Siri calculate your tips for you. Ask her to give you a 17% tip on a $134 dollar check, for example. What’s an 18% tip on $452 dollars?

  17. Siri can also post to Twitter or Facebook for you. You do it the same way you tell her text for you: Just say,  Post to Facebook that Siri is powerful. Tweet that I’m in San Francisco if anyone wants to meet up.

  18. You can use Siri to open any application on your phone.  Open LinkedIn.

  19. Siri can read you your voicemails.  Read me my latest voicemail.

  20. Siri can tell you the time and weather in any location.  What’s the weather like in Paris?” What time is it in Munich?  Unsupervised Learning — Security, Tech, and AI in 10 minutes… Get a weekly breakdown of what's happening in security and tech—and why it matters.        

  21. For sports you can ask who’s ahead in rankings, who’s playing games on the schedule, and who’s winning in current games. How are the Giants doing?

  22. Siri can control many of your phone’s settings, allowing you to say things like. Dim my screen. Disable bluetooth.

  23. You can have Siri set up meetings for you.  Create a meeting tomorrow at 3pm called Logistics, and invite Abhishek.

  24. Siri can define words for you.  What’s the definition of polyglot?

  25. Have Siri set timers for you. Set a timer for 4 minutes.

  26. Tell Siri to flip a coin for you.  Flip a coin.

  27. Ask Siri for a random number. “Give me a random number between 1 and 1000”.

  28. You can ask Siri what movies are playing nearby, and what their ratings are.  What movies are playing nearby? How did the movie Mad Max rate?

  29. You can have Siri set alarms for you. Set an alarm for 8am tomorrow.

  30. Siri can also search the web for you.  Google for news about the Mars mission.

  31. You can ask Siri to find photos for you, based on dates, locations, and albums. And if you have Faces set up with Apple/iCloud you can search by people as well. Show me pictures of Chris from last year.

  32. Have Siri remind you about what you’re currently looking at. If you’re using Messages, Safari, Notes, Maps, or Mail, you can simply say,  Remind me about this tomorrow.

  33. Siri can play Apple Music radio stations for you. While driving (or anywhere else) you can say

Play Electronic.

Play Metal.


Compared to using Siri, doing things manually on your device is like making a hotel bed using a coat hanger through a keyhole.

From time to time, re-read this page and ask yourself what tasks you’re doing manually that you could be having Siri do for you.


  1. Some of these require that you install Wolfram Alpha, which is free. It’s something you should have installed anyway.

  2. For song identification you need to install Shazaam.

  3. To play songs over your car’s audio system, you obviously need to be connected via bluetooth or USB.

  4. Reservations work off of OpenTable or a similar app.

  5. The more data you have on contacts and relationships with those contacts the better Siri can do using natural language. Saying, “Take me to Andrew’s house.”, for example, requires that you have a home address entered for him.

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