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Elgan: Getting serious about Siri

Mike Elgan | Oct. 24, 2011
Apple's new Siri virtual assistant feature in the iPhone 4s is already causing controversy and dividing the gadget-loving universe.



Pro Tip 1: Give Siri an assistant of its own

In the future, virtual assistants like Siri will do all kinds of things for you. But for now, Siri is pretty limited in what it can do by itself.

One thing Siri can do is send text messages. And text messages can do powerful things, with the right help.

I told you recently about a new service called "If This Then That," which is abbreviated and lowercased by the company as: ifttt, for some reason.

The service lets you connect together all kinds of Internet-based services. One of these services is SMS. And that's the key to empowering Siri.

Here's how it works: You use Siri to send a text to ifttt, and that service can turn your text into a Facebook or Twitter post, Tumblr, Posterous or Wordpress blog post, an Evernote entry or any number of other actions.

I don't need to give you the step-by-step instructions here. That's what ifttt does really well. Just follow the on-screen instructions for taking action with SMS text messages, add ifttt as a contact on your iPhone, then use Siri to create and send those text messages.

Pro Tip 2: Master Siri's surprising e-mail power

Most Siri users I know think Siri is lousy at doing email. Here's how email commands usually go:

User: "Send an email."

Siri: "To whom shall I send it?"

User: "Deven."

Siri: "What's the subject of your email?"

User: "Halloween"

Siri: "What would you like your email to say?"

User: "I'm having a Halloween party, and hope you can come!"

Siri: "Here's the email message to Deven. Ready to send it?"

What most users don't know is that all this can be communicated in one go. Here's the best way to send this same message:

User: "Email Deven about Halloween and say I'm having a Halloween party, and hope you can come!" Siri: "Here's the email message to Deven. Ready to send it?"

The formula is: "Email about and say ."

You can also optimize replies. When Deven is looking at this message, for example, he can say: "Reply Sounds great. I'll be there." Boom! Done!

You can even optimize the finding of emails by specifying the sender and the day that message was sent. For example, Siri understands: "Find that email from my mom yesterday."

You'll save a lot of time in the future by spending a little time now truly mastering what Siri can do with email.

Pro Tip 3: Be a dictator with Siri's hidden Dragon

The new iPhone 4S not only has Siri, but also Nuance's Dragon Dictation software baked right in.


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