When I saw that the GM version of the beta was available I decided to take the plunge. There’s not much loss in terms of time to install the operating system on the top of what was already there. If I decide later I want to do a clean install I still have the installation disk I made ready to use. The first thing I tried after setting up macOS Sierra was to ask Siri to find all my files from yesterday. Siri was able to do this and tell me in a male voice that files had been found. I will have to change this to a female voice because I prefer that. Siri also showed me the list of files found and I was able to see that as a section in the Today/Notifications area. Cool to save that search and use again any time. I thought if I looked at that search again the following day, it would give me the files I’ve been working on today, the new yesterday. Looking at the saved search it was still showing files as shown on the day the search was performed.
The next command I gave to Siri was to open Ulysses and that also worked as it was supposed to. I can use Dragon to do things like opening applications although this morning it worked better to use Siri when I wanted to get to the system settings. I have now changed the Siri voice to a British (Female). In the system settings you can change the keyboard shortcut. The default shortcut is to hold command space and then start talking when you hear the familiar Siri ping sound. I was quite impressed that the settings was able to use my best external mic as the microphone input. I had thought it would perhaps default back to the internal microphone on the iMac. You can choose if you want Siri to talk back to you and I like to have the audio feedback.
Siri and Privacy
Within system settings there is a button for finding out more about Siri and privacy. It tells us that Siri will send some information to Apple in order to process the requests. Siri needs to know your name and nickname as well as names and nicknames in your contacts. It’s nice to know that when you are requesting documents from your device the names and content of the documents are not sent to Apple. The searches performed locally on your Mac.
You can decide whether you want to have location services turned on or off. If Apple knows the location of your computer it can help with the accuracy of the response to your requests. It really depends upon sort of requests to make and whether series needs to know where you are. If you’re going to ask for something like “Where is the nearest pizza restaurant?” Then it’s going to better if Siri knows your location. It’s not going to be much use if you get given a restaurant in Cupertino if you’re living in a completely different country.
There are more details within the privacy information and I think there’s enough there to give you peace of mind regards your privacy and security when using Siri. If you decide to turn off searing then Apple will delete your user data as well as your recent voice input data. Some voice input data will be retained for a period of time which is generally used for improvements in Siri, dictation and dictation functionality in other Apple products and services.
I feel confident that Apple has our privacy and security looked after properly. They have made a lot of noise about how they don’t want to know about whatever we get up to while using Apple products. They’ve done this even though it is to the detriment of the functionality of the service. Other companies like Google and Facebook want to know everything about you and are happy to use that information to sell you to advertisers. Not so with Apple and this extra layer of using voice-activated computing on our Macs is not going to make anything worse.
What can you do with your Mac using Siri
The best way to finance what Siri can do for you is to ask. Use your keyboard shortcut and pose that question to Siri. You’ll get a list of things you can choose to do or ask. The first question I asked was when was the next Barcelona football club game taking place. Siri was able to tell me correctly that the next time was at 8:30 this evening and which team they were playing. (Barcelona lost at home 1:2 – Useless!). I then asked Siri to tell me my sons phone number. It asked me to choose which name because there was more than one George. I told to read the name I wanted to use and is read out the phone number to me. The whole process was a little bit slow and you could almost have done it quicker by opening the application and doing a search. Only worth doing with Siri if you really just didn’t want to use the keyboard at all. It could be due to the slow Internet I have because the data has to go out of the computer first and the answer has to come back again. I have a particularly slow Internet connection outwards so it’s no big surprise it was a little bit slow.
Launching applications with Siri is quick and effective. It’s possible to do things like increasing the brightness of your screen by telling Siri to do it. Perform quick calculations such as telling Siri to multiply one number by another to get your answer. Quicker than getting out the calculator and keying in the numbers.
The Mac 20 questions verdict on using Siri on Mac
I am well used to talking to my computer because I use the Nuance Dragon dictation application to write just about everything. It’s pretty easy for me to tell Dragon to go to sleep and then press command and for a short while. I think I could get into the habit of using Siri to do things and to answer my questions. If it’s going to be easier and quicker using our voices to control our computers then certainly we are going to take that option. Apple have been using the marketing term of machine learning with it being applied to making Siri better. It’s going to be interesting to see how that affects the overall working of Siri on Mac. Theoretically, the more Siri on mac gets used then the much better it will get. The only thing we’ll have to worry about is if Skynet get involved!