After Hours

Advanced Siri tips for daily usage

Jack Wallen provides some quick tips for using Siri and taking the voice-activated system to newer, more powerful levels.

If you close your eyes, you can hear her voice. Or maybe you can see the likes of Zooey Dechanel prancing around her hipster apartment in her Pjs. Whatever imagery comes to mind, you know Siri. All iPhone 4S users have, at their fingertips, a tool that makes mobile life incredibly simple. But just because Siri makes life simple, it doesn't mean that you have to settle for simple usage. There are plenty of ways to take this feature to newer, more powerful levels.

Advanced searching with Siri

Siri allows you to easily search the web in many ways. With this tool, you can run searches for specific items and even get up-to-date information. Let's look at a few examples.

Flight times

If you're looking for flight times, you can get Siri to help. For this, the command is "google flights from airport to airport" (or "city to city"). So, if I'm looking for a flight from Louisville to Orlando, I would say, "Google flights from Louisville to Orlando" or "Google flights from SDF to MCO." For this to work properly, you'll need to use the proper World Airport Codes.

Sports scores

You can get up-to-date information on your favorite sporting team and even games that are in progress. Say, for example, the Indianapolis Pacers are playing the Miami Heat to advance to the Eastern Conference Championship (it could happen). To find out the current score of the game, prompt Siri with the spoken command "Yahoo Pacers Score." Siri will then come back with the current score (should the game still be in progress) as well as the team record, score of the last played game, and when the team's next game is played.

Movie times/ticket purchasing

The process of finding movie times is made much easier if you've set Safari to use your Current Location in Google. Once you've done that, you can simply speak the command "Prometheus showtimes." If you haven't set up Google, you can include the zip code for specific times based on location. That new command would be "Prometheus showtimes 40207" (or whatever zip code you're looking for). If the cinema is listed in Fandango, you can make the process of purchasing tickets even easier. Here's how:

  1. Set up Fandango to remember your credentials
  2. Set up Google (in Safari) to remember to use your location
  3. Speak the command "Siri search Movie showtimes (tap) Fandango # of tickets to purchase (tap) Purchase button (tap)"
NOTE: Everything in italics is user-specific (in this case, the name of the movie and the number of tickets you want to purchase) and everything in bold is a user interaction (in this case, tapping the associated button with the action).

Siri using URL Schemes

The developers of iPhone apps use an interesting trick to allow their apps to easily communicate with one another. This trick is URL Schemes. You can see how this works by opening up Safari and entering  fb:// in the address bar. This will automatically open up the Facebook app (if it's installed on your iPhone).

Now, how can we use this to our advantage? It isn't really a big deal to open up an application with the help of Siri, but what if you can get more specific with this task? Say, for instance, you want to be able to open up Facebook automatically to the Birthday listings. For this, you would use the URL Scheme fb://birthdays. Again, how do we make this useful? You can collect a group of handy URL Schemes and do the following:

  1. Create a contact called Shortcuts
  2. Add text fields for each URL Scheme you want to include
  3. When you want to use this, speak the command "Show Shortcuts"
  4. Scroll through the contact and tap the URL Scheme (app) you want to open

Have Siri use Remember The Milk for reminders

Remember The Milk (RTM) might well be one of the most popular to-do list applications available. You can integrate that app with Siri, so that when you create reminders with Siri, they'll automatically be handled by RTM (and synced to your online account).  Once you've installed RTM, here's what you need to do:

  1. Open Settings on your iPhone 4
  2. Tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars
  3. Tap Add Account
  4. Tap Other
  5. Underneath Calendars, tap Add CalDav Account
  6. In the ‘Server' field, enter: www.rememberthemilk.com
  7. In the ‘User Name' and ‘Password' fields, enter your Remember The Milk details
  8. Tap Next
  9. You should be returned to Mail, Contacts, Calendars, with the account added. Scroll to the bottom of the screen, and tap Default List
  10. Tap Remember The Milk

Now anytime you speak a "Remind me..." command, Siri will add that reminder using Remember The Milk.

Use your indoor voice

I often see people yelling into their phones as if Siri were a senior citizen without a hearing aid. However, Siri understands you much better if you speak in your regular, indoor voice. Do not over-enunciate and do not speak slower than your regular pattern. But there's another thing that's a must do. When you see that Siri has misheard you, tap to correct the incorrect word. The more you correct Siri, the better she'll understand you in the future.

There you go. With just a few quick tips, you're already on your way to making Siri more helpful in your day-to-day usage. We'll revisit Siri again and highlight additional tips to help make the voice-activated system even more user-friendly. In the meantime, please post your favorite Siri tip in the discussion thread below.

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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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