Beyond using Siri on an iPhone or iPad, you can work with the voice assistant on a Mac with Big Sur. Siri’s basic functionality is the same on a Mac as on a mobile device. But the steps for setting it up and customizing it differ slightly, mostly because of the differences between the operating systems.

You can tweak Siri to choose your language, region and voice. Once Siri is enabled, you activate it by your voice, by an icon or by a keyboard shortcut. Here’s how to get Siri working the way you want on your Mac.

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Click the Apple icon and select System Preferences. In the System Preferences window, click the icon for Siri (Figure A).

Figure A

Assuming Siri hasn’t already been enabled, check the box for Enable Ask Siri. Click the Enable button when asked for confirmation that you want to enable Siri (Figure B).

Figure B

To be able to access Siri by voice, check the box for Listen for “Hey Siri.” Siri will now ask you to repeat a few phrases to better understand your voice and manner of speaking. At the first screen for Set Up “Hey Siri,” click Continue and then repeat each displayed phrase. Click Done at the screen telling you that “Hey Siri” is ready (Figure C).

Figure C

To still use Siri when your Mac is locked, check the box for Allow Siri when locked. Next, you can trigger Siri through a keyboard shortcut. By default, pressing the dictation key (typically F5) on your Mac activates Siri, but you can change this. To do so, click the dropdown menu for Keyboard Shortcut and switch it to the shortcut of your choice. Click Customize to create a shortcut not listed in the menu (Figure D).

Figure D

Click the dropdown menu for language and shift to a different language for Siri if you wish. Then click the menu for Voice Variety. Depending on your language, you can choose a specific region to give Siri’s voice a certain accent. For example, selecting English (United States) as your language offers Australian, British, Irish, South African, Indian and American voices.

After choosing a voice, Siri speaks to you in that voice so you can decide if you want to keep it. Depending on the voice variety you select, a few specific numbered voices appear below. Click each numbered voice to hear how it sounds and choose your preferred voice (Figure E).

Figure E

By default, Siri answers you with a spoken response. But if you’d rather Siri not speak, uncheck the box for Voice Feedback. In that case, the response will appear only in the Siri window.

And if you’re concerned about Apple retaining your conversations with Siri, click the option for Delete Siri & Dictation History, and click Delete to confirm your action (Figure F).

Figure F

Close the Siri System Preferences window. You can now activate Siri three different ways. By voice, say “Hey Siri,” followed by your specific question or request. By shortcut, press the keyboard shortcut you set up in System Preferences and then speak your question or request. By icon, click the Siri icon on the menu bar and then speak your request (Figure G).

Figure G