Make the most of Apple’s digital assistant!

Take Control of

Second Edition
Scholle McFarland

When it comes to using your Apple devices, Siri is increasingly the hands-free, time-saving, and fun technology that ties everything together. Whether you want to ask a question, make a call, find your iPhone, or set a timer—not only can Siri do it, but it usually offers the fastest way. This book explores how to get the most out of Siri on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch, Mac, and HomePod.

All Take Control books are delivered in three ebook formats—PDF, EPUB, and Mobipocket (Kindle)—and can be read on nearly any device.


Note: This book has not yet been updated to cover changes to Siri in macOS 12 Monterey, iOS 15, iPadOS 15, or watchOS 8. We are hoping to update it at some point in 2022.

Siri, Apple’s voice-controlled digital assistant, has been around since 2011, when it debuted on the iPhone. But since then, it has become vastly more powerful and useful, and has spread across Apple’s entire ecosystem—it now runs on iOS, iPadOS, macOS, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and HomePod. Siri can listen and speak in a wide range of languages and accents, perform a long list of helpful day-to-day tasks, and keep you entertained in the process.

Although Siri is easy to use, it’s so multitalented that you might easily overlook some of its best features. In this book, former Macworld editor Scholle McFarland takes you deep into Siri’s capabilities. You’ll learn tons of tips and tricks about making the most of Siri. Discover how Siri can increase your efficiency and productivity, lend a hand when you’re in the car or out for a jog, and even make it simpler to play music or find movies and TV shows to watch.

Among many other things, this book teaches you:

  • What hardware and software you need to use Siri
  • How to change Siri’s language and voice
  • Ways to personalize Siri by telling it about yourself, your contacts, and more
  • The numerous ways to activate Siri (by touch or by voice)
  • How to use Siri with AirPods, wired earbuds, or third-party headphones
  • What to do if the wrong device answers your “Hey Siri” request
  • How to ask Siri about sports, math and conversions, time, food, health, movies, people, stocks, the weather, jokes, real-world sounds, and random facts
  • Tips for asking Siri follow-up questions
  • How to control music (on any device, with or without an Apple Music subscription)
  • Techniques for using Siri to get directions, set reminders and appointments, send messages and email, and take notes
  • Ways to use Siri to search for files on your Mac
  • What Siri can and can’t do for you on an Apple TV or HomePod
  • How to make and use Shortcuts for use with Siri on an iOS/iPadOS device or Apple Watch
  • How to get your HomePod to recognize different people’s voices
  • Everything you need to know about your privacy where Siri is involved

Plus bonus videos! Since Siri is an audio-based, interactive tool, there are some things that are more readily demonstrated than written about. So Scholle has put together a series of videos that illustrate techniques from her book, allowing you to see and hear exactly what happens as you use Siri.

Whether you’re new to Siri or a seasoned pro, you’re sure to find lots of tricks and suggestions in this book to improve your experience of using Siri.

Scholle McFarland

About Scholle McFarland

Scholle McFarland has been covering the Mac since 1996 as an editor at MacUser magazine and then Macworld. During that time, she witnessed Apple transform from everyone’s favorite “doomed” company to everyone’s actually favorite company and is still amazed by the whole thing.

When she’s not working, Scholle (“Sholly”) likes to hang out with her family, friends, and many animals in beautiful Portland, Oregon.

What’s New in the Second Edition

The second edition of Take Control of Siri is updated for iOS 14.3 and iPad OS 14.3, as well as macOS Big Sur and watchOS 7. (The Mac-specific instructions in this book should work for Catalina or later. Much of what I describe here also works in earlier versions of macOS, but somewhat differently than what you’ll read here.) Along with hundreds of small changes in the book, larger revisions include:

  • Instead of taking over the whole screen of your mobile device, Siri now appears as a small widget at the bottom of the screen (iPhone) or bottom-right corner of the screen (iPad). This means you can keep an eye on other information while you make your query. The difference shows in screenshots throughout the book.
  • If you have AirPods—or in some cases, Beats headphones—Siri can now announce incoming messages on AirPods (and more) and let you reply hands free.
  • Tired of your Siri mixing up you and your teen or spouse’s music preferences? Teach HomePod to recognize different voices so it responds to each of you appropriately.
  • Siri includes more ways to ask about health, including symptom-based coronavirus guidance.
  • Siri now gathers knowledge from a variety of websites. The result is it can get answers to more questions without kicking you out to a general web search. See “Ask About Random Facts.”
  • Whether you’d like to hear a collie or a cuckoo, now you can ask Siri for real-world sounds.
  • If you need a little help relaxing, or like to fall asleep to white noise, you can use Siri to tap into the HomePod’s ambient sounds.
  • Chained to Apple Maps no more, Siri now can use Google Maps for driving, cycling, walking, or transit directions. It can even access your contacts so you can get directions to a friend’s house by name. See “Use Google Maps Instead.”
  • When your message requires some nuance, use Siri to send an audio message instead of a text one.
  • You can still use Siri to translate a phrase, but you might want to use iOS 14’s new Translate app instead.
  • If you’re tired of family members ignoring their phones, use Siri to turn your HomePod into an intercom to get their attention.
  • In responses to issues with Siri recordings, Apple changed some of its privacy settings and policies. One result is that you can now delete your information. See “Understand Siri and Your Privacy.”
  • Read Me First
    • Updates and More
    • ​Basics
    • What’s New in the Second Edition
  • Introduction
  • Siri Quick Start
  • Brush Up on Siri Basics
    • What You Need to Get Started
    • Change Siri’s Language and Voice
    • Control How Siri Talks Back to You
  • Activate Siri By Touch
    • Trigger Siri Manually on an iPad or iOS Device
    • Trigger Siri by Touch on Your Watch
    • Trigger Siri by Touch on HomePod
    • Trigger Siri by Touch on Your Apple TV
    • Trigger Siri Manually on a Mac
    • Don’t Forget Your Headphones
  • Activate Siri with Your Voice
    • Use “Hey Siri” on Your iPhone or iPad
    • Use “Hey Siri” on Your Apple Watch
    • Use “Hey Siri” on Your HomePod
    • Use “Hey Siri” On Your Mac
    • Use “Hey Siri” with AirPods
  • Get Answers to Questions
    • Ask About Sports
    • Ask About Math and Conversions
    • Ask About Time
    • Ask About Food
    • Ask About Movies
    • Ask About People
    • Ask About Stocks
    • Ask About the Weather
    • Ask About Health
    • Ask About Random Facts
    • Ask for a Joke
    • Ask What You Can Ask
  • Control Your Music
    • Work with Your Music
    • Find New Music
    • Do More with Stations and Playlists
    • Learn More About the Music
  • Make a Call
    • Make a Phone Call
    • Use the Speaker
    • Redial a Number
    • Call for Help
    • Listen to Voicemail
    • FaceTime a Friend
  • Get Directions
    • Ask for Directions
    • Find a Business
    • Check Traffic
  • Remind Yourself
    • Create a Reminder
    • Organize Your Reminders
    • Work with Your Reminders
  • Make a Date
    • Check Your Schedule
    • Create an Event
    • Change an Event
    • Cancel an Event
  • Send Messages
    • Send a Message
    • Send an Audio Message
    • Read Your Messages
    • Reply to a Message
  • Send Email
    • Write an Email Message
    • Read Email Messages
    • Reply to Email Messages
    • Find Email Messages
  • Take a Note
    • Create a New Note
    • Give a Note a Name
    • Add to Notes
    • Find Notes
    • Listen to Your Notes
  • Control Your Mac with Siri
    • Work with System Preferences
    • Find Information About Your Mac
    • Find Files with Siri
    • Type Questions to Siri
  • Grab Bag of Other Useful Tricks
    • Find Your Apple Devices
    • Retrieve Passwords
    • Launch an App
    • Set a Timer
    • Set an Alarm
    • Translate a Phrase
    • Look Up a Word
    • Track Down Friends and Family
    • Turn Your HomePod into an Intercom
    • Take a Photo (or a Selfie)
    • Find Your Photos
    • Send or Request Money
    • Hear the Headlines
    • Control Your Home
  • Save Time with Siri Shortcuts
    • Add a Suggested Shortcut
    • Get Shortcuts from the Gallery
    • Go Beyond the Gallery
  • Understand Siri and Your Privacy
    • Is Apple Keeping Track of What I Say?
    • Does Siri Share Other Information About Me with Apple?
    • Will “Hey Siri” Devices Record My Conversations?
    • Could Apps Hijack My Devices’ Microphones and Listen In?
  • About This Book
    • Ebook Extras
    • About the Author
    • About the Publisher
  • Copyright and Fine Print

Scholle McFarland talks Siri with Chuck Joiner

Posted by Joe Kissell on February 26, 2021

Scholle McFarland joined Chuck Joiner on MacVoices to discuss the new second edition of her book Take Control of Siri. She describes new features and capabilities in Siri across Apple’s operating systems.

November 23, 2021—This book has not yet been updated to cover changes to Siri in macOS 12 Monterey, iOS 15, iPadOS 15, or watchOS 8. We are hoping to update it at some point in 2022.


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