VoiceoverEasy.net courses are tutorials geared toward blind and visually impaired users of iPhones and iPads with Siri capability, and who use Apple Corporation's accessibility technology called Voiceover to read the screen of their device.

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For iOS7,8, and 9.

SECTION 1: Introduction:

In order to display customized text to meet your needs VoiceoverEasy.net needs to know if you want to learn about iPhones or iPads.


DeviceNumber = -1
DeviceType = iOS Device

In this lesson you will learn how to use Siri to perform common tasks, such as;

SECTION 2: What is Siri.

Siri interprets the natural language that you speak into commands that your iOS Device can perform. This is called speech recognition. This is a relatively new technology in the evolution of computers and is just now coming into it's own. Siri is still a young lady. She may misinterpret some things you tell her to do, but you and she will learn to communicate better as time goes on.

In the previous lesson we learned about Dictation Mode. Dictation Mode translates the words you speak into typed text and places the text into the active Text Field. You can only use Dictation Mode in an active text field. The ready tone for Dictation Mode is a single bell tone that sounds after you initiate it. You cannot use Siri to type text into an active field, and Siri sounds a double bell tone when she is ready to listen.

SECTION 3: Customizing Siri.

Finding the Siri Options Screen.

There are several methods you can use to find the Siri Options Screen.

Using the Search Option of the Settings Application.
  1. Open the Settings App from the Home Screen.
  2. Activate the Search Field near the top of the Settings main menu for editing. Voiceover will say, "Search Field, Is Editing."
  3. Enter "Siri," in the Search Field and press the Search key. The Search key takes the place of the Return key on the soft Siri.
  4. Make the Search Field the Current Item.
  5. Explore down from the Search field, or use the Next Item gesture until Voiceover says, "Siri, General."
  6. Use the Activate gesture.
  1. Open the Settings App from the Home Screen.
  2. Use the Explore gesture or the Next and Previous Item gestures until you find the "General" button. Then Activate it.
  3. NOTE: The buttons are not listed alphabetically. If you can't find one or more of the buttons, you can invoke the Item Chooser with the Item Chooser gesture. and find it in the alphabetical list. Then use the Select gesture. You will be returned to the settings menu and the button you selected will be the current item. Then use the Activate gesture.

  4. Use the Explore gesture or the Next and Previous Item gestures until you find the "Siri" button. Then Activate it.

The Siri Options Screen.

The options on this screen control the way you speak to Siri, and the way Siri reacts when you speak to it. Finally, they also allow you to control the way Siri sounds when it speaks to you. These options stay in effect whether Voiceover is active or not.7t8g78

The Action Row.

The Action Row appears just below the Status Bar. On the left side of the action row is a button that voiceover reads as, "General, Back button." Pressing this button will take you back to the General settings screen. To the right of the Back button is a Heading which reads as, "Siri, Heading."

Turning Siri On and Off.

Below the Action Row is a Button which toggles Siri on and off. Voiceover reads the button as, "Siri," followed by "On," or "off," depending on Siri's current state.

NOTE: Siri stores some information about the way you talk and the commands you use on Apple's servers. It does the same with Dictation data. If you turn Siri off, you will receive a popup alert regarding this information. You are given the choice to cancel the action or confirm that you want to turn off Siri.

Explore down the screen a little further, or use the Next Item gesture again. VoiceOver reads an instructional label that tells you how to activate Siri. The label also has a link to a notice about use of Siri and your privacy. Some of the text from that notice is listed below for your awareness.

When you use Siri, which includes the dictation feature of your device, the things you say and dictate will be recorded and sent to Apple to process your requests. Your device will also send Apple other information such as your name and nickname; the names, nicknames, and relationship with you,(e.g.,"My Dad") of your address book contacts; and song names in your collection (collectively, your "user data). All of this data is used to help Siri understand you better and recognize what you say. It is not linked to any other data that Apple may have from the use of any other Apple services. If you have location services turned on, the location of your device at the time you make a requestwill be sent to Apple to help Siri improve the accuracy of its response to your location based requests (e.g., "What's the weather like here today?").

Hey Siri.

This button turns on the "Hey Siri" feature. When this feature is on, and your iOS Device is connected to an external power source, you can activate Siri simply by saying, "Hey Siri," followed by the command you want Siri to perform. This enables you to activate your iOS Device hands free. This is a very convenient feature, but there are some things to consider before you activate it.

  • Anyone has access to all Siri's features even through the locked screen simply by plugging your iOS Device in.
  • There may be privacy issues as Siri is listening whenever it is plugged in, even when you may not want it to.>
  • If you have multiple devices in the same area with Hey Siri enabled, they may all respond at once when you invoke Siri.

When you Press or Activate this button, and this feature is Off, you will be guided through a series of Setup Screens to train Siri to recognize your command. You will be asked to press a "Setup Now" button and then speak, "Hey Siri," three times. Then you will be asked to say two other phrases that begin with "Hey Siri." Press the "Done" button when you are done with all the prompts.

If you press this button when the setting is on, Hey Siri will be turned off. If you turn it back on, you will have to repeat the setup procedure.

The Language Button.

The sound of the voices for Siri and VoiceOver can be set independently. The settings below affect how the Siri voice sounds , and how Siri interprets your commands. They have no affect on the VoiceOver screen reader. VoiceOverEasy.net recommends having the Siri and Voiceover voices set to different genders. That makes it easier to know which one you are listening to at any given time. Follow these steps to change the language and dialect that Siri will listen for, and speak in.

The Language button is below the Hey Siri option. It sets the language Siri expects to hear when you speak. VoiceOver reads the button name followed by the current language and dialect that Siri expects you to be speaking. Follow these steps to change the language.

  1. Press the Language button to enter the Language Options Screen and see the list of possible languages.
  2. Use the Select gesture to choose the language you want.
  3. Press the "Siri, Back button," which is in the upper left corner of the Language Options screen, where most Back buttons are. You will be returned to the Siri Options Screen.

The Siri Voice Button.

This button controls the options for the Voice that Siri speaks to you with. When you press it, the Siri Voice Options Screen appears.

Setting Siri's Accent.

Below the heading which VoiceOver reads as, "Accent," there are choices available for preset accents for your language. Use the Select gesture to choose the accent you prefer to hear.

Controling Siri's Gender.

Below these selections is a "Gender" heading. It is followed by two options. Use the Select gesture to choose between "male," and "female."

Use the "Back" button to return to the Siri Settings Screen.

The Voice Feedback Options.

This setting controls when Siri will give you audible feedback. When you Press this button, you are taken to the Voice Feedback Options Screen. Use the Select gesture to choose the option you want, and then use the Back button to return to the main Siri Options Screen.

Table of Available Voice Feedback Options.
Option. Effect.
Always. Siri always provides voice feedback, either through the speaker, or through a hands free device.
Hands Free Only. Siri will only beep and provide audible feedback when you are using "Hey Siri," a hands free device like bluetooth headset, or Car Play in iOS9 and later. Feedback will still appear on the screen.
Control with Ring Switch. When the Mute or Ring/Silent is in the Silent or Mute position, Siri will silence all audio to the speaker, but hands free devices as described in the previous option will still be audible.

The My Info Button.

If you are like most people, you have already set up a number of contacts in your iOS Device. The method for doing this was described in Creating and Managing Contacts. Now you must tell Siri which contact card in the list is about you. Siri uses this information so it can respond to requests like "Remind me when I get home," or "Tell my son I'm running late." Your contact card tells Siri where "home" is, the relationships between you and those important to you, and the number to use to call home. Siri will also address you by name if you create a contact card with your information. Once you have created a contact card for yourself, follow these steps to tell Siri which contact card is yours.

  1. Press the "My Info" button to bring up the Contacts List Screen.
  2. Find the Contact Card with your information and make it the Current Item.
  3. use a Select gesture to indicate this card is about you. You will be returned to the main Siri Options Screen.

SECTION 4: Chatting with Siri.

4.1: Getting Siri's Attention.

Talking to Siri is like using a walkie-talkie. Use the Home button like a talk button. Hold it down and wait for a double bell tone. Continue to hold the button and speak. When you are finished, release the button. You will hear another double tone, and Siri will begin processing what you said.

If your iOS Device is connected to a power source, and you have the "Hey Siri" feature turned on as described in Section 3.2, then you can simply say, "Hey Siri," followed by your command or question.

NOTE: In the previous lesson we discussed Dictation Mode. Dictation Mode starts and ends with a single bell tone. In contrast, Siri uses a double bell tone to indicate it's listening to you, and another double bell tone to tell you it's gone from listening mode to processing your request.

4.2: Let's Get Personal.

Let's try asking Siri some personal questions to practice talking to Siri. Use the technique just discussed to get Siri's attention for each question.

  1. Who are you?
  2. What can I say?
  3. Do you like chocolate?
  4. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

4.3: Letting Siri Get to Know You.

Let's practice a little bit more. If you have a contact card with your name, home address and telephone number filled out designated in the "My Info" setting as described in Section 3.5 then you can ask these questions.

  1. Who am I?
  2. What is my address?
  3. What is my mobile telephone number?

If you have other contact cards with information about your husband, wife, father or mother, then try these commands substituting their name and relationship for those specified for Jim Nazium and Penny Lain. After each command Siri will ask you if you would like it to remember the relationship. Answer, "Yes!"

  1. Make Jim Nazium my brother.
  2. Penny Lane is my mother.

Let's step back a minute and look at the work Siri just saved for us. It's pretty impressive. Here is a summary of the steps to set up a relationship without using Siri. These steps were discussed in Creating and Managing Contacts, Section 5.12.

  1. Go to the Home Screen.
  2. Launch the Contacts Application.
  3. Find your Contact Card in the Contacts List.
  4. Open the Contact Card for viewing.
  5. Press the Edit button to make changes.
  6. Scroll down to the "Add, Insert Relationship" button and press it.
  7. Set the label of the relationship to what you want, i.e, Mother, Brother, Sister, Boss, Assistant...
  8. Choose the Add Contact Button and and find the Contact Card for the other person in the Contact List.
  9. Select the Card.
  10. Press the Done button to save your changes.

If you have Contact Cards for other family members, try using variations of the commands above to set up their relationships to you. When you're done, try these commands and questions substituting the appropriate relationships. Of course, you can have multiple entries for brother and sister. Don't worry! Siri is smart enough to handle it.

  1. What is my brother's mobile telephone number?
  2. Call my mother.
  3. Send a text message to my father.

4.4: Money Talk!

Suppose you are with friends at a restaurant, and the bill comes to 43 dollars and 50 cents. You need to know what a 20% tip would be. Just activate Siri and say,"What is 20% of 43 dollars and 50 cents."

NOTE: Sometimes Siri will display information on screen that it doesn't read. Let's suppose you are at the restaurant with three other people and the bill is 90 dollars. Ask Siri, "What is an 18% tip on 90 dollars for four people?". Siri will reply, "four dollars and five cents," but take a minute to Explore the screen with your finger and review the information there.

Siri calculated the total bill with tip and then divided by 4. It just didn't bother to read everything out. So if Siri's answers sometimes seem incomplete, Explore the screen and let VoiceOver pick up the slack. Siri and VoiceOver make a good team, but they are two different applications.

NOTE: Sometimes Siri stops talking in the middle of a response. VoiceOverEasy.net has not been able to determine the cause for this behavior. When it occurs, use the Explore gesture to find out the rest of what Siri had to say.

Suppose you just landed in Paris, and you have 150 U.S. dollars to convert to Euros. You can make sure you are getting the right amount by telling Siri to, "Convert 150 dollars to Euros.

Maybe you have a yen for Japanese cuisine, but you still have a 150 dollar budget. Can you get Siri to convert it to yen?

NOTE: Siri likes to use the word "About" in these types of conversions. There is some rounding that takes place. So you may see small differences in the answer Siri provides compared to what the actual exchange rate is on any given day.

Of course, not all monetary conversions revolve around the dollar. For example, you can convert directly from yen to Euros.

4.5: Converting Units of Measure.

Test Siri with some of these distance conversions: How many inches in a mile? How many milimeters in an inch? How many square feet in an acre? How many acres is 80,000 square feet? Maybe you want to go old school. How many meters in a Rod? How many feet in a furlong? How many pounds in a stone?

Siri is also great at converting these units:

When you ask for measurement conversions, take a moment to Explore the screen with your finger. Siri provides a lot more information on screen than it speaks aloud.

4.6: Getting Information About People in Your Contacts.

If you need quick access to information in your contacts, you can simply ask Siri. Try variations on these commands.

  1. What is Jim Nazium's phone number?
  2. What is Jim Nazium's home address.
  3. What is my sister's address?
  4. When is Jim Nazium's birthday?
  5. Who is my father?

4.7: Under Siri's Spell.

Try saying to Siri, "Spell Eroneous," and wait for the response. Siri will say the word, and then spell it just like a contestant in a spelling bee. However, it will never ask you to use the word in a sentence. So be careful of synonyms like stare; s, t, a, r, e, and stair; s, t, a, i, r.

Sometimes Siri says, "The answer is, Erroneous." That doesn't seem very helpful. If you ask again, Siri will say the same thing. This is because Siri reads whole words, not individual characters. However, since Siri displays everything it says on screen, you can still get the answer you need.

  1. Use the explore gesture until you find the label that says, "The answer is erroneous."
  2. Dial theRotor to the Words function.
  3. Use the Move Forward gesture to move past the words, the, answer, and is.
  4. Dial the rotor to the Characters function.
  5. Use repeated Move Forward gestures to hear the letters in the word erroneous individually.

4.8: Defining Moments.

Siri can also provide definitions of words. Just say, "define," followed by the word. Try saying, "Define Automatic," and let Siri give you a response. Siri gives one definition of "Automatic," but there is more than one definition for this word. You may want to always check after Siri gives a definition in case there is more than one.

Here is another case where you must use VoiceOver gestures to find out more information. You can use the Explore gesture, the Next and Previous Item gestures, or the Read Top Down gesture, since we don't have to hear individual letters like we did in Section 4.7 above.

SECTION 5: Controling your iOS Device with Siri.

You can do almost anything you can do with VoiceOver Gestures with Siri. As a general rule, you can do it faster. Let's take a look at some possibilities.

5.1: Launching Applications.

Instead of browsing for an application icon, you can just ask Siri to do it for you. Try some of these commands:

  1. Launch Notes.
  2. Open Reminders.
  3. Activate Voice memos.
  4. Play Scrabble

Notice that Siri considers the commands "Open," "Launch," and "Activate" to be the same. You can also tell Siri to play a game that you have loaded on your iOS Device, such as scrabble.

However, if you ask Siri to "open a folder," or "Close an app," Siri will tell you that it cannot do that. You will have to do those actions by hand.

5.2: Reviewing and Changing Settings with Siri.

Turn VoiceOver on and off.

Use one of these two commands, "Turn on VoiceOver," or "VoiceOver on," to turn VoiceOver on. You can turn off VoiceOver by saying "VoiceOver off," or "Turn off VoiceOver."

Accessing Settings Screens.

You can use Siri to jump right to many settings screens without having to navigate through all the options. Suppose you wanted to change something in the VoiceOver settings. Here are the steps you would need to perform to reach the VoiceOver Setup Options Screen without Siri.

  1. Find and activate the "Settings" icon from the Home Screen.
  2. Find and press the "General" button.
  3. Find and press the Accessibility button.
  4. Find and press the "VoiceOver" button.

If you tell Siri, "Show VoiceOver Settings," or "Display VoiceOver Settings," you will go directly to the VoiceOver Setup Options Screen and skip all the intervening steps. The command is composed of three parts; the word "Show," or "Display," followed by the name of the setup options screen you want to access, and then the word "Settings," which tells Siri to look in the Settings screens. Here are some other examples of commands to jump to particular settings screens.

  1. Show Accessibility Settings.
  2. Show Privacy Settings.
  3. Display Sounds Settings.
  4. Show Twitter Settings.
  5. Display Do not Disturb Settings.

5.3: Commands for Email.

You can get Siri to do a lot with just a few words. Try these commands with variations to suit the names and relationships in your Contacts List.

  1. "Check Mail," causes Siri to tell you how many messages you have received in the last week. Then Siri will offer to read the sender and subject of the three newest messages.
  2. Is there any new mail from Jim Nazium today?
  3. Show new mail about VoiceOver?
  4. Do I have any new messages?
  5. "Email Jim Nazium about Next Week's Game," causes Siri to start a new email message to Jim Nazium with the subject "Next Week's Game. Siri will then ask you what you want to say to Jim Nazium. The text you dictate next will be put in the body of the message.
  6. "Email my brother about next weeks schedule and say I'll be there by six o'clock on Sunday," causes Siri to send an email to your brother with the subject, "Next Week's Schedule," with the message body, "I'll be there by six o'clock on Sunday."
  7. "Email My Boss and My Assistant about Meeting Tomorrow ans say, I will be arriving early for the meeting," causes Siri to send an Email to your Boss and your Assistant with a subject of Meeting Tomorrow with, "I'll be arriving early for the meeting."

Let's breakdown the last command. "Email," tells Siri you want to send an email. The email addresses of the people listed next will be placed in the "to" address field. The word "About," tells Siri that the next phrase is to go in the subject line. The word "say," tells Siri that the next phrase goes in the message body.

As your commands become more complicated, it is easier for Siri to get confused. If you're sending a message to a lot of people, or if it has a long message body, you will be better off opening the mail app and using Dictation Mode to create each part of the message, see Unit 5: Dictation Mode.

5.4: Text Messaging.

You can have Siri send text messages in the same way you send email messages. Just substitute the word, "text message," for the word, "Email," in the commands above. Since text messages have no subject line, the words, "About," and "say," will make the subsequent phrase become the text of the message.

  1. "Check text messages," causes Siri to tell you how many new text messages you have received in the last week. Siri will read each message and ask you if you would like to reply.
  2. "text Jim Nazium ," causes Siri to start a new text message to Jim Nazium. Siri will then ask you what you want to say to Jim Nazium. The text you dictate next becomes the text of the message.
  3. "text my brother and say I'll be there by six o'clock on Sunday," causes Siri to send a text to your brother. The message will say, "I'll be there by six o'clock on Sunday."
  4. "text My Boss and My Assistant ans say, I will be arriving early for the meeting," causes Siri to send a group text to your Boss and your Assistant that says, "I'll be arriving early for the meeting."
  5. "Tell my daughter Don't miss your dentist appointment today," sends a text message to your daughter that says "Don't miss your dentist appointment today."
  6. "Ask Mom, Are we having meatballs tonight?" will send the text message, "Are we having meatballs tonight?" to your mother.

If it feels more natural to you, you can start each of these commands with phrases like "send text message," or "send a text message." Experiment a little!

You can also tell Siri to "Read my text messages," or even say, "read it again."

SECTION 6: Making Phone Calls with Siri.

One of the nicest features of Siri is it's ability to place phone calls. Siri can call any number regardless of whether or not it is in your contact list.

6.1: Calling Numbers in Your Contacts List

Calling a contact is easy. Simply say, "Call," followed by the name of the person you want to call or by there relationship to you. If the contact has multiple numbers, Siri will ask you which one to use. You can also specify the number to use in your command to Siri. Look at these commands. Try them, but substitute people and relationships from your own contacts list.

  1. Call Jim Nazium.
  2. Call Jim Nazium at Work.
  3. Call my mother at home.
  4. Call Apple Access.

6.2: Calling Numbers not in your Contacts.

To call a number that isn't in your contacts list, just say the word, "Call," followed by the number. Here are a few tips for saying numbers.

For example, if you didn't have the Apple Access line in your contacts, you could say, "call eight seven seven, two zero four, three nine three zero. By the way, if this number isn't in your contacts list, this is a good time to add it.

6.3: Other Commands and Questions About Phone Calls.

6.4: Using Siri to Start a Call on Speaker.

This feature is new to iOS 8.3. If you want Siri to call someone and route the call directly to the speaker without having to press the speaker button, try these commands.

  • "Call 877 204-3930 on Speaker."
  • "Call Mom on Speaker."

SECTION 7: Wrapping Up.

We've covered a lot about Siri, but we've still barely scratched the surface. In this lesson we only covered commands about topics discussed in previous VoiceOverEasy.net lessons. If you would like to see a more complete list of commands, take a look at this website, How to use Siri - Full list of Siri Commands.

You may wonder why we spent so much time learning to do things the hard way instead of using Siri in the first place. The answer is that Siri requires a good 3G, 4G, LTE, or WiFi connection to the internet. You can tell if you have one of these connections by looking for the indicator in your Status Bar. For those times when you can't connect to the internet, you need to know how to get along without Siri. Those times happen more often than you might think. For example, you may not have an internet if you are in a plane, in an underground parking garage, camping in the woods, if a storm knocks out your power or cable... So make it a point to always know both ways of completing a task. At VoiceOverEasy.net testing shows Siri works best when the 3G, 4G, or LTE status indicators are present. It also works well when your iOS Device is connected to a wireless (WiFi) network.

When sending long Email or Text messages, or when sending messages to many addressees, it's better to open the required app and use Dictation Mode rather than trying to do everything in one shot with Siri. Siri can get confused and sometimes produce erroneous results when commands get overly complex.

Often when you ask Siri for information, it doesn't speak all the information it finds. If the answer seems incomplete, or was not what you expected, try examining the screen to find out if there is any additional information that you can use.

If Siri's volume is too loud or too soft, you can adjust it with the volume buttons on the side of your iOS Device, but you must make the adjustment while Siri is speaking.

Sometimes it is hard to know whether Siri or VoiceOver is speaking. This is not normally an issue, except when they are both at different volume levels, and you are trying to make them match more closely. One way to help keep it straight is to change the Siri voice to the opposite gender. Then you will always know which application is speaking to you.

Siri does have some limits. If it can't answer your question, it will ask you if you would like it to search the web. You can tell Siri "yes," or you can stop at that point by pressing the Home button once, saying "Cancel," or saying, "Never mind."

SECTION 8: Exercises.

  1. What do you need in order for Siri to operate properly?
  2. What Siri command will display the screen to customize Siri's settings?
  3. If you have a contact card for Jim Nazium, How would you get Siri to setup a relationship between you and Jim such that he would be your father?
  4. What command would cause Siri to list all email messages with the word "coupons" in the subject?
  5. What command would get Siri to send a text message calling for "HELP" to both Tony Stark and Bruce Banner?
  6. How can you tell Siri to turn on Airplane Mode? Give it a try. Why does this affect Siri?
  7. Can you get Siri to tell you how far a light year is in inches?
  8. What must you create in order for Siri to know about you?
  9. How can you get siri to tell you your mother's home address?
  10. How can you get Siri to list all the calls you missed this month?

Click here for answers.

Congratulations! Now you don't have to talk to yourself anymore. There are many possibilities for working with Siri. In a future lesson we will look at setting timers and alarms, managing your calendar and reminders, and getting directions. For now, take a well deserved break.

Before you go on to the next lesson, would you like to take the optional survey for this lesson?

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