Things You Need To Know About Siri, Appointments, and Calendars

I am happy to report that several years on from those early failures, I now frequently and routinely use Siri to manage my diary, and it has saved thousands of manual text letters, and must have saved hours of time.

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426799067_55027d4244_zSiri is Apple’s virtual personal assistant for the iPhone and Apple computers with the latest operating system.  It can take dictation for messages, put appointments in your calendar, tell you the latest hockey score, or give you directions to the nearest Indian restaurant.

Despite Siri being around for a number of years, my early experience of using it wasn’t always positive.  However, I am glad to say that things are different now.  Siri’s capability and flexibility have increased, as has my knowledge of how to exploit it to meet my particular requirements.

Because I run a business that involves me in meeting lots of clients during the course of a week, I use the calendar on my iPhone (synced with my desktop machine and iPad) to help me keep track of my many appointments.  It would not be uncommon for me to make around half a dozen appointments a day, entering them manually into my electronic calendar.  I knew that Siri could theoretically make this easier for me.  I could theoretically simply speak to my phone and tell it to make a diary entry for me with John Smith for X time on Y date.

Unfortunately, after several attempts of trying to make appointments with Siri, I initially gave up because of the problems I encountered.  In essence, there were three main things going wrong: 

  • Siri found it impossible to recognise a name if that name was not already entered into my contacts list.  This meant that I had to manually enter the name in my Address Book before making the diary entry.  This wasn’t always convenient, and there were times when I didn’t need to have to contact details in my Address Book.  And often I needed to make a first appointment in a hurry, without having time to stop and manually enter details in the contact list.
  • Even when a name was already in my Address Book, Siri sometimes couldn’t recognise it.  Suppose I had two clients in my contacts – John Smith, and John Boughen.  The chances are that if I asked it to make an appointment with John Boughen, Siri would ask me if I meant John Smith.  And if I said “No”, Siri would refuse to make any entry.
  • If it did succeed in making the diary entry, it didn’t always show who the meeting or appointment was with.  It just showed “Appointment” or “Meeting” rather than “Appointment with John Smith”.  This capriciousness (“Will it show the person or won’t it?”) and level of generality was no good for me.  I needed to know who the meeting was with for two main reasons.  First, I often needed to prepare for the meeting and make sure that I had the correct notes and paperwork ready.  Second, I sometimes needed to be able to search my electronic calendar and list all the appointments with a particular person so that I could accurately invoice them for the correct number of appointments.

I am happy to report that several years on from those early failures, I now frequently and routinely use Siri to manage my diary, and it has saved thousands of manual text letters, and must have saved hours of time.

My Definitive Guide on How to Successfully Use Siri to Make Calendar Appointments

The Set Up and Launch

When you first get your new iPad, iTouch, or iPhone you will be asked if you want to set up Siri.  If you didn’t do it then you need to go to Settings > Siri and make sure that it is toggled on.  You can also set other options, including voice feedback, your language, and the gender of Siri’s voice.

To launch Siri, press and hold the Home button until you see the Siri microphone pop up. If you toggled Hey, Siri on then you’ll also be able to launch Siri whenever your device’s screen is on, by simply saying, “Hey, Siri.”

Making an appointment

  • Press and hold the Home button or say “Hey, Siri” to launch Siri.
  • Say something like, “Create an appointment with John at 3pm on 16th March.”
  • Siri will repeat what it heard and ask you to confirm. Say “Yes” or tap confirm to add this calendar entry.
  • Sometimes Siri might be uncertain or there might be some ambiguity in what you said.  For example, if you ask to set up a meeting “tomorrow”, and it’s near midnight, Siri might ask you to specify the date to make sure the appointment is set up properly.
  • If you make a mistake or simply want to revise something immediately, instead of confirming, you can also tell Siri to change something –  “change the time”, “change the title“, or simply “cancel” it entirely.

Siri’s undersanding of language about setting up appointments is reasonably flexible.  However, the more ambiguity in the command, the more likely you are to get Siri to come back to you with options asking for confirmation of particular details.  Siri appears to understand the following commands:

  • Set up a meeting at 10.
  • Set up a meeting with Rachel at 10.
  • Meet with Robin at noon.
  • Set up a meeting about planning tomorrow at 11am.
  • New appointment with John Smith Thursday at 6.
  • Schedule a Board Meeting at 8:30 today in the Conference Room.

Recognising a difficult name

IMG_7522Sometimes Siri will not recognise a name that you already have in your contacts list.  It is most likely to happen when a particular name is unusual, or when the spelling may not correspond too closely to the pronunciation (as in “Boughen” – see above).  This can be very frustrating initially.  Thankfully the issue is easy to resolve.

  • Open the particular person with the problem name in your Address Book.
  • Click on Edit.
  • Navigate to the bottom of the contact and select Add Field.
  • Then select Phonetic Last Name or Phonetic First Name.
  • Now edit the new Phonetic field in the contact to type a phonetic spelling of the name.  For example, for “Boughen” I would type something like “Bowjen”.  Siri will now recognise your pronunciation of the name.

Getting the name in appointment

For reasons I have discussed above you often want to know the name of the person you have booked the appointment with.  Although Siri will sometimes provide this if you name the person in the initial command, my experience has been that Siri doesn’t always oblige.  And Siri is almost certainly unlikely to do so if the name is missing from your Address Book.  So, although “Make an appointment with John Smith for Monday 13 March at 8pm” will result in an entry for that time and date, the entry might just be “Appointment” rather than “Appointment with John Smith”.

To guarantee the name, you need to use a particular phrasing.

  • Press and hold the Home button or say “Hey, Siri” to launch Siri.
  • Say, “Create an event called Appointment with John Smith for 8pm on 13 March.”

The above syntax will result in the entry “Appointment with John Smith” for the specified time and date.

Checking Events

Once the events have been entered in your calendar you can easily use Siri to check your appointments.

  • Press and hold the Home button or say “Hey, Siri” to launch Siri.

Next, issue the relevant command:

  • What appointments do I have today?
  • What’s on my calendar for Monday?
  • When is my next appointment?
  • When am I meeting with John Smith?
  • Where is my next Board Meeting?

Changing an appointment

In addition to help you quickly create appointments without having to load the calendar app and type, Siri can also make appointment changes easily as well.

If you recognise the need to change something when making the appointment,  that is before the appointment is confirmed in your calendar, just follow the procedure outlined above:

  • If you make a mistake or simply want to revise something immediately, instead of confirming, you can also tell Siri to change something –  “change the time”, “change the title“, or simply “cancel” it entirely.

However, if you need to make the changes after the appointment has been confirmed, simply do the following:

  • Press and hold the Home button or say “Hey, Siri” to launch Siri.

Next, issue the relevant command:

  • Cancel my meeting with John Smith
  • Move my 3pm meeting to 4:30
  • Reschedule my appointment with John Smith to next Tuesday at 10am
  • Cancel the Board Meeting

Repeating appointments

Some events are recurring, and it can be complex to create such sequences in ordinary productivity apps.  However, with Siri is again incredibly simple.  Obviously there are some limitations, but I have listed some that do work below.  Experiment for yourself and see what you can get Siri to do.

  • Press and hold the Home button or say “Hey, Siri” to launch Siri.

Next, issue the relevant command:

  • Schedule lunch at 1pm on the first Saturday of every month
  • Schedule Susan’s birthday on 6th March every year
  • Schedule meeting with John Smith on the 13th of every month

 

Do you use Siri?  What has been your experience?  What have you found most useful?

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