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How to Enable “Hey Siri” in macOS 10.12 Sierra

Although Apple has made much of the fact that macOS 10.12 Sierra includes the Siri voice-driven personal assistant technology, there is one glaring omission: the capability to hail Siri with just your voice. Instead, you must click Siri’s menu bar icon or Dock icon, or press its keyboard shortcut.

That shouldn’t be necessary: on recent iPhones and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and on the Apple Watch, you can just say “Hey Siri” to cause Siri to take notice of your next spoken command. (With older iOS devices, “Hey Siri” works only when the device is connected to power, rendering it significantly less useful. With the Apple TV, you must press and hold a button on the Siri Remote, which can be difficult to do in a dark room.)

Happily, there is a subtle trick you can use to simulate “Hey Siri” on a Mac running Sierra. I’ve based these instructions on the coverage of Siri in Scholle McFarland’s “Sierra: A Take Control Crash Course” book — it provides a slew of additional tips, tricks, and step-by-step illustrated instructions if you’re looking for more help with Siri or other new features in Sierra.

Scholle’s trick revolves around using a dictation feature to open Siri on your command. Follow these steps:

  1. Go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Dictation. Turn Dictation on and then select Use Enhanced Dictation.

    If it hasn’t already, your Mac downloads Enhanced Dictation, which enables you to use dictation, even when your Mac is offline. That’s not actually what we care about, but eliminating the need to parse your words on Apple’s servers also lets you use dictation commands and converts your words to text more quickly, and those features are key.

  2. Switch to System Preferences > Accessibility. Scroll down in the left-hand column and select Dictation.

  3. Select Enable the Dictation Keyword Phrase and then type Hey into the text field.

  4. Click the Dictation Commands button, select the Enable Advanced Commands checkbox, and then click the plus button. Options appear to the right of the dialog. Next to “When I say,” type Siri into the text field. Leave While Using set to Any Application.

  5. Click the Perform pop-up menu and choose Open Finder Items. In the dialog that appears, navigate to the Siri app in the Applications folder.

  6. Click Done.

Try it out by saying “Hey Siri!” and your Mac should respond. There’s no option for training Siri to recognize your voice in Sierra, so you’ll need to practice a little to figure out how to speak so your Mac understands that you’re talking to it. In particular, pause for a beat after you say “Hey Siri” until your Mac beeps to indicate that it’s listening.

One problem with setting up “Hey Siri” as we’ve done here is that if your iPhone is in range, it will likely answer as well. Although Siri talking to Siri can be amusing, it will likely get on your nerves. To avoid this, you can change either the voice trigger for your Mac, in Step 3 above, or the name in the “When I say” field in Step 4.

Obviously, you can use whatever you like, but my recommendation is “Hey Mac.” Assuming that you’re using “Hey Siri” on your iPhone, iPad Pro, or Apple Watch already, keeping “Hey” as the trigger will make it easy to start issuing a voice command regardless of what device you’re using, and continuing to talk to “Mac” should be intuitive, given that you are talking to your Mac. “Hey Mac” is also short and easy to say, and it should be easily recognized. If your Mac doesn’t recognize you saying it, though, don’t hesitate to try other triggers or names. If you have more general trouble, make sure your microphone is selected in System Preferences > Sound > Input and restart your Mac to give it a clean slate.

Give this trick a try, and let us know in the comments how you’re using Siri on your Mac, and how that is similar to or different from how you use Siri on your other Apple devices.


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Comments about How to Enable “Hey Siri” in macOS 10.12 Sierra
(Comments are closed.)

While playing with this I scrolled down further to the Dictation Commands already preset in the System. These include "Start Siri" and "Close Siri."

If you set the keyword as "Mac" the command can simply be "Mac Start Siri." Both ways work. Sholle's is a bit cleaner for Siri, but you then must use "Hey" to initiate all voice activated commands on your Mac.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-10-14 21:17
Yeah, we saw that. It just seemed really odd that Apple would provide the basic functionality without mimicking how it works in iOS.
Paul Ellis  2016-10-15 06:37
Personally I'd want the opposite - a way permanently to disable Siri so that it never invokes, or asks to invoke.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-10-17 10:40
Then all you have to do is open System Preferences > Siri and uncheck the Enable Siri checkbox.
Paul S  2016-10-21 16:36
When I do this, Siri is still running in Activity Monitor. Sometimes, I also have a SiriNCService process. The only thing I see is the menu bar icon is gone and it no longer responds.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-10-21 17:33
There's no way to know why specific processes might be running behind the scenes even if a checkbox is turned off. But it sounds as though it's doing what you want in the sense of Siri not invoking.
Tried this awhile back on an iMac (27 inch Retina).. turned it off after having some serious Finder issues. Might be an outlier, anyone else have problems?
Bob Dahl  2016-10-16 17:21
I tried BUT i couldn't get it going by voice. Keyboard launching works. Have an iMac (27", 2011, so REAL old...) running Sierra.
I THINK the problem for me is my iMac is hooked up by Ethernet, Not to the Wifi.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-10-17 10:41
Try turning on Wi-Fi, even if it's below Ethernet in the Network preference pane (such that Ethernet is still used by default). Siri likes Wi-Fi on because some queries need a location lookup, and Wi-Fi is the only way to get that on a Mac.
Derek Currie  2016-10-18 01:41
I've been successful using "Yo Buddy" with the natural gap between words, as per their use by native New Yorkers. I never say either word in my normal vocabulary except as humor, therefore there's no confusion by the OS. Works great! Makes me smile. Amuses others.

I'm on a MacBook Pro late 2013 with 10.12.0.
Best one is John Gruber's "Hey, Dingus!"
mike sanders  2016-10-18 02:55
Thanks for this Adam absolutely brilliant and just took a few minutes to set up, "Hey Mac" and there she is ready to do my bidding.
mike sanders  2016-10-18 03:29
Spoke too soon no longer works and Siri has disappeared from the dock.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-10-18 08:10
The Dock icon for Siri isn't special — it can be removed like any other Dock icon and added back by dragging the Siri app into the Dock from the Applications folder.

The menu bar icon is controlled from the Siri pane of System Preferences, so check there if that goes missing.
Bocaboy  2016-10-18 08:21
Worked perfectly for me.

Not that it makes a lot of sense, but Alfred can also start Siri by just typing it. If you don't want Siri in the menu bar area it's another way of accessing it when you want it.
bruceandcarol  2016-10-18 13:27
I followed the directions and it worked fine. After a shutdown and restart the next day, it doesn't work. Any ideas what to do?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-10-18 14:13
Check the settings; just yesterday I had something like this happen too, and the dictation command created in Step 4 had lost track of the Siri name.
mike sanders  2016-10-19 04:47
Worked for a few times today but again has quit such a pity as I really liked this, nothing from Adam on what might be the problem?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-10-19 09:55
I don't know what could be wrong on your Mac, but things to try include:

* Check the Input preferences in Sound and make sure your mic is selected. Play with the ambient noise reduction checkbox to see if that matters.

* Check the Dictation Commands list again to make sure your command hasn't gotten deleted.

* Look at the microphone icon in the menu bar for dictation; click it and try choosing the Listen Without Requiring Keyword Phrase option. Toggle that on and off.

* Quit any other apps that might be using the microphone.

* Restart the Mac if all else fails.
mike sanders  2016-10-19 04:52
Switched the name back from Mac to Siri but to no avail, why does it work a couple of times and then stop working?
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2016-10-19 14:03
Seeing how much trouble some people are having with this solution just emphasizes the question of why Apple left the feature out. My first reaction was to see it as a careless oversight on Apple's part. But after giving it some though, I suspect it has something to do with the other voice recognition features in macOS. These include VoiceOver, Speakable Items, Text to Speech as well as Dictation. Now we have Siri. I always thought it would be a complex problem to solve and perhaps this explains why it took so long to implement Siri on the Mac. Maybe "Hay Siri" was a bridge too far, considering how many switches you have to toggle in this workaround.

Given that the Mac is a keyboard centric device, unlike the iPhone, iPad and Apple watch, I don't find using a keyboard shortcut to invoke Siri to be an inconvenient solution. But then I use a lot of keyboard shortcuts so adding one more is not a problem. Many people don't have the keyboard shortcut habit so maybe for them it is an issue. Then again, if you are one of those who is accustomed to using menus instead of shortcuts, going to the Dock or the Menubar should fit your work habits well enough.

The workaround explained here seems to create more problems than it solves. There appear to be too many opportunities for the process to break down. YMMV.
It can't find the microphone after changing location/network in my experience - one has to restart the computer to make it work again. It also made the computer almost become unusable until I turned off Dictation altogether ... not really going to use this function, but cool anyway and showed it off presenting Sierra on a Gotamac meeting yesterday.
mike sanders  2016-10-21 21:59
Thanks Adam I will try some of the options but yesterday just had to shut it down everything I said was going into emails and messages it was chaos.
How does one stop dictation spreading to all other apps and just staying with Siri?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-10-22 20:11
That should be a matter of the trigger phrase, which is set to "Hey" if you've followed the instructions above. If dictation is triggering inadvertently, you may need to change it to a different word. Computer is the default.
I have OS 10.12.1 Beta and Siri does not work with it. Apple Support could not assist me and requested I remove the Beta Version.