How to enable the “Hey Siri” command on your Mac

If you’ve ever chatted with Siri on your iPhone, then you’re probably aware that Siri doesn’t work quite the same on Mac.

On iOS, every conversation with Apple’s virtual assistant starts with a “Hey, Siri,” but on macOS no amount of vocal prodding will catch Siri’s attention. By default, Mac users have to launch the Siri app manually, either by selecting it from the menu bar or by using a keyboard shortcut – but it doesn’t have to be that way!

In this article, I’ll show you how get Siri’s attention using a vocal command, ensuring that Siri on macOS functions exactly the same as Siri on iOS.

Upgrade to hands-free Siri

By default, no matter how many times you say “Hey, Siri” to your Mac, Apple’s voice assistant will completely ignore you. However, macOS has been able to respond to voice commands since OS X Mountain Lion, thanks to its Dictation and Accessibility features, so why not use these features to launch Siri?

In this workaround, we’ll be creating a keyboard shortcut that launches Siri, and then use macOS’ Accessibility and Dictation features to associate a phrase with this keyboard shortcut. Every time you speak this phrase, macOS will emulate your keyboard shortcut, which in turn will launch Siri.

We’re going to keep things classic and teach Siri to respond to the “Hey, Siri” vocal command, but you could use any word or phrase – from the polite “Siri, can you please help me?” to something more blunt and to-the-point, such as “Siri, wake up!” or even just “Siri.”

Make sure Siri is active

If you haven’t already, then you’ll need to activate Apple’s miniature assistant:

  • Select the “Apple” logo from your Mac’s menu bar.
  • Choose “System Preferences…”
  • Select the “Siri” pane.
  • Make sure the “Enable Ask Siri” checkbox is selected.

Creating a custom keyboard shortcut

Next, you need to create the keyboard shortcut that you’ll use to launch Siri.

You cannot use any keyboard shortcut that’s already reserved for another application or action, so before choosing your shortcut you may want to review the list of keyboard shortcuts already used by macOS.

To create your shortcut:

  • Navigate to “System Preferences… > Siri.”
  • Open the “Keyboard Shortcut” dropdown, and then select “Customize…”

Press the keys that you want to use as your keyboard shortcut. Your new shortcut should be saved automatically.

Using Enhanced Dictation

  • Open your Mac’s “System Preferences…” and select “Keyboard.”
  • Select the “Dictation” tab.
  • Turn Dictation “On.”
  • Select “Use Enhanced Dictation.” Your Mac will now need to download some software in order to support enhanced dictation; this may take a few minutes depending on the speed of your Internet connection.

Teach your Mac to respond to vocal commands

Next, we need to associate a phrase or word with the keyboard shortcut we created for Siri. To achieve this, we need to split the “Hey, Siri” phrase into two parts – the “Hey” will activate macOS’ Dictation system, and the “Siri” will trigger the actual keyboard shortcut.

  • Navigate to “System Preferences… > Accessibility.”
  • In the left-hand menu, select “Dictation.”
  • Select “Enable the Dictation Keyword Phrase.”
  • In the accompanying text field, type the phrase that should activate the Dictation system. I’m using “Hey.”
  • Click the “Dictation Commands….” button.
  • Select “Enable Advanced Commands.”
  • Select the little “+” icon that appears.

  • In the “When I say” field, enter the word “Siri.”
  • Open the “While using” dropdown, and select “Any Application.” This ensures that no matter what you’re currently doing, “Hey, Siri” will always trigger Apple’s personal assistant.
  • Open the “Perform” dropdown and select “Press Keyboard Shortcut.”
  • Enter your keyboard shortcut.
  • Click “Done.”
  • Close the “System Preferences….” window.

Using Siri with voice activation

And that’s it! Now whenever you say “Hey Siri,” the “Hey” will activate Apple’s Dictation system, the “Siri” will simulate pressing the keyboard shortcut, and Siri will appear onscreen, ready to help you out!

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About the author

Jessica Thornsby

Jessica Thornsby is a technical writer based in Sheffield. She writes about Android, Java, Kotlin and all things Apple. She is the co-author of O'Reilly's "iWork: The Missing Manual," and the author of "Android UI Design," from Packt Publishing.

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