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Siri tips and tricks that don't require iOS 8

Apple unveiled new features for Siri in the latest version of its mobile OS, but you don't need to wait for iOS 8 to find cool stuff to ask the voice assistant.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
6 min read
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Watch this: 11 tips to get the most out of Siri

Siri will offer iPhone and iPad users several new features and enhancements when we all get our hands on iOS 8 later this year . Among them are voice activation, 22 new dictation languages, and song recognition via Shazam. But even now Siri may be capable of doing more than many of you realize.

Apple unveiled Siri in 2011 with the release of iOS 5 and the iPhone 4S. Responding to your questions, comments, and sometimes insults, the voice assistant tries to serve up answers to your queries as well as perform a variety of tasks to save you from manual labor. Apple has continually upgraded Siri with new skills and more smarts, but Siri still can be frustrating to use, especially when you aren't aware of its full capabilities.

Ensuring that people find Siri helpful is even more critical for Apple now that the concept of a virtual assistant has taken off in the mobile market. The voice-activated Google Now has grabbed a foothold on Android devices, while Microsoft's latest version of Windows Phone spotlights a personal voice assistant called Cortana .

So, just what can you now do with Siri without having to wait for iOS 8? Here are 12 tips and tricks that all iOS 7 users can try.

20 Siri tips that'll make your life easier

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1. Hold to talk.
How often does Siri interrupt you before you have a chance to finish your entire question? The problem here is that after you tap the Home button to activate Siri, the voice assistant interprets a slight pause as a sign that you've stopped talking. Well, you can easily prevent those annoying interruptions simply by holding down the Home button until you finish speaking. Doing so ensures that Siri will hear your entire question and won't chime in until you release the button.

2. Access your previous exchange.
Siri keeps track of your conversations while it's open, so you can easily scroll back to a previous question and answer. But close Siri, and its memory is not as good. Still, you can at least harken back to your previous conversation when you open Siri anew. Here's how: Ask Siri a question, such as "What is the temperature?" Close Siri by tapping the Home button. Open Siri again but instead of asking a new question, tap the lower section of the Siri screen next to the question mark icon. Swipe up the Siri screen and you'll see your most recent exchange with the voice assistant.

3. Edit your previous question.
You've asked Siri a question, but you made a mistake, resulting in the wrong answer. You can either repeat and rephrase the question or simply edit your previous question to correct the error. To do the latter, swipe your way up Siri's screen until you see your question. Notice the phrase "tap to edit" underneath it. Simply tap your question. You can now edit it to fix the mistake, either by typing or by tapping the microphone icon on the keyboard to speak. When finished, tap the Done button on your keyboard, and your corrected question is sent to Siri for a fresh, new answer.

4. Open an app.
You can't yet use Siri to actually control a third-party app, but you can at least tell it to launch an app. Pick any app installed on your iPhone and iPad, such as Angry Birds. Tell Siri to "open Angry Birds," and it will comply. If two or more apps share a similar name, for example, Angry Birds and Angry Birds Space, Siri will ask which one you want to launch.

5. Post on Facebook or tweet on Twitter.
Yes, you can tell Siri to post an update on Facebook or Twitter. Simply say: "Post on Facebook" or "Post on Twitter." Siri responds by asking what you want to say. Dictate your update, and Siri will then post it for you.

6. Send an email or text.
You can tell Siri that you want to text or email someone and then dictate the message all in one fell swoop. To email a specific person, say: "Email Steve." Siri asks you for the subject of the email and then asks you to dictate the message. After dictation, Siri asks if you want to send the email. In the case of a text, tell Siri: "Text Steve." Dictate your message, and Siri will record it and send it.

7. Read your emails and texts.
Yes, Siri can read aloud to you your emails and texts. To hear all of the emails in your inbox one after the other, tell Siri: "Read all my email." To hear the most recent email by date and time, simply tell Siri: "Read my latest email." With texts, you can ask Siri to read you all messages or just the latest one from a specific person. Siri complies and then asks if you want to reply to the person via text.

8. Check missed calls and voicemails.
You can tell Siri to read the names and numbers of all of your missed phone calls and voicemails. That's handy in itself. But you can take all that a step further by telling the voice assistant to play back your voicemails. Simply say: "Play my voicemail," and Siri puts your iPhone on speaker and automatically reads your latest voicemail.

9. Tell Siri who someone is.
Want to be able to tell Siri to text your wife or husband or send an email to your mom? You can tell Siri just who those people are in your life. To tell Siri that your wife's name is Cecelia, for example, say: "Cecelia is my wife." Siri will ask if you want it to remember that fact. Just say yes, and it will keep track of the relationship. The next time you say: "Text my wife, please," Siri will know exactly who you mean.

10. Teach Siri how to pronounce names.
Frustrated because Siri mispronounces your name or the name of one of your contacts? You can teach it how to pronounce the name correctly. Let's say Siri keeps getting your cousin's name wrong when you try to email or text him. To correct the problem, tell Siri: "That's not how you pronounce [your cousin's full name]." In response, Siri asks how you pronounce the first name. Speak the name correctly, and Siri then displays a list of three suggested pronunciations that you can listen to. Pick the right (or closest) one, and Siri corrects its pronunciation. Siri then repeats that process with the last name. From then on, Siri will know how to pronounce the full name.

11. Turn a setting on or off.
iOS offers an array of settings behind the scenes that you can enable or disable. But finding a specific setting can be a challenge. Instead, let Siri do the work for you. Let's say you want to turn on Bluetooth. Just tell Siri: "Turn on Bluetooth," and your wish is its command. Time to turn if off? Just say: "Turn off Bluetooth," and Siri again grants your wish.

12. Learn what you can ask Siri.
One of the biggest questions might just be: "What exactly can you ask Siri?" To see a list of sample conversation items, launch Siri and either ask: "What can I ask Siri?" or tap the question mark icon in the lower left corner. Siri displays a list of topics that it can answer along with a specific example for each.

Siri can perform many other tricks, but these are some of the major ones. Stay tuned for more tips once iOS 8 hits your iPhone or iPad later this year.