How to Use Siri to Set iOS Alarms

Has your iPhone replaced your alarm clock? Would you like it to? Using an iPhone as an alarm clock has a lot of benefits. You can choose from a wide variety of non-obnoxious sounds or even pick your favorite song. It’s easy to set an alarm—no more holding down buttons and letting up at just the right moment! And it’s simple to verify an alarm so you don’t run afoul of AM/PM confusions. iOS alarms can repeat on specific days of the week, which helps college students get up for 9:05 AM classes on Monday/Wednesday/Friday but sleep in for 10:10 classes on Tuesday/Thursday. Plus, you can even choose whether to allow a snooze option.

But you probably knew all that, more or less. (And if you’re on the “less” side, check out the Repeat, Sound, and Snooze options when you set up or edit an alarm in the Clock app.)

What we want to show you today is how to set your alarm with Siri, a useful technique that makes us feel as though we’re living in the future. We prefer this method for setting one-off alarms, like getting up early to catch a flight or sleeping in on the weekend but making sure we don’t miss brunch.

However, there’s a catch when using Siri. You can say, “Hey Siri, set an alarm for 7 AM” or even “Hey Siri, wake me up tomorrow at 8:45 AM.” When you do that, though, Siri creates a new alarm each time with whatever sound you last chose. Make a habit of that command, and you’ll end up with hundreds of alarms in Clock > Alarm, all of which will have been used only once. (Delete one by swiping over it from right to left and then tapping Delete.) There’s a better way—follow these steps:

  1. In Clock > Alarm, tap the + button in the upper-right corner to create a new alarm.
  2. Tap Label, and enter a name for your alarm, like Wake Me Up, Floating, or even Paddington. Avoid words like alarm or clock in the name, since they tend to confuse Siri.

  3. Tap Sound and pick your desired sound, and enable the Snooze button if you wish.
  4. Tap Save in the upper-right corner.

Notice that we didn’t bother to set the time. That’s what we’ll get Siri to do, now and in the future! Use this magic phrase exactly, but replace Wake Me Up with whatever you’ve named your alarm:

“Hey Siri, change Wake Me Up to 8 AM.”

If everything works right, Siri responds politely, “I changed your ‘Wake Me Up’ alarm to 8 AM tomorrow.” And if you go into Clock > Alarm, you’ll see that it’s so.

On occasion, Siri doesn’t hear you right and will ask you to pick which alarm you mean. Or Siri may get confused—that happens to even the best assistants sometimes. Just try again, making sure to speak clearly, and it should work. If all else fails, you can always just set the alarm by hand.

But if you remember to refer to your alarm by name, Siri will do your bidding faithfully, and you’ll get to bask in the glow of living in the future.

Uncovering the Mac’s Hidden Menus

It’s easy to find and open the Mac’s standard menus—all you do is click a word or icon. But did you know about the Mac’s hidden menus? They contain many useful commands, but the Mac’s user interface provides no clue to their existence. Here’s what you need to know.

What’s in a Name?

These menus go by a few different names. Long-time geeks call them contextual menus, but nowadays Apple prefers to call them secondary menus or shortcut menus. We’ll call them shortcut menus here because they generally provide shortcuts to commands that are also available elsewhere.

Can I Just Click?

Sorry, no. You have to invoke these shortcut menus in a special way. The most foolproof method is via a Control-click—hold down the Control key on your keyboard while you click the correct spot. Try it by Control-clicking an icon in the Finder.

Before the Mighty Mouse appeared in 2005, all Apple mice had just one button, so the Control-click technique was the only way to go. Since 2005, however, all Apple mice have provided multiple buttons, and since then, you’ve also been able to right-click to invoke a shortcut menu. Windows users who switch to the Mac are particularly accustomed to right-clicking, since Windows relies on it heavily. To right-click, click the target spot with the right-hand button on your mouse, or click the equivalent area on your trackpad.

If that doesn’t work, open System Preferences > Mouse/Trackpad > Point & Click and make sure the “Secondary click” checkbox is selected. Also, note whether “Click in bottom right corner” or “Click in bottom left corner” (or similar) is selected. (When changing the settings for a non-Apple mouse or trackpad, you may see different options or need to use software that came with the device.)

Right-clicking is great, but trackpad users can avail themselves of another technique, the two-finger click. If “Click with two fingers” is selected in the Trackpad preference pane, you can invoke a shortcut menu with a two-fingered click anywhere on your trackpad. We prefer this two-finger-click method because, with either click-in-a-corner method, we sometimes click in the corner when we want a regular click, not a menu.

What Can Shortcut Menus Do, and Where Do I Find Them?

We already mentioned the shortcut menu that comes up from a Finder icon. Most of its commands also appear in the Finder’s File menu, but the shortcut menu saves you a trip across the screen. A few favorites from that menu are:

  • Say you want to trash a file on your Desktop. You could drag the file to the Trash icon on the Dock, of course, but that can be a lot of mousing on a large screen! It’s easier to Control-click the file’s icon and choose Move to Trash from the shortcut menu.
  • Another command on this shortcut menu, Open With, is perfect for opening a file in an application other than the default app. That’s handy if you want to open a text file in Pages instead of TextEdit.
  • There’s also a Share command that lets you quickly add a photo to your Photos library, post it to Facebook, and more.

Shortcut menus abound in the Finder: Control-click the toolbar of a Finder window to get commands for customizing it. Control-click a sidebar item in a Finder window to get info about it or remove it, among other possibilities. For a Finder window in List view, you can add and remove columns by Control-clicking the column header bar. And of course, you can Control-click icons in the Dock.

Most apps also offer shortcut menus, but the hard part is finding them. The trick is to Control-click any object or interface control you could conceivably customize or work on in some other way. To see what we’re talking about, Control-click a photo you’ve received in Messages, a message summary in Mail, or a graphic in Safari. Those examples are just the tip of the iceberg—try Control-clicking words, graphics, songs, icons, toolbars, sidebars, you name it!

 

Clear Your Mac Desktop by Removing Unnecessary Menu Bar Status Icons

You know all those status icons on the right side of your Mac’s menu bar? Many of them are useful, but if your menu bar is cluttered with icons you don’t need, you can make your Mac easier to use by removing the extras. Just hold down the Command key and drag an offending icon off the menu bar; you’ll see an X below the dragged icon to indicate that it will disappear when you let up on the mouse button. If you later decide you want it back, look for a “Show icon-name in menu bar” checkbox in an associated pane of System Preferences.

How to Recover from the Dreaded “No Service” on Your iPhone

Have you ever found your iPhone showing “No Service” in the upper-left corner instead cell service bubbles, even when you know there should be cellular reception in your location? It doesn’t happen often, but the iPhone has been known to lose connectivity when it shouldn’t. To fix this problem, open Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of the screen and tap the airplane icon to enable airplane mode. Wait a few seconds, and tap the same icon again to turn airplane mode off and reset the iPhone’s radios. If that doesn’t work, hold the Sleep/Wake button until you see the Power Off slider. Slide it to turn the iPhone off, then press Sleep/Wake again to start it up.

Count Selected Items in a Folder with the Finder’s Status Bar

When you work in a Finder window on the Mac, take note of the helpful Status bar. It can tell you how many items are in a folder, as well as how many items you have selected. This latter bit of information is useful if, say, you need to move five items to another folder and you want to verify that you’ve selected all five. The Status bar also shows the amount of free space remaining on your drive and provides a slider to change icon size if the window is in Icon view. Look for the Status bar at the bottom of every Finder window (or the top, if the toolbar is hidden). If you don’t see it, choose View > Show Status Bar.