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Being Productive With Siri, Your New Personal Assistant

Being Productive With Siri, Your New Personal Assistant

    The other day we detailed some of our favorite iOS 5 tips and tricks. Today we are going to look at the awesome things that you can do with Siri on the iPhone 4S (or if you are a hacker type, on the iPhone 4, too).

    Siri is very much a beta product, but can give the user some handy ways to do things quickly while not interrupting their workflow. First we will outline some of the quick things that you can do with Siri to get things done.

    Sending messages and emails

      It’s super easy to send messages and emails with Siri. First, activate Siri and say “Send email to” or “Send message to Rutherford, I will be late for the party”. Siri will understand this natural type of language and will respond with something like,

      “Here is your messages to Rutherford. It says, “I will be late for the party”. Ready to send it?”

      From here you can do a number of things. You can respond by saying “modify it” or “change it” to wipe out the message portion and start over. You can say “no” or “cancel” to cancel the message entirely. Or you can simply reply “yes”, “send it”, or “confirm” to send the message.

        One of my favorite ways to send text messages with Siri is to say, “tell Amy that I will be home in about 15 minutes”. The fact that I can say “tell Amy” is so natural that it reduces the friction between me and my productivity tool allowing me to simply use it.

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        Calling businesses and other things

        To call a business or place that isn’t in your address book simply say, “Call Big Daddy’s Steak House.” Siri will respond, “I don’t see Big Daddy’s steak house in your address book. Should I look for businesses by that name?”

        Respond “yes” or “no”. If Siri finds it she will ask you if she should call the business. Simply respond “yes” or “no”.

        You can also find businesses and places in different towns or cities (only in the US for now) by saying, “Call ‘some business name’ in Houston, Texas.”

        Calling a number is as simple as dialing it out loud. “Call 8675309.”

        Taking notes on the go

          I don’t use the stock Notes app on the iPhone much (read: not at all) as I am a plain text kind of guy, but with the addition of Siri to the iPhone 4S, the notes app may deserve another look.

          To make a note with Siri simply say, “Note, this is a really important note!” A note will be created with that said text. To create a note with a “title” say, “Create a ‘inbox items’ note”. Siri will know that this is the “inbox items” note and then you can use that name to add to it with “Add, think about what to buy mom for her birthday to my ‘inbox items’ note”.

          Siri will “tend to” add this to your note that has already been started. I’ve had trouble with this one but when it does work (I’d say 8 times out of 10) it is extremely useful.

          Setting appointments, timers, alarms and reminders

          If you have noticed yet, I love just how conversational Siri can be. With that, setting appointments, timers, alarms, and reminders is one of the easiest things you can do with Siri. In fact, you may not even need to know the exact “syntax” to these things as just saying something like, “set a timer for 4 minutes” will produce a running timer.

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          Calendar appointments

          Say, “Set up an appointment (or meeting) at 6pm next Monday with my wife.” You can even say something like, “set up a meeting with Mike Vardy every Friday at 3:00am”. This will make a recurring appointment in your calendar as well as invite Mike Vardy (as long as he is in your address book) to the meeting when you confirm it.

          Timers and alarms

          I use these all the time at work because they are so easy to do. Say, “setup a timer for 25 minutes”. Done.

          For alarms say, “set an alarm for tomorrow at 4:45AM”. You can even say something like “set an alarm for every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6AM”.

          Reminders

            We covered reminders in the last iOS 5 guide, and even though that Apple’s implementation of tasks is pretty great for a first stab, Reminders won’t be replacing my GTD system of choice any time soon. But, reminders gets much, much more useful now that I can create them with Siri.

            Setting up reminders for when I leave my house or when I arrive at work feels like I’m living in the 2000’s finally.

            To setup a reminder say something like, “set a reminder for when I leave home to remember to grag the TPS reports.” Or “set a reminder for 6PM tonight to stop and get my wife roses.”

            The “Hacks”

            OK, so all of the cool things you can do with Siri are awesome. But what about some things that aren’t supported out of the box? Take a look below for some of our favorites.

            Add a task to your favorite todo list app, notes app, etc.

              Adding tasks to services like Toodledo, RTM, or even OmniFocus requires a little setup, but is pretty easy to do. In fact, on the RTM blog they just posted a way to add tasks to the native Reminders app and have it sync with RTM. We are going to show you a more generic way to do this though that you can do with any service that allows email or text input.

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              There are a bunch of web services that allow you to add items over email or even text message. Some of the ones that come to mind are Twitter, Toodledo, Evernote, OmniFocus, Remember the Milk, Springpad, etc.

              Let’s take Evernote for example:

              To send a note to Evernote from Siri setup a contact in your iPhone’s address book called Evernote. An even better thing to do is to setup two contacts. One with the First Name ‘Evernote’ and another with the first name ‘Ever’ and the last name ‘Note’. This will ensure that Siri won’t screw up recognizing when you say “Evernote”. Next, put your “send to Evernote” email into your Evernote’s contact info.

              After this activate Siri and say “Tell Evernote that I have to rethink the way that we are going to launch the site”. Siri will read it back to you and then you can confirm the send.

              This proves to be one of the most powerful things that I can get my iPhone 4S to do.

              Setting up Twitter

                It seems like a total misstep that Apple didn’t add Twitter support out of box. What’s even weirder is that Siri knows what Twitter is but just won’t help you out in Tweeting.

                Bad Siri.

                But there is a way to get around this. Make a contact called “Twitter” in your address book with the standard SMS number of ‘40404’. Also, you have to setup Tweeting by SMS on Twitter.com or over your phone by sending your password. After the initial setup, say, “tell Twitter that sending messages from Siri is awesome”. Siri should reply with her familiar “Here’s your message to Twitter. Ready to send it?”

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                Set up adding to OmniFocus inbox with Siri

                  For you OmniFocus nerds out there, here is how you can send to your inbox with Siri (that is until the geniuses at The OmniGroup bring us something better). You need OmniFocus for your Mac with the Mail.app rules setup. Refer to this OmniGroup forum posting to set that up.

                  Next, set up an OmniFocus contact like I outlined above for Evernote. For your email address, use one that is set up in your Mail.app but instead of the regular email address, add ‘+omnifocus’ before the ‘@’ symbol. For example:

                  Your email is “my_email@example.com”. Use the email “my_email+omnifocus@example.com” for your OmniFocus contact info.

                  Now use Siri by saying “tell OminFocus that I need to grab some coffee when I go to the store”. The next time you sync with your OF database you should see your new inbox item.

                  Siri on productivity

                  Since we have only had a limited time with Siri, there will of course be more and more neat tricks uncovered as time goes on. But, I can already tell just how important this way of interacting with your iPhone will change productivity in the coming years.

                  I had a huge realization the other day when I had my earbuds in listening to music and programming. Something came to mind that was totally unrelated. I always have paper next to me to jot quick notes and reminders down and then come back to them to process. Instead, I long held my headset button and said, “tell OmniFocus ‘such and such that I needed to remember’”. Then I went back to listening to music and working. Later, when I was processing my inbox I realized that I captured something into my system with the least amount of resistance that I have ever experienced.

                  Now, I’m not saying that Siri is perfect. Not by any means. I’m also not saying that Apple has invented voice recognition and we should blindly follow and worship them. What I am saying is that Apple has provided consumers with the first accessible voice recognition and, dare I say, artificial intelligence that normal people can use. There can be a bit of a learning curve to get Siri to do exactly what you want it to do, but for the most part it is intuitive and extremely useful.

                  Good productivity tools are the ones that are useful and can stay out of your way. Siri accomplishes this task and I can’t wait to use it more and more in my everyday workflows.

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                  Last Updated on August 15, 2018

                  25 Most Useful Excel Shortcuts That Very Few People Know

                  25 Most Useful Excel Shortcuts That Very Few People Know

                  Imagine if you could use 5 simple shortcuts while working in Excel, and increase your productivity without wasting time for searching information in huge tables, writing long formulas, and sorting the data.

                  Or even better:

                  What if you would get 25 useful shortcuts… and each of them could simplify your work, so you could do much more every day?

                  You’d definitely feel excited to read about them.

                  Today is your lucky day because we are going to share with you in this article 25 great Excel shortcuts you can use in your work every day! This is your lucky chance, so go ahead and become a real professional in Excel without wasting your time.

                  How important are Excel shortcuts for you?

                  The most effective thing to check out if people really need something is to release a survey and look at the results. So, according to the anonymous survey, 99% of people said Excel shortcuts are critical or important for them.

                  In general, there are more than 200 shortcuts in Excel. But when we have analyzed the data about how many shortcuts people know, we got the next results:

                  • 26% of people know 10 or fewer shortcuts;
                  • 61% of people know 10-50 shortcuts;
                  • 10% of people know 50-100 shortcuts.

                  As you can see, not so many people know a lot of shortcuts. Probably, some of them never think about increasing their productivity in such a simple way.

                  Of course, it depends on how deep you use Excel. Some people use this powerful application just for making simple tables or graphs, others use it for everyday work to count something.

                  Most of the accountants and businessmen use much more Excel functions for more complex tasks such as creating VBA macros, managing PivotTables, recalculating huge workbooks, outlining data, etc.

                  But even those people who work with Excel every day very close may know a few shortcuts. Needless to say, they can do their job without shortcuts, but it usually takes for them much more time. T

                  his sounds not funny, especially if you must finish a huge amount of work urgently. There is a great opportunity for you to increase your productivity in Excel and do your job faster with our useful shortcuts.

                  5 Main reasons to learn excel shortcuts

                  Many people don’t understand why they should use shortcuts if they can work without them. Of course, if you use Excel twice per year to make a simple table or a graph, it is probably not so important for you to know many shortcuts.

                  But if you work in Excel every day, sorting huge tables and managing with tons of data, then shortcuts will help you to reach the next five goals:

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                  1. Work efficiently and faster in Excel
                  2. Manage big amounts of data easily and fast
                  3. Stay calm and concentrated even while doing a tedious job
                  4. Make your work accurately and properly without errors
                  5. Get a better understanding of Microsoft Excel

                  Who can use Excel shortcuts?

                  There are a lot of people who can simplify their life with Excel shortcuts, and here are the groups that will definitely love using them:

                  • People who work in banks, finance organizations, etc.
                  • Businessmen who make tons of various reports and presentations in Excel for meetings and briefings.
                  • Students who usually are lazy and impatient to make their homework because they don’t want to waste a lot of time working in Excel.
                  • Private entrepreneurs who keep various data in Excel tables.

                  Whether you are a student who hates Excel because it seems a time-wasting and boring application, or you are an accountant who must recalculate huge worksheets every day without making errors, we recommend reading and learning these Excel shortcuts to make your work simpler and save some time.

                  With these simple but useful tricks, it is so easy to finish your job and get more time for yourself.

                  25 Excel shortcuts to increase your productivity

                  Here are 25 great Excel shortcuts you should learn and use for work or studying to make your job faster and simpler. Try to use them all and you will realize you were totally blind before while working in Excel:

                  1. Format whatever object fast with Ctrl+1

                  If you select any object in Excel – a cell, a chart, a chart axis, a drawing object – then press Ctrl+1, and you will get the Properties dialog for the certain object. This shortcut offers a very quick and easy way to format whatever object you’re working with.

                  2. Use range names with Ctrol+G or F5 key

                  If you use range names (which we strongly recommend to do) and you want to choose the range with a specific name references, press either Ctrl+G or the F5 key, which launches the GoTo dialog.

                  If the name is simple, you can click on it in a list in that dialog. But if it’s at all unusual, Excel won’t list it; so you will need to type in the name. Then press OK.

                  3. Use a range name in a formula with =sum( and F3

                  Suppose you want to use a range name in a formula. For example, you want to sum the Sales range. Enter…

                  =sum(

                  …and then press F3.

                  When you do so, Excel launches the Paste Name dialog. Just choose “Sales” from the list, press the OK button in the dialog, then enter the SUM function’s closing “)” to complete the formula.

                  4. Launch Function Arguments dialog easily with Ctrl+A

                  Suppose you want to check the help topic for a worksheet function. For example, you want to read about the MATCH function. In a cell, type…

                  =match(

                  …and then press Ctrl+A, or click the Insert Function (“fx“) button to the left of the formula bar.

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                  When you do so, Excel displays the Function Arguments dialog, which might offer all the help you need.

                  But if you still want to see the complete help topic, click the blue “Help on this function” hyperlink in the lower-left corner of the dialog. This technique works with all documented Excel functions.

                  5. Copy stuff down the column without scrolling with Ctrl+D

                  If you added a formula in a new column on the right of a huge dataset, and you want to copy that formula down without scrolling, do these steps:

                  • go to the right to the column that has data (the column to the left of the new column with the formula);
                  • press Ctrl+Down – to get to bottom;
                  • move one cell to the right (with arrow key naturally);
                  • press Ctrl+Shift+Up to select the new column, at the top of which is the formula you just created;
                  • press Ctrl+D to fill down the formula.

                  6. Quick access to any function with Alt+

                  By customizing the quick access toolbar, you can create simple shortcuts to commands that you would otherwise have to find in the Ribbon tabs, or macros you have created yourself.

                  The keyboard shortcut is simply selecting Alt+ (the number of the command you wish to select).

                  For example, if you have customized your quick access toolbar to have Calc Sheet, Save, Open. To calculate sheet you would hit Alt+1, for save Alt+2, and for open Alt+3.

                  A lot of people are unaware of this useful function, and it’s a great time saver.

                  7. Format cells with Ctrl+1

                  When you need to format cells, use Ctrl+1. Most people know this as the shortcut for the Format Cells dialog, but you can also use it to format almost anything in Excel, without a care about the state of the ribbon. Try this amazing and simple shortcut!

                  8. Choose visible cells with Alt+

                  When you need to choose visible cells only – use Alt+. This is the trick to copy only what you see. It is a priceless shortcut when you’re manually hiding rows and columns in the table.

                  9. Use filtering

                  Filtering – it is a powerful way to slice, dice, and sort through a huge table of information.

                  It’s amazingly effective when you’re participating in a meeting to discuss something like a sales forecast, and everyone is looking in real-time at your spreadsheet projected on a screen (or on their monitors).

                  To some people, you will be seen as the God of Spreadsheets, and this is not a joke!

                  10. Insert or delete column/row easily with the Ctrl key

                  Some people waste a lot of time even for simple operations, for example, when they need to insert/delete columns and rows in Excel.

                  Use this shortcut to insert: with an entire row or column selected, use Ctrl+Shift ++.

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                  To delete: with an entire row or column selected, use Ctrl + –.

                  11. See formula results with F9

                  If you want to check formula results within multiple formulas, highlight the formula and select F9 to see formula result.

                  Don’t forget to undo before exiting the formula.

                  12. Use ALT+Enter for more text within a cell

                  If you want to add a second line of text within a cell, use ALT+Enter.

                  13. Use EDATE to move a date on by a full calendar month:

                  Here’s how to use EDATE:

                  =EDATE(15/01/16,+1) = 15/02/2016 (15th Feb 2016)

                  =EDATE (15/01/2016,-2) = 15/11/2015 (15th Nov 2016)

                  14. Use EOMONTH to move a date onto the end of the month:

                  Here’s how to use EMONTH:

                  =EOMONTH(15/01/2016,0) = 31/01/2016 (31st Jan 2106)

                  =EOMONTH (15/01/2016,-2) = 30/11/2015 (30th Nov 2015)

                  15. Remove spaces with TRIM

                  TRIM is a useful function known by few people. It removes any spaces at the beginning of a value. This is useful if you are pulling in values from somewhere else.

                  16. Repeat commands with F4 or Ctrl+Y

                  In many cases, you may need to repeat your last action. Use F4 or Ctrl+Y; you can repeat many commands like applying the same borders, format, or insert a worksheet again.

                  17. Quick access to cells with the Ctrl key and Shift key

                  When you need to go to the first or last cell of a worksheet, no matter where you are, use Ctrl+Home, Ctrl+End combinations.

                  And here is a pleasant bonus for you: add the Shift key to select everything on the way!

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                  18. Use Ctrl+ to create a timestamp

                  If you need a date stamp and/or a timestamp in your document, there is no need to type a date and time! Use shortcuts Ctrl+ ; (date) Ctrl+Shift+ : (time). It works like a magic and helps to save your time and nerves.

                  19. Use autosum shortcut for sum function anywhere

                  Autosum shortcut – use Alt =. It is a “magic” shortcut of Excel to automatically insert a sum function.

                  You can use this shortcut to sum rows, columns, or even an entire table in one step without wasting your time.

                  20. Use data validation

                  This is an amazing but underutilized tool in Excel, which can be used for a variety of things:

                  • Create dependent drop-down lists;
                  • Create drop-down lists;
                  • Protect/restrict data input of specific cells (without the need for VBA macros).

                  21. Use conditional formatting

                  It can be used for various purposes such as color format or cell format of cells, rows or columns based on dependent cell values or formats.

                  22. Use formula auditing

                  This is a great tool to analyze and trace precedent or dependent cells, check errors and evaluate formulas.

                  The “Watch Window” is a feature to keep a snapshot of an area of the spreadsheet, and then move to another area of the workbook – particularly valuable if you’re managing large spreadsheets or don’t have a second screen.

                  23. Use Scenario Manager to generate summary outputs of a spreadsheet

                  Scenario Manager (under “What-if Analysis”) enables users to generate high-level, summary outputs of a spreadsheet – without the need to replicate the entire workbook.

                  It will present multiple scenarios of a spreadsheet in a succinct, high-level summary worksheet.

                  24. Use INDIRECT to set up large tables

                  INDIRECT makes it easy to set up tables which reference larger tables without a lot of referencing work or cutting and pasting; especially for dynamic spreadsheets.

                  25. Use OFFSET for complicated calculations or formulas

                  OFFSET can be useful for things like calculating YTD numbers or creating formulas that take data in rows and using in columns.

                  The bottom line

                  As you can see, when you have a boring or tedious job to do, the best way to do it fast is not looking for a way how to avoid it, but searching for the shortest variant to do it!

                  That is why we suggest keeping in mind these Excel shortcuts that will help you to save a lot of time and nerves.

                  If it seems hard for you to remember all them, you can print out the list of shortcuts and keep it on your worktable. Use it to search for some help when you need it, and over time, you’ll remember all shortcuts easily.

                  Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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