Today I faced a long list of alarms on my iPhone, and decided that I wanted to clean them out. The typical iOS “Edit” interface puts a red “delete” button next to each item, and upon tapping it you must then confirm it by tapping the explicit word “delete” at the other end of the item. Suffice to say: for a list of any significant size, this is very tedious.
On a whim, I decided to give Siri a shot at simplifying the process. I long-pressed the home button, and uttered: “delete all my alarms.”
Well, isn’t that nice?
I realize that when I am faced with a problem on iOS or watchOS, for which I wish there were an automated, “power user” mechanism to simplify it, I reach for Siri and hope for the best.
In this respect Siri fills the gap that is left by the omission of an automating service such as AppleScript. On a Mac, when I’m faced with a problem like this, I look to Script Editor, and hope that the app is scriptable enough to get the job done. For example, if alarms were a service provided by my Mac (and why aren’t they!?), then I would expect a script like this to complete the task at hand:
tell application "Clock" to delete all alarms
Having AppleScript at my disposal is great, but I am also frustrated that Siri doesn’t live on my Mac. I should be able to invoke the dictation UI (fn-fn keystroke, by default) and ask Siri to “add to my reminders,” or to perform any of the other common tasks I can perform with my phone or watch.
Siri is more limiting than AppleScript, because it can only carry out tasks that Apple’s engineers have predicted that I will want to perform. But it’s also much easier than opening up Script Editor, scrutinizing a scripting dictionary, spending 10 years learning AppleScript, and then writing and running a script.
Ideally, I’d like to have the best of both worlds: the ease of asking Siri to perform complex procedures and the option of extending the catalog of procedures that it knows how to perform. And I’d like this perfect combination of ease and extensibility on all of Apple’s platforms.
Since the debut of the iPhone, people have speculated about whether we would ever see an official solution for automation, along the lines of AppleScript or Automator. I think we’ve actually been seeing it since Apple acquired and integrated Siri. I hope that one day this will culminate into the consistent, extensible solution for automation that I have imagined here.