We've shown you how Android app Tasker can make your phone a fully automated wonder. Now we're digging in deeper and providing some clever step-by-step profiles, along with an explainer on how to export and import profiles others have patched together.
A quick refresh: Tasker gives you the tools to automate nearly any task on your Android phone based on certain triggers, resulting in some really powerful options. As noted in our previous feature on Tasker, it's not a free app, costing £3.99 in UK money, or about $7 Australian. Tasker does, however, offers both a 14-day trial and a non-Market install for international customers, at the developer's site. As many commenters testified in our previous take, Tasker's a wide-open and very powerful app, so you can likely justify the Value-Meal-level cost with the simple Wi-Fi/GPS automation tasks alone.
We provided an introduction to setting up new Profiles, with Contexts and Tasks inside, in our last post. Tasker's own tour of the profile-building process is also recommended for those looking for more detail or guidance. Now — on with the automated awesomeness.
Below I've rounded up four more awesome Tasker workflows and explained how to browse and install pre-made Tasker profiles from the Tasker wiki. Here's a quick breakdown if you want to jump to any specific feature:
- Read New SMS While You're Driving
- Scale Back Data Use at Night
- Pop Up a Menu of Music Apps When Headphones Inserted
- Mark and Find Where You Parked with GPS Widgets
- Get More Profiles to Try (and Import)
Reading and sending text messages while driving is a terrible idea, but many of us still do it. If you can't go cold turkey, set Tasker to read your incoming SMS messages out loud while you're in your car.
Here's a little demonstration of this Tasker trick in action. I only modified the script to say "Whitson Gordon" instead of the caller's number and used Google Voice to simulate two texts coming in, while "Car Mode" was off and then on:
Note: This won't, unfortunately, work for those using Google Voice as their only SMS app. Here's how to set it up:
Context: Event -> Phone -> Received SMS. Leave both fields blank, unless you want to specify a particular sender as the only SMS worth reading.
Context 2: Application -> Car Home (if two appear, choose the second/lower).
Task: Misc -> Say. Enter the following, or something like it, into the Text field, making sure to keep capitalisation and the percentage marks:
SMS from %SMSRF: %SMSRB
%SMSRF is the sender variable, and %SMSRB is the body of the SMS. You can also customise the "Stream" this text is read on, i.e. the volume level it will obey.
Alternatives: In place of the Car Home application, you add contexts from the "State" menu like "Docked", "Bluetooth Connected" or "USB Plugged" to set up the conditions for when you're actually in your car.
It's nice to wake up to your messages in the morning, but there's no need to draw down your battery by constantly pinging for new messages. In this setup, I'm usually asleep by 11pm, awake some time after 5.30am, and my phone's turning on Wi-Fi 15 minutes at a time to scope out what's new. You can easily adjust for your own sleep schedule or data needs.
• First Profile
Context: Time -> From 23:00 to 05:30.
Tasks: Net -> Mobile Data -> (Keep unchecked). Turning off mobile data — EDGE/3G service — requires APNDroid, available as a free download in the Market. If you'd still like to receive MMS messages, keep that option checked.
Net -> WiFi -> Set: Off. But don't worry, because we'll turn it back on with our
• Second Profile
Context: Time -> From 23:15 to 05:15 repeating every 15 minutes. Note the displacement 15 minutes "into" the other profile we just created.
Tasks: Net -> Wi-Fi -> Set: Toggle. This means Wi-Fi is alternating on and off every 15 minutes, cutting its overall usage and idle time about 50 per cent.
Alternatives: In the Net tasks, there's also an "Auto-Sync" option, which you could use to toggle access to your auto-updating services — Gmail, Facebook, the Market and the like. If you didn't need to receive calls, you could also toggle Airplane Mode for total net disconnect and serious battery life, but most people like the option of getting emergency phone calls.
I also added Exit Tasks for turning mobile data and Wi-Fi back on. Though not technically necessary, when it comes to messing with your phone's access point names, I like to provide a firmer guiding hand.
Context: State -> Headset Plugged. The options box offers to let you specify a "Type" — with or without microphone included — but you can usually keep it set at "Any".
Tasks: Hit the setup/wrench-and-screwdriver icon in the lower-right, then click on the menu box under "Task Type" and set it to "Menu". Leave the other options alone, but change the "Menu Timeout" if you only want a smaller slice of time to decide.
Now hit the "+" in the lower-left corner, choose the "App" category, pick "Load App" and pick out an app you'd normally run right after plugging in headphones. Scroll down in the box that appears, add the app's name to "Label" and hit Done. For as many other apps as you want in your pop-up menu, hit the "+" again and repeat the process.
Alternatives: You could create the same kind of context to appear when you pair a specific Bluetooth device. Change the Context to State -> Bluetooth Connected, then long-press on the Name field to pick out your device.
If you're forced to park your car in a packed parking lot or on an unfamiliar side street, you can use Tasker, its widget-making abilities and your phone's GPS powers to mark down your location and get back to it later. You'll still be able to use Maps for other things too — the location of your car or that ice cream truck you want to get back to later on, will be stored away in a variable only you and Tasker know about.
• First Widget
First up, press and hold on an empty section of your screen. From the menu that pops up, choose the Widgets category, then scroll down to find "Task". First thing you do, press the "New" button in the upper-right corner and enter a name for the widget that will save your location and check the "One-Time" option. Make it short and sweet, because it's also the label that appears on the home screen — I used "Pin Point".
Tasks: Misc -> GPS -> Set: On. You'll need GPS on to get a latitude/longitude reading on your location.
Variable -> Variable Set -> Name: %PARKPLATZ -> To: %LOC This creates a variable, %PARKPLATZ and sets it to %LOC, which Tasker translates as the current latitude/longitude coordinates pulled from your GPS.
Before you hit "Make Widget", hit the small button with the question mark icon in the lower-right corner, then choose "Built-In Icon" or if you're feeling savvy, "Download More Icons" to see what kinds of goodies the Tasker creator has at his site (hint: lots). For my purposes, the compass-styled icon among the built-in options does fine.
Now hit "Make Widget", and you'll see your little creation on the home screen. Ain't that neat? Nearly anything you do in Tasker, you can assign to a button that you create, with your own choice of icon.
• Second Widget
Same procedure as the first widget, to a point: press and hold, Widgets -> Task, then give this complementary widget a name ("Find Point", maybe) and add:
Tasks: Misc -> GPS -> Set: On. In case GPS was somehow turned off while you were at dinner, work or the demolition derby.
App -> Open Map -> Mode: Navigate -> Lat,Long: %PARKPLATZ You want to set the mode to Navigate, because "Point" will merely centre a Google Map on where you pinned your location, and Street View shows just Google's own image of the spot — you want actual directions to your destination. If the turn-by-turn stuff gets annoying, simply hit the list-style icon and turn the volume down.
I could go on and on making and showcasing Tasker profiles — and, seriously, I would, if there weren't other topics to cover and other posts to write. But there are plenty more profiles and automations you can try out on your own. Best part is, they're even available as easy-to-install downloads.
Tasker has its own wiki, and the most notable page is a listing of example profiles. You can browse to it on your phone, but you could just as easily hit the Menu button from Tasker's main screen and select "Browse Profiles". You'll get a browser opened right to that profile listing page.
See one you like? Hit the "Download" link just above it, and you'll be prompted to open the link using a Browser or Tasker. Choose Tasker, and you'll import that profile. Head into Tasker again, hit your Menu button, and under the "Profile Data" menu, you should see "Import One Profile". Click that, and the profile you picked out should appear right away in your main list. You can, of course, customise it and tweak these generic profiles to better fit your whims, and then export your profiles for friends or internet sharing. To export a profile, tap on its left-hand contexts in Tasker's main view, drop down the Profile menu, and select Export.
We love playing around with Tasker, but we love reading our readers' own Tasker successes much more. So if you've created something neat and helpful with the app, by all means — share the basic setup in the comments, or use a service like Dropbox's easy folder sharing to spread the actual profile file.