App costs $4.00
We’re now approaching the end of 2014 and in this last decade we’ve seen a massive evolution of technology. Just 10 years ago WiFi was still it’s infancy, consumer adoption had not yet taken off and many computers still shipped with floppy disk drives despite flash drives and re-writable CDs having become more prevalent. It was also 10 years ago when Linux began becoming more well known due to a new version of the Linux OS the ‘Linux Standard Base 2.0’ creating a world wide standard for the operating system of the open-source competitor of the heavily secretive source code of Windows and ultimately paved the way for the rise of Android a few short years later. Today we have incredible power number crunching machines which fit comfortably in our pockets which give the computers of 10 years ago a run for their money.
Our ‘smart’ phones play a huge part in our day from idly browsing the internet or playing games during our commute to consuming our music, tv shows and movies and being our personal assistants and our personal trainers… But what if we could make these phones truly smarter? What if we could use our always-on, always waiting and ready to serve handheld computers to provide an autonomy not currently provided out of the box by any smartphone?
Tasker is one of the most powerful application available to you on the Android OS and it is this application which can add a bit of genius to your smartphone. The power of Tasker can be seen drizzling out of your phone in small doses by automating simple tasks such as immediately turning the brightness on your device when you launch the camera or gallery application, replying to text messages automatically while you’re at the office or going into silent mode when you go to bed or maybe you just want to toggle ‘Auto Rotate’ by giving your phone a little shake.
However, Tasker’s power can be unleashed in a much more dramatic fashion when it’s turning on your home heating system when you’re in the car heading home so your home is nice and warm when you get there and then by turning on your lights, turning on your TV and start playing your favorite TV shows as soon as you sit on your couch. Tasker’s reach can go far beyond a simple automation app and can truly change the way that you interact with your phone and surroundings.
There are many apps on in the Google Play Store which unlock a few extra features here and there on your phone like finding a lost or stolen phone, enabling a ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode between certain times or automatically uploading photos to Dropbox but this just a small sample of what you can do with Tasker. Because of the versatility of the Android OS and the Tasker application this can make using the app a little daunting and confusing especially if you’re not much of a tinkerer so let’s start with a quick walkthrough of the application.
The first tab of the Tasker tab is the “Profiles” tab. You can think of the “Profiles” tab as the “Triggers” tab for Tasker because it is here where you define what initiates your automation. Triggers can be actions such as the launching of an application, receiving and SMS, your battery dropping below a certain level, connecting to a particular WiFI network, being a certain location or simply turning your screen on as well as many, many other triggers.
So it is from this screen where you could, for example, create a profile (or trigger event) like opening Chrome.
We now have defined opening Chrome as a trigger for Tasker to act on so now we need to tell Tasker what to do when we launch Chrome by creating a Task. Let’s say that when Chrome is open that we don’t want our screens to turn on off as quickly as they normally do.
After naming the Task something like “Display timeout 10” you’ll see the Task Edit screen for this task. To get started push the plus sign in at the bottom and you’ll be presented with what can seem like a pretty daunting list to chose from but fear not as you will quickly start to become familiar with this screen and navigation through the screen can be simplified by using the Filter at the bottom of the menu.
You are about to create a task which will change the way your display is changed so may intuitively touch the “Display” button however if you’re unsure of where to find certain option you can use the Filter as a sort of search function to help you find what you’re looking for in Tasker’s task. Try typing “Display” into the filter and you should see the below options.
Simply touch the “Display Timeout” box and you will be able to chose how long your screen will stay on before turning itself off when you’re using Chrome by using the sliders and increase/decrease buttons. Select your desired timeout time like 10 minutes and then tap the back button. You will be returned to the Task Edit screen where you can add more tasks or test your task by pressing the Play icon in the bottom left corner.
You can also add an “Exit Task” to any Tasker profile you have created from the Profile screen by doing a long press on your newly created profile via the “profile” tab and selecting exit task where you can create another task which sets the screen timeout time back to your desired settings such as 1 minute.
If you’re still scratching your head thinking about what you might use Tasker for here is another example of how I personally use Tasker in the car to make my commute a little better. I touch my phone (or tablet) to an NFC sticker in my car which tells my devices I am in my car. I get a little menu of in-car entertainment to chose from like Spotify, Tune-In Radio, YouTube.
Once I’ve entered my choice I’ve set it up to automatically start playing something when the apps launch and next appears a screen with my common destinations like Home, Office, Gym, etc. If I select “Work” tasker will fetch traffic alerts from a local traffic website and tell me if there have been any incidents on my normal commute, where they have occurred and how long a delay it has caused. Tasker will then fetch live traffic camera information from said traffic website where I can see for myself whether the traffic information is still accurate and relevant.
Finally Google Navigation opens up with the From and To fields already populated the brightness is changed depending on the time of day and the current brightness in my car, the audio volumes are set to my pre-defined values and off I go! I’ve only touched the screen twice to do everything described above!
Tasker may be a couple of dollars more expensive than your average Android app but it is one of the few apps that deserve your hard earned cash and if you consider how much money you could potentially save by creating Tasker tasks instead of downloading $1 apps then it’s well worth it. While there may be a bit of a learning curve and will definitely require some patience while you work through some trial and error there are many guides on the Tasker website and in the near future here at HQAndroid. Tasker isn’t as complex as it seems. It really can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be and is truly only limited by you and how far you want to take it. So, even if just want a little more convenience when using your Android device or if you want try and integrate your device into your home, car and office then Tasker is for you.