Train your Android phone to act automatically with Tasker

Get started with Tasker, an Android app that lets you automate settings, apps, and more.

Every day, we repeat the same routine tasks: turning on Wi-Fi at work, decreasing the brightness in the evening, enabling silent mode at night, and so on.

By now, you probably perform these actions subconsciously, but what if you could "train" your phone to automatically complete these tasks, so you don't have to?

Tasker, a $6.49 app for Android, lets you do just that. It works like this: If the phone is in X situation, then Y happens. Within the app, this formula is defined by using "contexts" and "tasks."

  • The context defines the situation in which the task is triggered. For example, time of day, location, or the state in which your phone is in (like charging).
  • Tasks are the actions the phone takes when it's in any given context, or situation. This can be anything from toggling a system setting to sending a text message.

For example, when my phone is at 20 percent battery life (context) disable Wi-Fi (task).

There are endless combinations of contexts and tasks that can be as simple or as complicated as you want. Android user forums are filled with the many creative ways users are taking advantage of Tasker, but if you're a newbie, you'll probably want some basic guidance first.

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When you launch Tasker, you'll arrive at the Profiles tab. This is where the formulas you created (contexts and tasks) are listed. At the bottom of the screen is a large green plus sign, the button you'll use to create new profiles.

The best way to master Tasker is to get your hands dirty. So, try programming one (or more) of these useful tasks to get a taste of how this powerful app works.

1. Launch music apps when headphones are plugged in
With this Task programmed, every time you plug in your headphones, a menu of your music apps will appear.

Tap the plus sign to create a new profile. Name it something like "Music" and tap the check mark. In the Context menu, select State > Hardware > Headset Plugged. In the next screen, just tap the green check mark.

Next, the Task Selection menu will appear. Select "New Task" and name it something like "Launch music." In the next window, tap the blue plus sign. Basically, everything your phone can do is listed here. For this example, select Alert > Menu.

In the "Items" section, tap the grayed-out "Action" button. Then select App > Load app, and select one of the Music apps you'd like to load. To add another app to the menu, select the green plus sign, tap "Action," and repeat the same process.

When you're done, tap the green check mark.

Screenshot by Sharon Vaknin/CNET

2. Disable features when battery is critically low
This task will disable energy-hogging features when your battery is critically low.

Tap the plus sign to create a new profile. Name it "Battery" and tap the check mark. In the Context menu, select State > Power > Battery Level. Keep the "From" slide at 0, and change the "To" slide to 20 (or your preferred battery level.) Tap the check mark.

In the Task Selection menu, tap "New Task" and name it something like "Low Battery." In the next window, tap the blue plus sign. Here's where you'll select the settings that are disabled when your battery is critically low. To disable Auto-Sync (push data), go to Net > Auto-Sync, and tap the check mark.

Tap the blue plus sign again to add another task, like disabling Wi-Fi. Again, go to Net > Wi-Fi, and tap the check mark.

Repeat this process for any other settings you'd like to disable. Bluetooth can also be found in the Net menu, and brightness can be found in the Display menu.

3. Trigger a task with an app-like icon on your home screen
Tasks are usually associated with triggers, like location, time, state, etc. However, you can assign a task to an icon-like widget that appears on the home screen, so that the task is only triggered when you tap it.

To create a widget, or shortcut, long press a home screen and tap "Add to Home Screen." Then, tap Apps and go to the Widgets tab. This process may vary depending on the version of Android you're running and your OEM's skin.

Find the Tasker widget and add it to a home screen. Immediately, a "Task Selection" menu will appear. This is where you'll decide which tasks are triggered upon tapping the widget icon. Tap "New Task," give it a name, and tap the blue plus sign to add your first task.

What you select here will vary, but there are more than 100 options, from composing a text message to a specific person, to disabling Wi-Fi and opening settings menus. You can add any number of tasks to this widget -- just tap the blue plus sign to add more tasks.


As you can see, Tasker is a seriously powerful app, and with a little practice, you can use it to make your life a whole lot easier. The crazy thing is that these few examples hardly scratch the surface of what Tasker can do. Once you get comfortable with the interface and have programmed some tasks, there are a few ways you can advance your Tasker mastery:

And, by all means, if you have any cool ideas for Tasker, please share them in the comments. We'd love to include them in a future roundup of Tasker profiles.

 

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