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Smart Home

How to make a to-do list with Google Home

Google Home can't natively handle to-do lists yet, but you can get around that limitation with these tricks.

Josh Miller/CNET

Google has given Amazon a run for its money in the smart speaker market. Google Home has kept pace with new Alexa features, even leap-frogging it in some areas. And last month, for the first time ever, Google Home outsold the Amazon Echo.

Despite this, there are still some things Google Home isn't great at -- even some simple things. For instance, out of the box, Google Home falls short as a to-do list manager. But it's still possible to make and manage your to-do lists with Google Home. Here's how.

A Google Home to-do list workaround

Currently, Google Home does not natively support to-do or task lists. You can use the shopping list if you want, but that seems a bit silly when there are a handful of simple workarounds.

The most notable workaround to Google Home's lack of task management skills is If This Then That, or IFTTT. Create an IFTTT account if you don't already have one, then create a new Applet.

  • Search the list of services for Google Assistant.
  • For the trigger, select Say a phrase with a text ingredient.
  • Under What do you want to say, enter something along the lines of, "Add $ to my tasks."
  • Optionally, you can create additional trigger phrases. Just remember to use the dollar sign in the place of the task you're trying to add (i.e. "Add $ to my agenda.")
  • Click Create trigger.
  • For the next service, you can choose any note taking or task manager service you already use -- Evernote, iOS Reminders, MeisterTask, Toodledo, etc.
  • Follow the onscreen instructions for whichever service you choose and click Create action at the bottom.
  • Give the Applet a name and click Finish.

Now whenever you say, "Hey, Google, add Go to the store to my tasks," the task will be added to your to-do list of choice.

Don't forget reminders

Now playing: Watch this: How to create reminders with Google Home
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Google Home didn't ship with support for reminders either, which always seemed odd since Google Now had the feature for years and Google Assistant on phones could manage reminders, just not smart speakers. However, Google has since added reminders to Google Home and they're surprisingly simple yet powerful.

To create a reminder, just say, "OK, Google, remind me to go for a run tomorrow at 8 a.m.," or "Hey, Google, remind me to water the plants." Easy enough, right?

The catch is that you'll have to go all-in on using Google Assistant to manage your tasks. To even see a list of your reminders, you'll have to dig in the Google Assistant app (or Google Home > More Settings > Reminders). That, or you can ask Google Assistant on your phone or your Google Home speaker to list them for you.

That said, Google recently added a very helpful feature to reminders: location-based notifications. You can now create reminders with location data and be reminded when you arrive. For instance, you could say, "OK, Google, remind me to buy batteries when I'm at the grocery store." Without saying which grocery store, Google will remind you on your phone to buy batteries when you arrive at a grocery store -- any grocery store.

You can use these location-based reminders with four different types of location categories: specific addresses, your predefined home and work locations, generic stores (gas station, coffee shop, etc.) or specific business locations.

Third-party integrations

IFTTT acts as a great workaround, but it's not fully-featured. You can't manage your task lists with it -- you can only add new tasks. And reminders are great for reminding you to do something, but not necessarily maintaining an ever-growing list of tasks. 

Fortunately, there are several third-party task managers that have integrated with Google Home through what it calls Assistant Apps. Some of these services include:

  • Todoist
  • List Master
  • My Checklist App
  • Task Now
  • Daily Schedule Tasker
  • Nozbe
  • SmartTask

To interact with any of these services, just say, "Hey, Google, open Todoist," or "OK, Google, talk to SmartTask." Most of these applications will require you to link your account in the Google Home app first. But once set up, the Assistant app will walk you through creating and managing your task lists.

You'll be able to say things like, "Hey, Google, ask Todoist to add a task to email Sharon," or "OK, Google, tell Todoist to read all my tasks."