9 easy fixes for things Google Home can't do

Google Home has some missing functions, but thanks to its flexible IFTTT support, you can give it a bit more range. Here are some tips to get you started.

Taylor Martin CNET Contributor
Taylor Martin has covered technology online for over six years. He has reviewed smartphones for Pocketnow and Android Authority and loves building stuff on his YouTube channel, MOD. He has a dangerous obsession with coffee and is afraid of free time.
Taylor Martin
5 min read

Google Home may be the most direct competitor to the Amazon Alexa speakers, but there are still quite a few things it can't do, including multi-user support, sleep timers and taking notes.

Luckily there's a fix for some of those missing functions. Google Home supports IFTTT, or "If This Then That." It's a service that acts as a middleman between Google Home and the devices it doesn't officially support.

IFTTT can improve your Google Home setup by adding flexible trigger phrases, multiple invocation phrases, number and text inputs and more.

A primer on IFTTT

When using IFTTT to get Google Home to work with more devices and commands, you'll use "applets." These are commands that tell Google Home to do something based on another action. For instance, "If I tell Google Home [insert command here] then [do this action]."

Many of the applets you'll want to try have already been created and are available for Google Home now. All you have to do is click the link (included in the descriptions below) and turn that applet "on." In other cases, I'll explain how to simply create the applet.

To get started, head to IFTTT and create an account if you don't have one already. Then read on to find out about the nine most useful applets.

Control unsupported devices

Aside from streaming music, answering questions and telling jokes, one of the most promising uses for smart speakers is controlling smart home devices. Out of the box, Google Home only comes with support for Chromecast, Next, Philips Hue and SmartThings.

However, IFTTT support means you can easily control any of the smart home devices found on IFTTT with Google Home. You can turn on LIFX bulbs, a TV using Harmony, control an August Smart Lock or change the temperature of a thermostat.

Google Home's integration with IFTTT is so flexible you can control smart home devices with natural phrases. It's almost as if they have native support.

Create a note in Evernote

While you can create a shopping list with Google Home, you can't take down quick notes. Until this feature is officially rolled out, you'll have to rely on IFTTT if you want to take voice notes using Google Home.

To do this, create a new applet and select Google Assistant for the trigger channel. Then select Say a phrase with a text ingredient for the trigger. Type in the phrase you want to use, such as "Create a new note $." The dollar sign signifies the placement of the text ingredient, or the actual context of the note.

For the action channel, choose something like OneNote, Evernote, Google Drive or Nimbus Note.

Get a day's worth of voice notes for an email digest

If you don't want to save your voice notes in an app such as Evernote or Google Drive, you can have have IFTTT hold on to them for you and email you them at the end of the day. This applet lets you speak short notes and reminders by saying, "OK Google, add [your note] to my digest."

All the notes you made throughout the day will be compiled into a single daily email, which will be sent at the time of your choosing.

Add a Google Contact

The Google Assistant channel on IFTTT lets you use number and text ingredients to include specific information in an action. A perfect example of this is adding someone's contact info by voice.

Create a new applet with the Google Assistant channel and select Say a phrase with both a number and a text ingredient. In the What do you want to say? field, enter "OK Google, add $ to my contacts. Their phone number is #."

For the action channel, select Google Contacts. Select Create new contact for the action. For the name field, click Ingredient and select TextField. For the Phone Number field, click Ingredient and select NumberField. Click Create action to finish making the applet.

Add Todoist or Trello task

While it's a bit silly that you can't add a task to Google Tasks with Google Home yet, you can still use a to-do list with an IFTTT applet.

Create an applet with Google Assistant and a text ingredient. Select something like Todoist, Toodledo, Trello, iOS Reminders or any other task management service as the action channel.

Thanks to Actions -- third party integrations for Google Home -- which started rolling out at the beginning of the year, Google Home can now add Todoist tasks without the need for IFTTT. First, open the Google Home app go to More settings > Services, link your Todoist account and say, "OK Google, let me talk to Todoist," to get started.

Add events to Google Calendar

Surprisingly, if you try to add an event to your Google Calendar with Google Home, you're met with "Sorry, I can't add events to your calendar yet." This means you'll need an IFTTT applet to make it happen.

Google has a pre-made applet for blocking off the next hour in Google Calendar, but you can go crazy and use both text and number inputs to create relatively natural voice input calendar entries. For example, you could create an applet that uses the phrasing, "OK Google, add $ to my calendar for #," (where $ is the event name and # is the time the event starts).

Turn on the computer

Like with Alexa, you can use this workaround to turn on your computer using your voice, so long as you have an Android phone.

Using the same setup, only swapping the Amazon Alexa channel out for Google Home, you can send yourself a text message using IFTTT, and use Tasker and an app called Wake On Lan to wake your computer using Google Home.

Find a lost phone

There are a few ways you can use Alexa to find a lost phone. Likewise, you can use an IFTTT applet and Google Home to do the same thing.

You can have Google Home call your phone. Or if you have an Android phone you can play music from your phone's speaker.

Prioritize devices with Google Wifi

If you happen to own Google Home and Google Wifi, you can use this applet made by Google to prioritize certain devices using only your voice. Just add the applet and say, "OK Google, prioritize my tablet." Google Wifi will then give your tablet a higher priority over the wireless network for the next hour.

Just keep in mind that you will need a separate applet for each device.