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Set up Google Home routines for custom commands and responses. Here's how

Google Assistant can run these routines from your Nest Mini, Nest Audio and more.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Google Assistant can make your life a whole lot easier, thanks to a little feature known as "routines." If you wanted to, you could simply say "Hey, Google, good morning" to your phone, and in seconds it could tell you the forecast for the day, events in your calendar, the top news and other important daily information.

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Brett Pearce/CNET

Routines help Google Assistant respond like an efficient human helper. You can program your AI-powered voice assistant to flip on your smart lights, play music or turn your connected thermostat up or down -- with just one phrase. While preprogrammed options like the "good morning" routine can be great, you can also create custom commands and responses uniquely tailored to you.

Read more: 7 Google Nest commands that will make your life easier

To make use of routines, you need the Google Home app and a device with Google Assistant. The app is available for iOS and Android. Google Assistant is built in to modern Android phones, including the Pixel 6 and the Samsung Galaxy S21

Routines also work on smart speakers like the original Nest Mini or the Nest Audio, smart displays like the Nest Hub ($60 at eBay), or even tablets or iPhones ($500 at Best Buy) (if you download Google Assistant). You can even access Google Assistant with Google's Pixel Buds.

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Routines will work on your smart display. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

How to program custom routines for Google Assistant 

Open the app, log in with a Google account and you'll see a Routines button at the top. Tap it and you'll see a list of preset options, as well as suggestions. Here, you can customize each of those presets to your liking, or you can start your own from scratch.

Now, hit + New at the top to start customizing.

I'm going to walk through the options for a custom routine, but all of those are present for the presets as well. To make your own, hit + New at the top of the screen. Here, you'll see:

  • Starters: These are triggers to start the routine. Includes voice command, time and sunrise/sunset. 
  • Action: These are the actions of the routine. You can adjust home devices and settings, play media, get info and reminders and more. 

Maybe you want a routine when you're ready to workout, so you might set up a voice command as Starter like, "It's workout time." You can add alternate phrasing in this menu as well (tap + Add another). Note that Google Assistant doesn't respond well to questions -- it searches for the answer itself instead of realizing you're triggering a routine. For the best results, keep your commands to statements and phrases. 

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You can also choose another starter, such as time or sunrise/sunset so you can schedule your routine to trigger automatically. Your smart home can do the work with no input from you. 

In Actions, you need to tell Google Assistant what you want it to do. Your options are pretty wide and include just about anything Google Assistant can do if you're giving individual commands. Maybe you can choose to get information about your commute to the gym or play your gym playlist to get you started. The options are seemingly limitless, so explore and add as many actions as you want.

Once you're finished, you can arrange the order of any actions you pick. Finally, tap Save on the bottom right to store your custom routine.

Thanks to routines, you can get more out of your Nest Audio by making Google Assistant your customized, personal assistant. Here is a list of our favorite devices with Google Assistant built-in, and here are more tips to get the most out of your smart speaker

If you're having trouble with your own routines, you can take a look at our guide to nailing Google's morning routine and list of more Google routines for every part of your day. And if you're interested in more ways to automate your smart home, you can check out how to automatically turn on your lights when you get home