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How to use voice shortcuts with Google Home

Google Home now has shortcuts, which are custom, short phrases you can use instead of long, complicated commands. Here's how to set them up.

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Google introduced an easier way to issue complicated or long commands to your Google Home speaker. It's calling the new feature Shortcuts, and it's sort of like a text expander for your voice.

Here's how to make your own Google Home shortcuts.

What are Google Home Shortcuts?

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When texting from your phone, you may not always want to type out "On my way," so you might create a text replacement where you type "omw" instead. When you hit space, it expands to the full text. Shortcuts for Google Home works very similarly by allowing you to say a short phrase instead of a long, convoluted command.

Rather than saying, "OK, Google, turn off all the lights," you might just want to say, "OK, Google, good night." Or if Google Home has trouble finding a certain song unless you ask for it in a very specific way, you might want to say, "OK, Google, play my favorite song," instead.

You can also just use shortcuts to make commands feel more natural or easier to say.

Shortcuts work from Google Home and within Google Assistant on Android. Only certain shortcuts will work from Google Assistant on iOS. For instance, shortcuts that involve streaming music, playing videos or showing pictures on a Cast-enabled device do not currently work with iOS.

How to use Shortcuts on Google Home

Taylor Martin/CNET

To create a shortcut, open the Google Home app and tap the hamburger button in the top left to expand the menu. Select More settings, then scroll down and tap Shortcuts. Google preloaded eight example shortcuts to give you an idea of how you might want to use them. Tap on any of them to edit or press the plus sign in the bottom right to create a new shortcut.

If you've created any IFTTT applets for Google Assistant, the setup will look quite familiar. Type a short phrase that you want to use for the shortcut. Optionally, you can add several different versions of that phrase. For instance, in addition to "Work time," you might use "Get to work" or "Do work." In the bottom text field, type out the full command that Google Home should use when you speak the shortcut. For example, for "Work time," you would write something like, "Turn on the office lights" or, "Play focus music on Spotify."

Unfortunately, shortcuts are a little too simple. You would imagine they would allow you to string multiple commands together. They don't. And unlike with IFTTT, you can't create a workaround for that by using the same short phrase across several shortcuts to connect multiple commands to a single phrase. That is a missed opportunity.

What you can do is create a simple phrase that plays your favorite show on the TV without having to specify which Chromecast to play it on or that the show is on Netflix every time. Or send a text message to someone when you're running late again.

For these uses, Shortcuts are quite helpful, even if they do leave plenty of room for improvement in the future.