Android

Automate your Android with Tasker

Jack Wallen starts you off on a path of full Android automation with the help of Tasker.

Tasker

There are a few apps on the Google Play Store that are simply must haves for every single Android user. One such app, Tasker, helps you automate just about any task on your Android device. What tasks, you ask? How about:

  • Alerts
  • Apps (such as Calendar Insert, Go Home, Kill App, Load App, Open Map)
  • Audio (alarm/call/DTMF/media/notification/ringer/system volume, haptic feedback toggle, mic mute, notification pulse, notification/ringer vibrate, silent mode, speakerphone, sound effects toggle)
  • 28 system settings dialogs
  • Display (such as auto-brightness, close system dialogs, keyguard, keyguard pattern, display brightness, display off timeout, display rotation, set wallpaper, stay on, status bar)
  • Files (browse files, directory create/delete/move, file copy/delete/move/open, write to file, read line, read paragraph, zip/unzip file)
  • Input (input method select, soft keyboard)
  • Media (such as media button events, media player control, music file/dir, play/forward/back/stop, photo/series/timeSeries, record audio, record audio stop, ringtone, scan card)
  • Network (such as switch on airplane mode, autosync, compose email, browse URL, mobile data (on/off), USB tether, Wi-Fi toggle, Wi-Fi disconnect/re-associate/reconnect, Wi-Fi sleep, Wi-Fi tether, Wimax toggle)
  • Phone (such as place call, call log, call block/divert/revert, contacts, end call, silence ringer, take call)

And, believe it or not, there are many more.

Installation

Tasker isn't free. However, getting this amount of automation for $2.99 (USD) is well worth the price of admission. Here's how to install this little wonder:

  1. Open the Google Play Store on your device
  2. Search for Tasker
  3. Locate and tap the entry by Crafty Apps EU
  4. Tap the $2.99 price button
  5. Read through the permissions listing
  6. If the permissions are acceptable, tap Accept
  7. Tap Buy
  8. Enter your Google Pay password and tap Confirm
  9. Once authentication succeeds, installation will commence
  10. Allow the installation to complete

Once it's installed, you'll find a launcher on the home screen or in the app drawer (or both). Tap that to launch Tasker, then okay the disclaimer and read through the Quick Overview.

Usage

Tasker works using Profiles, which can be very simple or complex. There are plenty of repositories where you can download user-created profiles and add them to Tasker (like from the Tasker Wiki). You don't have to worry about manually writing complex profiles, because Tasker has a great GUI to help you create them. Let's walk through the process of creating a Profile with the Tasker GUI. In this example, we'll create a Profile that starts a music player (an application) when you insert headphones (a state). The first step is to create a context.

From the main window (Figure A), tap the plus sign [+].

Figure A

Figure A

Creating an automated task on a Verizon-branded LG G3.

From the resulting pop-up menu (Figure B), tap State.

Figure B

Figure B

Tap the State entry to associate the insertion of headphones.

From the category listing, tap Hardware and then tap Headset Plugged (Figure C).

Figure C

Figure C

Selecting the Hardware State for your Profile.

The next step is to customize the type. For instance, if your headset has a mic, you'll want to select Mic from the Type drop-down. If you're headset is a standard (non-mic'd) set, you can leave the default (any) set.

Tap the back button in the upper left corner. You should see the context listed in the Profiles window and the New Task button (Figure D). Tap that button to create the new task.

Figure D

Figure D

Context for the Profile is complete.

The task can involve a single action or can be rather complex. For the purpose of this example, we're just going to have Tasker launch a music player. When you tap the plus sign [+], you'll be asked to give the Task a name (such as Open Music App). Do that, and tap the checkmark (Figure E).

Figure E

Figure E

Naming your new task.

Tap the plus sign [+], tap App, and then tap Launch app. Scroll through the app listing until you find the music app you want it to launch. You shouldn't need to customize the launching of this app, so just hit the back button (upper left corner) once the Action Edit screen appears (Figure F).

Figure F

Figure F

Customizing the app launch.

At this point, you can either be done with the automated task or add new actions (such as, in this case, making sure the volume is set to an ear-pleasing level — for this, you would tap the plus sign [+], select Audio | Media Volume, and then set the desired volume). You can even take this Profile one step further and have the music automatically start playing. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Tap the plus sign [+]
  2. Tap Media
  3. Tap Media Control
  4. Select Play [Simulated Only] from the Cmd drop-down (Figure G)
  5. Tap the back button (upper left corner)

Figure G

Figure G

Making sure your music starts automatically.

By default, the Profile is switched on, so any time you insert your headphones, the music player will open and automatically play music at your desired level. You can switch it off by going to the Tasker Profiles tab and switching the task to Off (Figure H).

Figure H

Figure H

Once you start using Tasker, you'll quickly realize just how much potential it offers. With just a bit of creativity, you can turn your Android device into an fully automated tool, ready for the singularity.

Do you look for ways to automate your Android life? What apps have you found that help achieve that ideal automated existence? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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