How to start using Google Now on Tap in Android Marshmallow

With Android Marshmallow, Google Now has morphed into something completely different called Google Now on Tap. See how easy it is to use.

Image: Claudia Cruz/CNET

If your Android device has upgraded to Marshmallow, you've probably noticed a number of minor changes. One change that isn't minor is how Google Now has evolved.

Prior to Marshmallow, if you long-pressed the Home button on your Android device, the standard Google Now would pop up and you could check out your Google Now Cards, search, and more. That has changed to something special called Google Now on Tap.

SEE: Google sharpens up Now on Tap with precise text, image search (ZDNet)

What Now on Tap does

Google Now on Tap gives you quick information without having to leave the current app. The information you get will depend on what you're viewing on your screen at the time you long-press the Home button. For instance, say you're listening to Górecki: Symphony No. 3 on Spotify and you want to know more about it; long-press the Home button and Google Now on Tap will present various options (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A
Image: Jack Wallen
Google Now on Tap presented on a Verizon-branded Nexus 6.

The information you're presented will depend upon the app you're using and what is available. In this example, Google Now on Tap presented links to find out more about Symphony No. 3, Henryk Górecki, Alain Altinoglu (the conductor of the recording I was listening to), and a related symphony. If you're viewing a YouTube video (say a music video), Google Now on Tap will present you with links to the band's social sites and event calendars for tours and such.

Other ways in which Google Now on Tap can help you:

  • find restaurants and other interesting locales in your area;
  • get reviews and information about a movie that is current displayed on your screen; and
  • get more about people, celebrities, and events.

How Now on Tap works

On the surface, it's quite simple: When you long-press the Home button, Now on Tap copies and pastes what you're viewing into Google Now and opens an overlay with related information. Under the surface, it's much more complex; this copy/paste action is why sometimes you'll find the information Now on Tap presents to be not especially useful. The specificity of what you're viewing directly impacts what Now on Tap can reveal.

How to enable/disable Now on Tap

If, when you long-press the Home button, you are taken to your Now Cards, that means Now on Tap is disabled. You can easily enable/disable Now on Tap on your device by going to Settings | Google | Search & Now | Now on Tap and tapping the slider to either enable or disable (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B
Image: Jack Wallen
Enabling/disabling Now on Tap is as simple as a single tap.

Using Now on Tap in real time

Now on Tap sounds like the perfect add-on to help you get as much from your Google searching as possible, but does it stand up to real-time testing? The answer is a both resounding "yes" and a half-hearted "meh." I've used Now on Tap frequently and discovered that, at times, it's an incredibly useful tool and, at other times, it offers nothing more than a regular search might give.

However, you cannot deny Now on Tap's ease of use. When I want to know more about something that's on my screen, I no longer have to open a browser, type in or speak what I want to search, and wait for the results to appear; now, all I have to do is long-press the Home screen and a varied collection of results will show up, ready for me to tap and view. For that aspect, Google Now on Tap is very much worth using. The only caveat is that the mileage you get out of it will certainly vary.

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By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....