Tasker is the de facto standard for Android automation. The only caveat with Tasker is its rather steep learning curve. For anyone wishing to add automation to their Android device, Tasker is the app to use — if you have time to invest in learning the ins and out of the app (the end result is worth it). If you don't have time to spend diving into that which is Tasker, there are other apps that make automation easier. One such app is MacroDroid. Although it doesn't have the impressive abilities of Tasker, it can make automation an option for those less than Android adept.
You'll find only one version of the app on the Google Play Store — the free version. This version is limited to only five macros, with a few actions and constraints per macro. With an in-app purchase, you can gain access to the Pro version and unlimited macros (with unlimited actions and constraints per macro) for $2.99 (USD).
Let's install MacroDroid and see how you can make it a part of your daily Android life.
Installing MacroDroid is quite easy. Just follow these simple steps:
- Open the Google Play Store on your Android device
- Search for MacroDroid
- Locate and tap the entry by Arlosoft
- Tap Install
- Read the permissions listing carefully
- If the permissions listing is acceptable, tap Accept
Once the installation is complete, you'll find the launcher in your app drawer or on your home screen (or both). Tap the launcher, accept the license, and you're ready to automate.
The MacroDroid home page (Figure A) is perfectly designed to make it easy for any level of user to get started.
MacroDroid running on a Verizon-branded Droid Turbo.
The first thing you might want to take a look at is the templates. From within this listing (Figure B), you can get an idea of what MacroDroid is capable of (you can even edit specific templates).
The template section offers plenty of pre-fab automation macros.
Each automation macro is broken down into three categories:
- Trigger — what causes the action to occur
- Action — what the automated task actually does
- Constraint — add an option that must be present before the action can occur
To add a new macro, tap the Add Macro button on the main window. Let's create a macro that sets the phone to silent when you arrive at work (Note: The details of creating each macro will vary). The first step is to select your trigger (Figure C).
Selecting a trigger for your macro.
Search through the list and tap Location Trigger. You'll then be prompted to select from Area Entered or Area Existed. Select Area Entered and tap OK. Next, you have locate the area on the map. You can tap the radar button at the top to select your current location. Tap the check when finished. (Note: You can't enter an address, so you must manually find the location on the map.)
Now, select the Action from the list. For our silent mode macro, locate and tap Set Volume. From the pop-up (Figure D), you can adjust the volume for alarms, music, notification, ringer, system sounds, voice calls, and Bluetooth voice. Adjust the volume to fit your needs, and tap OK.
Setting the volume to silent for when you enter work.
You can add more actions for the trigger (for this example, we only need the one). Tap the right-pointing arrow to move to constraints. For this particular action, we do not need any constraints (Figure E), so tap the right-pointing arrow at the top right of the window.
Adding a constraint to a macro.
The last step is to give your macro a name and tap OK. The macro is now in place and will immediately start working.
That's really the basic in and out of using MacroDroid. If you want to dig a bit deeper, you can also create variables for your macros. You can create boolean, integer, and string variables that can then be used in the Actions category (for example, to help you count how many SMS messages you receive from a single contact during a day). To create a variable, tap Settings (from within the MacroDroid main window) and then tap Edit MacroDroid Variables. Tap the plus sign [+], give your variable a name, and select the type from the Type drop-down (Figure F).
Creating a variable.
Once the variable is created, you can edit it (say you need to change the integer from 0, which is the default, to 1). After the variable is created, you can then use the variable as an action by selecting Set MacroDroid Variable (within the Add Actions screen) and choosing your newly created variable from the list (Figure G).
Setting a variable as an action.
Depending on the type of variable, you can define how the variable is to be used (such as Value + 1 for an integer).
Although MacroDroid isn't as powerful as Tasker, if you want to enjoy automation on your device (and don't want to have to endure the steeper learning curve of Tasker), this is your app. Give it a try, and see if it doesn't perfectly fit the bill for your Android automation needs.
Do you automate your Android — or do you prefer everything to be under your specific control? What type of mobile user are you? Let us know in the discussion thread below.
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.