Jack Wallen walks you through the process of creating powerful (almost) hands-free reminders with the help of Google Now.
Google has taken the world of reminders and injected it with a serious dose of adrenaline. By using the Google Now voice command system, you can quickly create reminders to help keep your busy life on schedule. But the reminder system is far more powerful than just “Okay Google Now, remind me to buy milk.” With the latest iteration of Google Now, you can also create location-based reminders, recurring reminders, and more. The best part is that this process is incredibly easy.
Let's walk through the process of creating reminders using the Google Now system. I'll be demonstrating on a Verizon-branded Motorola Moto X with Android 4.4. The steps for other handsets will vary slightly.
First, the setup process
In order to make use of this system, it must be configured properly. You'll also need to make sure you have the latest version of Google Search from the Play Store. To update this app, follow these steps:
- Open the Google Play Store
- Search for “google search”
- Tap the entry for Google Search
- Tap Update
- Tap Accept
- Allow the update to complete
Now that Google Search is updated to the latest version, here’s how to configure the system:
- Open the Settings app
- Locate Touchless Control
- Make sure Touchless Control is enabled (Figure A)
- Make sure Launch phrase sound is enabled
The Touchless Control settings window.
If this is your first time using Touchless Control, you’ll need to walk through the Train launch phrase wizard, which will help train Google Search to your voice (you’ll need to be in a quiet room to complete this). Here's how:
- Open the Settings app
- Locate Touchless Control
- Tap Train launch phrase
- Say “Okay Google Now” when prompted (you’ll do this three times)
When you're finished, you can tap Done or speak the launch phrase (Okay Google Now) and then say “help me” to get a list of what you can do with the command.
Next, the reminders
With Google Now set up, it’s time to start creating reminders. Let’s say you need a reminder to call your wife or husband when you get home. This will create a reminder that actually reminds you to place the phone call when you arrive at the destination that you've configured as home (this is done through the Maps application in Settings | Edit home or work). To set this reminder, I would say:
Okay Google Now remind me to call Stephanie at home
Notice I do not say “...call Stephanie when I get home." If you use “when," Google Now creates a time-based reminder. Of course, if you have multiple Stephanie entries in your contacts, you would specify a last name. When the reminder goes off, if you have multiple phone numbers associated with a contact, (such as home, mobile, and work), you can specify it at that time.
Once Google Now creates the reminder, you actually have to tap Remind me at this place to save the reminder.
Let’s say you want to create a recurring reminder. For instance, you want to set up a reminder to pick up your kids every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 PM. To do this, say:
Okay Google Now remind me to pick up the kids every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6 PM.
You could even add a location to that reminder (which will add a map to the reminder and give you directions, if needed). You’ll be surprised at how accurate Google Now is at recognizing regular speech patterns (Figure B).
Google Now easily recognizes regular speech patterns.
Google Now can also set contextual, time-based reminders like so:
Okay Google Now remind me to pay the phone bill next Friday
You can even add locations to a reminder. If Google Maps recognizes a landmark, you can add it by name -- otherwise, you must add it using the address. This works great:
Okay Google Now remind me to buy toilet paper at Target
Say Google Maps locates Target, but there are multiple locations. You can set a specific location from the Reminder setup page. Once you speak the command, the setup page will appear. Before you tap Remind me at this place, tap the All locations drop-down, and then tap the specific location you want (Figure C).
Setting a specific location for a reminder.
Sometimes, I’ve been lucky, and the All locations worked in such a way that when I arrived at one of the listed locations, the reminder was set off. This isn’t always accurate, so you might want to set the specific location when possible.
The Google Now reminder system is an amazing tool for keeping you reminded of important things. The only downfall of the hands-free action with Google Now is that it's not 100% hands-free. If Google added a sub-command, like “set reminder,” to make this system a completely hands-free task, Google Now reminders would be the perfect solution for on-the-go users. However, as is, it’s still pretty terrific.
How do you use the Google Now reminder system to keep track of your tasks? If you don't use Google Now reminders, what's preventing it from becoming your default reminder tool? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.