If you've previously ignored Google Now, you should break down and give it a try. This powerful assistant that can help you in many ways, and it's certainly more efficient than having to do a number of things manually (traffic information, Google searches, and more). Google Now is much more than a simple Siri drop-in clone — it's a predictive tool that works with you and offers you information that it thinks you need. Anyone on-the-go would appreciate such a tool on their smartphone. But did you know that you can get that same power on your tablet? That's right! Google Now is now available on tablets, as long as your device sports Android 4.1 or better.
Let's take a look at how to improve Google Now to help meet the needs of your busy mobile work life.
Get it up and runningYou probably didn't even know that Google Now was included on your Android tablet, but it is. If you tap and hold the home button, you'll be presented with the Google button. Tap that button to see the Google Now first run screen (Figure A). Figure A
Google Now on the Verizon-branded Samsung Galaxy Note tablet.
Walk through the simple wizard to get Google Now up and running on your tablet.
If, for some odd reason, you do not receive the Google Now button (when you tap and hold the home key), you might have to install the application. Just follow these steps:
- Open the Google Play Store
- Search for "google search" (no quotes)
- Tap the entry for Google Search
- Tap Install
- Tap Accept
- Allow the installation to complete
With Google Now on your tablet, it's time to make it work for you.
Optimizing Google Now
One of the first things you need to do is make sure Google Now is using your search history to predict your needs. Here's how:
- Open up the web browser
- Go to history.google.com
- If prompted, log into your Google account
- Tap the Settings icon
- If Google Search history is turned off, turn it on (Figure B)
- Close out the browser
You can also view your entire search history from any machine associated with your Google account.
It will take some time for Google Now's predictive search to work, because it has to collect enough data to begin predicting what you'll be searching for.
You should also enable the voice search for offline use. If you don't do this, voice input won't work when you're offline. To enable this, follow these steps:
- Open Google Now
- Swipe upward to reveal the menu button (bottom right corner)
- Tap the menu button and tap Settings
- Tap Voice
- Tap Download offline speech recognition (Figure C)
- Tap the All tab
- Scroll to locate the language you want to download
- Tap the Download button associated with the desired language
- Allow the download to complete
Be sure to enable the voice search for offline use.
You can also enable Personalized recognition to improve speech recognition accuracy. With Personalized recognition enabled, Google will save your speech samples. When you enable this, Google creates an electronic key that links your speech samples to your Google account. Only Google can use this key to access voice samples (to improve recognition).
Personalized recognition is an opt-in service — it's not enabled by default. If you decide to enable the feature, you have to agree to the terms of service.
If you set up your Home and Work locations, it will make it much easier for Google Now to predict your drive time to and from. This can also help Google Now inform you how long of a drive it is for you to other locations, like to an airport to catch a flight. To set your locations, follow these steps:
- Open Google Now
- Swipe up to reveal the menu button
- Tap the menu button
- Tap Settings
- Tap My Stuff
- Tap Places
- Tap Home
- Enter your home address
- Tap OK
- Tap Work
- Enter your work address
- Tap OK
You can disable Google Now and/or notifications from this screen as well.Finally, you should optimize what Google Now uses for search results. Tap on the menu button and click Settings. From the Settings window, tap Tablet search. In this listing (Figure E), enable/disable the items you want to include or not include in your tablet search results. Figure E
What you have available will depend upon what supported apps you have installed.
Here's another tip that most business power users will appreciate: Make sure to include locations in calendar events. When you do this, you wind up with a Google Now Card for navigation and drive time.
If you're looking to make your Android tablet a more efficient and personalized device, there's no better place to start than Google Now. It's not just for smartphones, and it's certainly not just for average users.
What's your experience with Google Now? Share your opinion 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.