If you’ve ever thought “I wish my Android phone would do [X] whenever [Y] happened”—for example, text your significant other whenever you leave work; silence your phone when you walk into a movie; or turn on your ringer when you wake up in the morning—Tasker makes it possible.
We’ve shown you the ins and outs of Tasker before, but in this post, we’ll hand you the tools (and the apps) to make your phone more powerful with considerably more ease than we have in the past. Whether you’re a Tasker beginner or an automation pro, the apps in this post will make your phone easier to use, smarter, and even more battery efficient. You don’t have to know the ins and outs of Tasker to install the apps here, but if you do and want to tweak the workflows yourself, we’ll give you the tools to do it. Let’s get started.
What Is Tasker?
Tasker is an automation tool for Android. Tasker can watch for certain conditions (from phone orientation and location to y and z), and when those conditions are met, it can do anything from open applications, toggle system settings, send SMS messages, and even speak alerts aloud if you ask it to. Virtually anything your Android device can do can be automated with Tasker, and when you combine Tasker’s automation tools with conditions that you set, for example, “Arrived at work” or “Out of range of my Wi-Fi network,” based on your GPS location, you can see how much potential the tool really has.
Tasker App Factory is an add-on utility for Tasker that allows you to take the workflows you create and export them as standalone Android apps (APK files) that you can send to friends so they can use them, share on the web as your own work, or even post to Google Play as standalone apps. In fact, the combination of Tasker and App Factory makes building a certain type of app for Android much simpler than developing them from scratch. With App Factory, anyone can install your action as a normal Android app and use it.
What Can I Do With Tasker?
We hinted at how powerful Tasker is above, but the sky’s the limit when it comes to its real potential. Most users use Tasker to automate things they do on a regular basis that they wish they didn’t have to—like turn on Wi-Fi at home and turn it off again when you leave the house. Even if you’re new to Tasker, you can churn out some great profiles. We’ve shown you some great ones in the past, but this time we’re going to give you the app to get the job done, and the code if you want to get your hands dirty.
Before You Get Started
Before you proceed, you’ll need to be comfortable installing apps from sources other than Google Play. The first thing you’ll need to do is tell your Android phone to allow you to install apps from places other than Google Play.
- From your Android phone’s home screen, tap the menu button.
- Tap “Settings” and select “Applications.”
- Make sure the checkbox under “Unknown Sources” is checked.
Additionally, I’ll be walking you through installing the apps below in one of two ways:
The easy way : This just involves downloading the provided APK for each app and installing it on your phone. You’ll need to download the APK directly to your phone, or use a service like Dropbox to get them onto your phone. Once the APK is on your phone, just launch it to install the app.
The hard way : Download the provided Tasker XML to your phone and import it to Tasker. You can either download the XML directly to your phone or use Dropbox as an intermediary, but once you have the XML on your phone, you can import it to Tasker one of two ways:
- Method One: Open Tasker, and long-press on the Project tab at the top of the window. Select “Import,” and browse to where the XML file is stored on your phone.
- Method Two: Open the XML file directly, and when prompted for an application to read the XML file, select Tasker from the pop-up menu.
My Favorite Tasker Apps, Bundled Up for Easy Installation
If you like what each of these apps does, you can just install it and walk away. Don’t worry if it doesn’t seem to do anything at first, it’s running in the background and will respond when you need it.
Automatically Dim Your Screen at Night
What It Does: This task dims your screen completely during the late night hours when you’re normally sleeping, so your device doesn’t turn on with an incoming message and drain your battery. By default, the app here dims the screen at midnight, and then turns the brightness back up at 6am.If you want to customize this recipe, import this XML file to Tasker (aka, the hard way), or click here for step-by-step instructions to set it up from scratch.
Open a List of Installed Music Apps Automatically When Headphones are Plugged In
What It Does: We’ve covered this workflow before, but a Tasker has changed a lot since then. Run this app, and watch: the next time you plug in your headphones, you’ll see a menu of all of your pre-installed music players. This way you don’t have to plug in and then go looking for your favorite music app. The app below lets you choose between Google Play Music, DoubleTwist, and Pandora.If you have different music apps installed that you want in the menu, grab this XML file and import it into Tasker (aka, the hard way)—it’s a snap to change the applications in the menu. If you want to set it up from scratch, click here for step by step instructions.
Automatically Enable GPS When You Open Google Maps Navigation
What It Does: If you’ve ever fired up Navigation, selected your destination, and hit “Navigate” only to find out that your phone sits at “Waiting for GPS” for a few minutes before it finally kicks in and plots your route, you’ve suffered a very common Android GPS malady. Unfortunately, Navigation is just too fast for many devices’ built in GPS, and the radio just hasn’t managed to fully activate and connect before you’re already looking for directions. We’ve discussed other ways to fix this problem, but this app will take care of it in a single tap.Want to look under the hood? A pair of Tasker workflows power this app, you can import this XML file to Tasker (aka, the hard way) to customize it. If you’d rather set them up from scratch, click here for step-by-step instructions.
The Best Reader-Submitted Tasks
We can come up with plenty of uses for Tasker, but the ones that really shine are the uses that you submit to us. When we covered Tasker and App Factory’s update last week and then asked you what you automated with Tasker, you came up with some impressive uses. Here are a few of the ones we really liked.
Use Tasker As An Always-On Tool to Find a Lost Phone
What It Does: Reader Helixthe2nd uses Tasker to monitor his incoming SMS messages for a “911” code sent by someone who absolutely needs to get a hold of him, even if he has the phone set to vibrate or sounds turned off:
Also having it monitor for texts that have a code in it that signals like 911. If a person just absolutely has to get a hold of me and my phone is on silent, they can text me and force my phone to yell until I deal with it. I don’t care if I’m at work or a movie theatre, if my significant other needs me because of an emergency I’ll make sure she can get in touch with me.
Specifically useful for those of us who mute our phones while we sleep but don’t want to miss an important middle of the night call or message, or if we’re in a meeting and have our phones muted or set to vibrate but are worried we’ll miss an important or urgent message.
How to Install It: You can install this one the easy way. Just download and run this APK. If you’d prefer to tinker with the workflow in Tasker (aka, the hard way), we’ve also supplied the XML file so you can import it using the steps above.
Use Tasker to Enable “Night Mode,” Which Disables Sync and Adjusts Notification/Ringer/Media Volumes
What It Does: Reader Justin Novack responded to the call via email, and we commiserated on how awful an idea it was for Android to merge notification volumes together—that is, email/SMS/alert notifications are the same volume as the ringer, which is the same volume as media playback. To get some sleep at night without worrying he’ll miss an important call, he came up with this profile, which disabled sync so his phone won’t sound in the dark for every email, SMS, or other notification he gets in the middle of the night, but the volume is still up so if someone calls, he’ll hear it.
Use Tasker to SMS Ahead on the Trip Home from Work to Let Others Know You’re Coming Home
What It Does: This is another one from Justin, who described it like this:
The bottom script is the pièce de résistance, and the topic of discussion among all my friends. At a certain location, during a certain time, a text will be sent to my loving girlfriend letting her know I am on my way home. Being in IT, I never know when i am going to leave work. Rather than cook and have to reheat, SHE suggested I text her when I leave work, but I thought this was easier. 🙂
How to Install It: This one’s a little tricky, and will definitely require some customization before you run it. You can import this XML file into Tasker and change the variables there, or you can download the XML to your computer and open it in a text editor modify it so it’ll work on your phone.
First of all, you’ll have to set the %Home variable, change the phone number (in the script it’s “800-867-5309!”) to the number you want to text, and you’ll have to set the GPS location that you want to be the trigger for the SMS. This one’s a little advanced, but with a little testing, you can get it work no problem.
A few others that have their own web tutorials that are worth looking over:
- Reader Tony Bullard shared his DIY notifications system with us a while ago, but it’s worth another good look if you’re ready to ditch your nagging to-do app in favor of real, automatic recurring reminders.
- misterlee35 found a great walkthrough on how to make Tasker build a minimal, attractive SMS/call/email count on your desktop so you can see what you’ve missed.
- Dan Purnell stumbled on a pair of great recipes. The first one is a desktop shortcut for “Movie Mode,” which simply sets the phone to vibrate with one tap, and another that starts recording audio through the phone’s microphone without any indication that recording is taking place on-screen, for all of those secret meetings you want to record. In fact, the whole thread is full of useful links and recipes.
- Ben Blincoe found a developer who’s published many of his Tasker tasks to Google Play in the form of apps, including:
- AutoRemote—A Tasker plugin that lets you control your android phone by sending it Push notifications from the web or another Android device. Perfect if your friend is driving, you’re navigating, and you want to send him the address of the place you’re going so he can navigate to it.
- AutoShortcut—Use Tasker to toggle Android shortcuts and items within applications, like a playlist, specific document or note, and so on.
More Advanced Tasker Applications
These Tasker applications are great to get started with. Once you’re familiar with Tasker though, you may want to take on some more challenging projects. For example, reader Bob Igo uses Tasker in conjunction with his home automation system to do everything from open the garage door when he gets home to announce when he’s leaving the house. You can see some of the Tasker profiles he’s developed and what they’re used for at his Github page.
Similarly, make sure to check out the Advanced section in the Tasker Wiki for some ideas on more involved applications for Tasker that will test your skill with the app. For example, instead of just building a Tasker profile that gives you an icon to tap to set your phone to “Movie Mode,” like we mentioned above, why not build one that tells Tasker to mute your phone automatically when you’re at the GPS location of your favorite movie theater? Or instead build a Tasker profile that, when you arrive at work each day, joins your office wireless, changes your phone wallpaper, and sets the phone to vibrate, but as soon as you’re out of range of the office wireless, it turns the ringer back on, changes the wallpaper, and turns off Wi-Fi until you get home (where it can join your home network?)
The possibilities are endless, and only limited by the amount of time you want to put into automating your device.
Go Forth and Tweak!
The learning curve for Tasker and App Factory can be a little steep, but it’s important to be patient, keep trying things, and see what works. As you build profiles and tasks that work for you, test them out and see if they work. Make sure your syntax is correct, and you’ll be set in no time. Also, don’t hesitate to check out resources like the Tasker Wiki and the Tasker User Guide if you run into trouble. If you want to export your profiles as apps, App Factory makes it easy, and the App Creation Guide makes it even easier.