Use Google Now to Control Third-Party Apps with Your Voice
Did you know Google Now’s voice commands can add to-dos to Wunderlist or Trello? How about posting to Twitter or sending a message over WhatsApp? Here’s a list of a few surprising ways Google Now voice commands on Android can integrate with third-party apps.
We’ve outlined how voice commands can change how you search , but Now has grown a lot since the days when it mostly offered up Google services. Google has been working hard to turn Google Now into a platform.
At first, this mostly related to the cards shown when you open Google’s virtual assistant; for example, Feedly can show you top headlines from your feeds, and TripAdvisor can show you nearby places to eat or visit. But while it’s easy to find a list of every app that potentially shows cards in Google Now, there’s not really a definitive list of apps you can launch with voice commands.
Once upon a time we showed you how to use Google Now to automate your home life using IFTTT and Gmail. Increasingly integrating apps with Google Now doesn’t require any sort of hack like that: they work out-of-the-box.
Here are a few integrations you might not know about, which you can use right now.
Take Notes with Your To-Do List App
We’ve shown you how Google Now reminders can change your life , but what if you’ve already got an Android to-do list app you love? Good news: you can probably use Google Now to add tasks to your to-do list.
Instead of saying “remind me to”, which prompts a reminder in Google Now itself, say “make a note to”, or “note to self”. You’ll be prompted to choose from among your apps where such notes should go:
We’ve been able to confirm that this technique works with the following to-do list apps, though there’s probably more:
- Google Keep
I’ve started using voice commands to add things to my Wunderlist to-do list on a daily basis, and it works great. I’m particularly happy that dates given at the end of a to-do are respected; for example, if I say, “Take out the recycling tomorrow”, Wunderlist will create the task with the appropriate due date.
Launch Music or Videos
Sometimes you just want to listen to some music or watch a video. You can do this quickly with Google Now, using a couple of different apps for the actual playback using the format, “Play [anything] on [name of app]”. See some examples below.
- YouTube: “Play a John Oliver video on YouTube” should launch the comedian’s latest rant in the YouTube app
- Pandora: “Play Boards of Canada Radio on Pandora” will launch the station I do most of my writing set to.
- Google Music: “Listen to Ben Folds Five” will open Google Music and start playing albums from that artist, assuming you have something from that particular 90s piano pop prodigy in your library.
Again, there are likely more integrations, so if you’ve got an app in mind that you’d like to do this with, I’d recommend giving it a shot.
Send Messages Using Different Apps
You probably know Google Now can be used to dial your phone, or send a text message. But did you know it also can integrate with other messaging apps? This one takes the format of, “Send a [name of app] message to [name of recipient]”.
For example, if you say “Send a Hangouts message to Patrick”, you’ll be asked which Patrick you mean, then allowed to dictate a message.
Here are a few apps this works with:
- Google Hangouts
There are probably more apps that work, but these were the ones we were able to verify.
Post on Various Social Networks
Sometimes you think of something clever to say but don’t have any hands free. Don’t worry: your musings can still be shared over Twitter or Facebook by saying, “Post on [name of social network]”.
For instance, just tell Google to, “Post on Twitter”, followed by your message, and your tweet will be dictated.
It works for Facebook as well, in our tests, making this an easy way to spread your thoughts to the world. Sadly, this integration can’t help make your thoughts worth sharing.
Custom Voice Actions for Certain Apps
A few applications have been given the right to design custom commands for Google Now.
- “Listen to NPR” launches the excellent NPR One app and immediately plays the hourly news update, followed by a few stories.
- “Shazam this” launches the famous song recognition software.
- “Show me [movie] on Flixter” launches the movie showtime app and shows you where a given movie is playing.
- “Activate Home Network on Wink” lets you control your smart home from Google Now.
- “Show attractions near me on Trip Advisor” will show you fun things to do near your current location.
Unlike the commands outlined above, these can’t easily be used with other apps: they’re hard-wired into Google Now itself. Google currently isn’t letting new developers make such integrations, instead focusing on providing a few set phrases app developers can take advantage of.
Bonus: Control Phone Functions
Google Now can also directly control your phone. While not really app integrations, these are still pretty useful and go beyond what you might think of as Google Now’s capabilities. For example:
- Disable/Enable Bluetooth. If you’re the sort of person who turns off Bluetooth until you need it, this voice command lets you do that hands free.
- Disable/Enable WiFi. Who needs to be connected to the Internet anyway?
- Turn on/off flashlight. That’s right, you can tell your phone to light the darkness using only your voice. Sadly, “let there be light” does not work.
- Take a picture launches the camera, then starts a countdown, meaning you can get a photo without touching your screen.
It’s pretty sweet to control these aspects of your phone, so try it out. You’ll feel powerful.
There Could Be a Lot More
This list is not meant to be definitive: it’s more of a starting point. It’s perfectly possible that apps not listed integrate with these commands, and I was not able to find a definitive list. I’m hoping you can help me out, in the comments below, by pointing out a few more integrations.
Google only recently started opening voice commands up to app developers, and what they let developers do is kind of limited. You can read the list of commands offered, if you want an idea of what app makers can work with. If any of these features would be useful in an app you already use, contacting the developer of that app might be a good way to get that capability.
But if gradually getting new capabilities isn’t enough for you, there is a way to take matters into your own hands. AutoInput is a plugin for Tasker, the ultimate Android customization app . With it, you can add voice commands to do just about anything you can imagine.
Doing an in-depth walkthrough of AutoInput is a topic for another article, but I wanted to point out that it exists because it really does offer a lot of power for anyone who is interested.
What do you wish Google Now voice commands could do? Let’s talk about that below, along with any integrations we missed in the list above.