Making the Most of Google Now

by Sandra Henshaw - , Last Updated on March 9, 2015, How To Guides

Google Now can be one of the most helpful applications on your smart phone, as long as you’re using it right. From helping you write emails to waking you up, there’s not much that Google Now can’t do. So we’re here to make sure that you’re making the most out of this handy (and free) little app. Check out these tips, and make your phone more efficient, not to mention more helpful!

For Starters…

We’re always honest with you, so we’re going to start out by saying that Google Now does make some phone users uncomfortable. Why? Because the app needs access to an awful lot of your information. And if you don’t allow Now access to that info, it won’t be working properly. What kind of info are we talking about? Well, it will log your location, will need access to your contact list, your internet search history, and to some other apps in your phone. Oh, and you’ll need a Google account as well (a gmail account is fine). We think that the convenience of using Google Now is worth the small invasion of privacy, but you should be aware that the app is using and storing your personal info. If you decide that this is fine by you, then here’s some great stuff that Now can do for you…

Specific Commands

Unlike earlier versions of the app, the new version of Google Now can understand extremely specific commands, and is, well, pretty smart. You can set up relationships with your contact list, so you can “call mum,” for example. But that’s not all. Asking Now for the weather forecast is old hat, you can now ask for the weather on a certain day and a certain location. Want to hear some music from your Google Play account? Ask Now to play specific songs, or only music by a specific artist. But one of our favourite new specific commands is Now’s ability to accept two step instructions. Telling Now to remind you to call mum when you get home will set an alarm reminder that’s triggered by your location, so your phone will beep as you get to your front door. Smart, huh? Oh, and if you’re too lazy to set an alarm, just tell Google Now to “wake me up tomorrow at seven.”

Better Messaging

Google Now is the ultimate personal assistant, and like any good PA it will take dictation. You can send SMSs, emails or messages through other apps simply by telling Now which app to open and speaking your message into your phone. But, unlike most other message dictation systems, you can also include punctuation and even smiley faces. Simply say the punctuation you want when you need it (for example: are you coming question mark). And smiley face and sad face will get you exactly those. This means that your messages aren’t going to look like they came from a robot any more…

Getting Lost (or Not)

Google Now is great for location related info. You can get specific turn by turn directions by simply saying “driving directions to…” And if you’ve got memory problems when it comes to where you’ve parked your car, then Google Now will help you out. Just make sure that your settings are showing that you generally get around by car (tap the magic wand icon, hit “everything else” and choose car transport) and when the app detects that you’ve stopped moving it will place a card on your screen showing where your car is. Got a flight to catch? Search the flight number using Google, and Google Now will automatically add a card showing you the status of that flight. If you’re a Google Calendar user and you add a meeting or appointment that includes a location, then Google Now will not only remind you of the event, but will also suggest a departure time based on your current location and local traffic conditions.

Constantly Learning

There are a couple of ways in which Google Now is learning as you use it. The first is down to you. If the app makes a mistake, then you can correct it by saying “No, I said…” The next time you say a similar word or phrase, Now will remember your correction and use it by default, which is pretty smart. But there’s more…

Installing another free app called Commandr will let you teach Google Now new rules and instructions. You’ll then be able to use Google Now to do even more than it currently does. You’ll be able to get your SMSs read out loud to you, turn WiFi off and on, and all kinds of other neat tricks. It’s worth downloading Commandr and playing around with it a little, since it makes Google Now even more useful than it already is.

Culture Maven

Google Now knows a lot of stuff (which kind of makes sense, since, well, it’s Google). You can use it to identify music that you’re listening to by asking it “What am I listening to?” and you’ll get a full list of song info. More than that though, you can also use it for TV. Pointing your phone at your television and saying “Listen to TV” will give you as much info as you can get about the programme that’s currently playing.

And You Don’t Need Your Phone

Sitting at a desk all day and don’t want to be caught looking at your phone too often? Google Now is now available on your desk top too. You’ll need to have Google Now on your phone, then to download Google Chrome Beta for your computer. Look into Chrome Beta with the same account that you use on your phone and you should get your Google Now cards on your desk top. This is still beta tech, so it’s not quite perfect yet, but it might be worth checking out.

Easter Eggs

Finally, like most Google products, Google Now has plenty of built in easter eggs. We’re not going to give you specifics, you’ll have to try these out for yourself. Try saying the following phrases to find out what Now will do: do a barrel roll, when am I, make me a sandwich, beam me up Scotty, tell me a joke.

Google Now does have a lot to offer, and once set up you might find that your life is just a whole lot easier. It does take a little time to get all the setting right, and to learn the kind of voice commands that the app will accept. But after a couple of days you should be a pro. You don’t need a personal assistant any more, you just need Google Now.