Google Now is quickly establishing itself as a leading voice assistant technology, overcoming its relatively unexciting name (Alexa and Siri are laughing as we speak.) to harness the power of its mighty apps and search engine to deliver an excellent service.
Given that this article is prefaced with “Secret,” it won’t do for us just to tell you how to make phone calls. (It’s “OK, Google: Phone [whoever].” by the way.) No, here we’ll show you how to control internal features of apps like YouTube, WhatsApp, and Google Drive using just your voice as well as take dictated notes, share a geeky joke with Google Now, and plenty more.
Post to Social Media
“Post to [Twitter, Facebook, etc.]”
Personally, I like to have direct written control over the things I say that end up being broadcast to hundreds of people. That way I can proof them, reproof them, and only post them when I know they’re just right. But if you’re so confident of your opinions that you’re happy to blurt them into your phone and post them right away, then Google Now can help you do that!
Control Phone Hardware
Voice-activated light switches are always cool, and you essentially have one right there in your Android phone because you can activate and deactivate your phone’s flashlight and other features with the power of your voice.
- “Turn on/turn off flashlight”
- “Enable/Disable Wi-Fi”
- “Enable/Disable Bluetooth”
Google Now Commands to Manage Your Life
If you manage crucial things like bills, flights, and meetings through your Gmail, you can access them using Google Now directly from the Android homescreen. Examples include:
- “Show me my receipts”
- “Show me my bills”
- “What time is my flight?”
- “Where is my hotel?”
Having to open the Calendar app to schedule things can be a chore, so there are several voice commands you can use directly from the Android homescreen.
- “Create a calendar event,” then follow the instructions using your voice.
- “What is my schedule for [today/tomorrow/another date]?”
- “When is my next event?”
“Note to Self …”
Preface a command into Google Now with “Note to Self” such as “Note to Self, remember to go to the dentist” or “Note to self, remember to pitch that awesome script idea to a major Hollywood studio,” and you’ll get a list of options to save your dictated note to depending on what apps you have on your phone. By default, notes will be saved to Gmail, but you’ll also be able to pick from OneNote, Evernote, Google Keep and others you may have.
“Listen to …”
This lets you choose from a number of musical options using Google Play Music by default. Not only can you choose specific songs and albums to listen to, but also genres and playlists.
Once you’ve made a selection, you can make requests while your music is playing such as [OK, Google] “Pause Music,” “Next song,” “Previous song,” and “Shuffle.”
“Remind Me …”
Set reminders for yourself from the homescreen to do anything from sit-ups in the morning to emptying the bins every Thursday at 3pm. You can even set location-based reminders such as “Remind me when I get to Paris to visit the Eiffel Tower.” For the reminders to work you’ll need to have Now cards enabled (Settings -> Google -> Search & Now -> Now cards -> Show cards).
Parking location reminder
Did you know that Google knows when you’ve parked your car and walked away from it? No, that doesn’t mean it’s snooping on you from behind a hedgerow. Instead, it works out how fast you’re moving, then when it detects that you’ve switched from driving to walking, it sets a parking location reminder at the top of your Now notification list (accessed by holding the Home button or saying “Ok, Google”).
Check the weather
You can check the weather using a number of voice commands through Google Now:
- “What’s the weather like?”
- “Do I need an umbrella today?” (Unfortunately, the crucial “Is it shorts weather today?” isn’t a recognized command … yet.)
- “Will it rain [today/tomorrow/another future date]?”
- “What will the weather be in [location] [today/tomorrow/another future date]?”
Maps and navigation
You can use Google Now to instantly get directions via Google Maps.
- “Where is [landmark/restaurant name/street name/any location marked on Google Maps]?”
- “Directions to [landmark/restaurant name/street name/any location marked on Google Maps].” You can further add “by [bike/car/foot/public transport]” to the end of the above command.
- “How far is [location name] from [another location name]?”
Funny Google Now Commands
Google Now may not have the slick image of Siri or the personable voice of Alexa, but that doesn’t mean it lacks a sense of humor. If you’re clued up on your pop/geek culture, then try the below commands if you want to get some free laughs or at least mild enjoyment.
- “Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right”
- “Make me a sandwich”
- “Beam me up, Scotty”
- “When am I?”
- “What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?”
- “What is the loneliest number?”
- “Do a barrel roll”
- “What is the answer to life, the universe and everything?”
Control Apps Using Google Now
First, make sure you have Google Now enabled on any screen (Settings -> Google -> Search & Now -> Voice -> “Ok Google” detection -> “From any screen”). Once this is done, you just need to hold the Home button on your phone or say “Ok, Google,” and the Now prompt will pop up.
Control YouTube video playback
Open the YouTube app, activate Google Now, and say any of the following commands to control your YouTube playback. It’s particularly useful if your hands are occupied repairing a computer or handling food. (No one wants a phone covered in raw chicken sludge.)
- “Play” – Play a video
- “Pause” – Pause a video
- “Stop” – Stop playing and buffering the video
- “Minimize” – Shrink the video to the bottom right corner of the screen
- “Maximize” – Make the video full screen
- “Exit” or “Close player” – Close the video but leave YouTube open
- “Play on …” or “Connect to …” – then say “TV,” “Chromecast,” or “Console” to stream YouTube to the device of your choice. Follow this with “Disconnect from …” one of the above devices to stop streaming.
- “Skip ads” – The greatest voice command of them all!
Google Now Commands for Third-Party Apps
Just as you can dictate and send a text message using your default messaging app, you can use just about any other messaging app using Google Now. Below are some examples:
- “Send a [WhatsApp] to Dad”
- “Send a message to [Mom] with [Telegram]”
- “Send a message with [WhatsApp]”
You can search through your entire Google Drive folder from your Android homescreen by opening Google Now and saying “Search Drive for” followed by the name of the file (or even text within a file) you want to search for.
From the homescreen you can use the travel companion app Tripadvisor using Google Now by saying “Show me nearby [attractions] in Tripadvisor.” You can replace the word in brackets with more specific attractions such as museums, restaurants and beaches.
These are just some of the lesser-known, yet extremely handy (or useless yet fun), Google Now commands, but people uncover new things in this underrated feature all the time. Have you unearthed any incredible Now discoveries yourself? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!