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Google Assistant tips and tricks: beginner to expert

Now that Google Assistant is available for any smartphone with at least Android Marshmallow, more people can take advantage of its ability to help optimize daily life. You can engage Google's intelligent personal assistant using a conversational style, which is much more natural than using set commands. These tips and tricks will help you get started with Google Assistant and make the most of your new helper.

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Getting started with Google Assistant

Set up Google Assistant for the first time

If you've never used Google Assistant before, don't worry - despite its complex capabilities, it is simple to set up. If your phone is running any version of Android from Marshmallow and up, then long press the home button to open Google Assistant (or say "OK Google" if your voice activation is already turned on). If you don't have Google Assistant yet, the update is coming to you soon.

  • Start Google Assistant by long pressing the Home button.
  • On the "Meet your Google Assistant" screen, tap Continue.
  • Give it permission to access the information it needs to function by tapping Yes, I'm in.
  • Teach it to recognize your voice by tapping Get started.
google assistant getting started
Welcome to Google Assistant. Give permissions and teach it your voice. / © AndroidPIT

Customizing Google Assistant

Select the right Google account: The first thing you should do is make sure that you've selected your primary Google account if you have more than one. Start up Google Assistant, tap the three dots menu icon on the top right to open the menu, and tap Account, then select the one you want to use.

Accessing your settings: Start up Google Assistant, tap the three dots menu icon on the top right to open the menu, and tap Settings. Then, you'll see a list that includes settings for Home control, News, My Day and Shopping list.

To set up your preferred news sources: Go to the Settings, tap News, then tap Customize. Select all the news sources you want, then tap the back arrow. You'll then see a list of your selected news sources, which you can drag around to re-order based on priority. To listen to your customized news later, simply say "Listen to the news."

To set up your My Day summary: Go to the Settings menu and tap My Day. Select what you want to be part of your daily overview. Your choices include weather, work commute, next meeting, reminders and news. When you want Google to tell you what's on your agenda for the day, then simply say "Tell me about my day."

google assistant customize news my day summary
In the Settings, you can set your News and My Day preferences. / © AndroidPIT

Google Assistant tips you'll use in everyday life

The basics

Getting Google Assistant to do things for you is easy. Instead of memorizing a bunch of robotic commands, you can speak to it in a conversational manner. It feels very natural, and you will rarely ever have to stop and wonder if you're phrasing something the right way. You probably noticed from the section above that the phrases you say to get Google Assistant to play the news or read you a summary of your day are just like something you would say to a human. Here's an example: if you want Google Assistant to pull up the YouTube app for you, just say "Open YouTube". It's as simple as that. Here are some basic things you can do with Google Assistant to get you started:

Tips simply for convenience:

  • Ask Google Assistant a question to find answers hands-free
  • Tell it to play a song by a particular artist
  • Ask it about the current weather

Tricks to never drop the ball in your daily life:

  • Use Google Assistant to check your calendar for today
  • Tell is to set alarms, reminders and timers 

Tricks for staying in the loop:

  • Google Assistant can make calls to contacts
  • Reading and replying to messages

Reading and replying to messages: This is a great new feature. If you send SMS messages when you text rather than Messenger or WhatsApp, you'll find this trick particularly useful. Tell Google Assistant to "Show me my messages" and you'll see any unread texts. Ask it "Do I have any messages?" and it will show both read and unread messages to you. When they pop up, just tap Reply to be taken to your SMS app to respond.

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More advanced tips and tricks

Once you've mastered getting Google Assistant to do some of the more basic tasks, you can really put it to work for you 24/7. Here are some examples:

  • Get customized news and sports results as soon as you wake up
  • Ask Google to navigate a route to work in the morning
  • Find a nearby coffee shop for a business meeting
  • Get flight status info and other real time travel information
  • Perform translations to and from English anytime

Screen Context: Here's one that will really come in handy. Screen Context pulls up relevant info when you press the Home button based on what you're reading on your screen. For example, it'll pull up a card showing details about the restaurant your friend suggested via text message.

Grocery lists: The Google Keep integration allows you to add things to your shopping list easily. You can even add multiple items at one time - just say, "OK Google, add juice, eggs and milk to my shopping list."

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Google Assistant is easy to use thanks to the conversational style
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Control your smart home with Google Assistant

Google Assistant reaches far beyond your smartphone and digital life - it can also control the physical environment in your smart home. If you have a smart thermostat, you can tell it to set the temperature to 73 degrees. If you've got smart lights, then you can check if they're on, turn them off remotely or turn them on in particular rooms of your home. As more smart home tech makes its way into your home, you'll rely more on Google Assistant as the control hub.

Have fun with Google Assistant

Let Google Assistant know you're bored, and there are plenty of things it can do to keep you and your friends amused. Just ask it for "Things you can do" and it will give you a list of fun activities to choose from.  It can recite a poem, play funny videos, beatbox for you or teach you something random. The best are the games, like trivia or number guessing.

Have you tried Google Assistant? What are your favorite ways to use it?

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