The Google Home ($99 at Walmart) is a worthy alternative to the Amazon Echo; it can answer questions you'd usually type into Google, set a timer for the kitchen, serve as a centralized smart home controller, and of course, play music. It also works with lots of great smart devices, but that's not the only trick up the Home's sleeve.
Did you know you can program it to do nearly anything you can think of? With the help of free services like IFTTT (If This Then That), the smart speaker can perform common tasks like sending messages, posting to social media, or even adding ingredients to a shared shopping list in a cloud service like Google Drive.
What is IFTTT?
IFTTT is a free service that lets you automate tasks between Internet-connected devices and cloud or social media accounts. It's available as an app on your smartphone or through the web browser.
IFTTT plays on the idea of "this" and "that" as the components of a "recipe," essentially distilling down the notion of programming into a simple conditional statement—when you do “this,” then “that” will happen. It's easy enough for anyone to use, including newcomers who might feel intimidated by the idea of doing something like this in the first place.
Here's a look at how to effortlessly tweak your Google Home by setting up a few beginner IFTTT formulas. All the recipes are for both Android and iOS unless otherwise specified.
1. Set it up to say anything you want
The premise behind the Google Home is that it's more than just a smart speaker—it's a digital companion. Make it even more so by programming it to respond in particular ways to certain words and phrases. The Google Home can recite anything: a mantra, a joke, or even a complex WiFi password for your guests so you don't have to dig it out every time someone asks.
Here's how: After signing up for an IFTTT account and linking your Google Assistant account, start a new applet. The "This" should be set to Google Assistant. Choose the first option to "Say a simple phrase." IFTTT makes it pretty explanatory from there: Under “What do you want to say?,” put in the command that you want to say to have the Home respond. This will be the part you repeat after “Hey Google.” You can set up to three different phrases for the command.
Under “What do you want the Assistant to say in response?,” type in how you’d like the Assistant to reply. For instance, if you’re setting it up to say the WiFi password, this is where you’d type that in. Put spaces between numbers (or write them our phonetically) so Google reads them individually.
For the "That," select the Notifications service. This will send a notification to your phone to notify you when the applet has run. It doesn’t much serve a purpose in this instance, since you’ll get a notification that the applet run if you have the app installed on your phone, but this is the easiest way to round off the recipe so the chain is completed.
2. Send a pre-written text (Android only)
If you're often the one responsible for rounding up the troops, you can set up a command for Google to send a pre-written text to a specific number. When your hands are tied and you're wondering when the rest of the family is coming home, you can ask the Google Home to do it instead of locating your phone, unlocking it, and messaging each person individually. It's not as straightforward as dictating a text message with Google Assistant, but it's less of a headache than having to focus on enunciating to the Assistant.
Here's how: The formula starts off the same as the last step. Select the Google Assistant option to “Say a simple phrase” as "This" and you'll see an option for what the phrase should say, like "Call me when you're leaving work." Then, select the option to Send an SMS for "That." You'll be able to program which number to send the message to. After you send it, the message will also pop up in your default messages application on your smartphone.
Note that this particular formula is specific to Android devices.
3. Find your phone
I hate losing my phone, but it's an inevitable byproduct when life becomes too busy. And your smartphone isn't always going to be tethered to your person, but Google Home and IFTTT can help.
IFTTT offers a helpful formula for not only finding your Android phone but also turning on your ringer to the maximum volume. This means you’ll always hear it—especially beneficial when you're none-the-wiser that your phone is buried somewhere deep in the sofa on silent mode.
Here's how: For this recipe, you’ll want to have your phone on hand the first time around. After the initial run, you’ll see a notification pop up on your smartphone to grant settings access for IFTTT so that it triggers the loud ringer. Then run it a second time to ensure it works.
*There’s a similar Google Assistant formula that will work for iPhones, but it simply calls your phone and cannot automatically turn on the ringer.
4. Post to Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn
Sometimes, you have a thought you'd prefer to instantly share with friends, family, and followers before the moment passes. You can program the Google Home to help you with hands-free status updates for those times when you can't get to the phone fast enough.
There are already several IFTTT formulas devoted to this exact action. You can choose to post to Facebook and Twitter at the same time or post individually to Facebook, Twitter, or even LinkedIn. The recipes are readily available, and all they require is a little tweaking on your part to ensure your accounts are correctly linked.
You can also create your applet from scratch, which is a great way to help familiarize yourself with making recipes.
Here's how: Select the Google Assistant option as your "This," and then choose the option to “Say a phrase with a text ingredient.” Under “What do you want to say?” you can put a command like, “On Twitter, say $.” The dollar sign indicates where you’ll dictate your Tweet for Assistant to publish.
To round off the recipe, select your preferred social network as the "That." Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all offer the ability to post a status message, and it should be the first option that comes up as you’re making your recipe. Save it when you’re finished, and IFTTT will take care of the rest of the work for you.
5. Keep a list going throughout the day
In addition to being a trusted digital companion—depending on whose opinion you ask, of course—your Google Home can also help you keep track of your wandering mind. I work from home, and often I like to use the smart speaker to help me pen a grocery list for later in the day, or remind me about my list of things I have to get done in a given day.
Here's how: If you're merely want to make lists then you can set up this formula to log notes into a Google Drive spreadsheet as you conceive of them. It's the easiest way to keep a communal grocery spreadsheet or to-do list, too, and the command can be used by anyone who has access to your Google Home.
If you'd prefer something a little more personal, you can also create a running tally of things to tend to at a later time. IFTTT has a formula that emails you a list of notes you've dictated throughout the day at the end of the day, or another time of your choosing. It's easier than keeping a pen and a piece of paper nearby, and it's filed directly in your inbox until you're ready to tackle it.