Life can be a little more relaxed and a little less chaotic when you employ a routine. The same goes for the smart speaker in your home. While the aptly named “Routines” feature on the Amazon Echo may get a lot of attention, the Google Home is every bit as capable of making your life easier.
The Google Assistant utilizes a feature it calls “Shortcuts,” which allows you to customize a phrase to say to perform a string of actions you can program in the Google Home app.
It’s all pretty effortless as long as you spend time to setting things up. We’ll walk you through the process of creating a beginner Shortcut in the Google Home app and a more robust one for connected homes. All you need to get started is the Google Home app for iOS or Android and a Google Home device.
How to create a simple Shortcut from scratch
The key to creating Shortcuts is in the Google Home app. In the top left corner of the app screen, tap the menu icon and then select “More settings.” Scroll down to “Shortcuts.” From this screen, you’ll be able to choose from a list of pre-populated shortcuts that are nearly ready to use. You can tap on one and edit it as you like or create a Shortcut from scratch. For this walkthrough, we’re going to do the latter.
Tap on the floating action button (the “+” button) in the bottom right-hand corner if your screen to create a new Shortcut. Then, type out what you want to say to trigger the string of actions. As an example, we’ll use Shortcuts to turn the volume up and launch a favorite playlist.
In the first space, enter the phrase of your choosing—you can include up to five different phrases that will trigger the action you’re programming here. Here, we’ll type out “It’s zen time,” which is what we’ll say when we’re ready to take a little time for ourselves.
Under the space that says “Google Assistant should do,” type out the action for the Assistant to perform. Since it’s zen time, we’re going to ask it to turn the volume up and start playback on a specific, relaxing Spotify playlist. For this to work, the command is written as, “Turn up the volume and play my [playlist name] playlist on Spotify.”
Don’t worry about grammar and punctuation here, though you want to be as explicit as you can with what content you want to hear and from which service. If you’d rather, you can also dictate the command as you’d say it by pressing the microphone button next to each entry line.
Once you've set up your command, give the Shortcut a try. The Google Home will let you know if it doesn't understand. In some cases, you may have to edit the Shortcut with variations of the same commands to get it to work. If you’re stuck on how to verbalize, you can usually find a list of commands that are compatible with the Assistant on the manufacturer website of your connected device.
How to control multiple smart devices with one command
Shortcuts are easy to program for straightforward actions, but they become even more fun—or at least, more helpful—once you start adding on third-party services to Google Assistant.
If you have connected gadgetry around your house, you can command the Google Assistant to control one or two of those devices at the same time by typing in the command in the Shortcuts formula.
The best one I’ve concocted thus far is a command that sets up the house for me as I’m heading out. I typed in “set the heater to 68 degrees and turn on the living room lights to 20 percent,” which sets my Nest Thermostat to a specific temperature and sets the Philips Hue bulbs I have installed in light fixtures in the front room. This sort of Shortcut helps ensure my house isn’t too cold or completely dark when I return home.
Google also offers a helpful listing of beginner commands that you can string together if you’re in need of inspiration. Try coming up with your morning routine for starters; all it requires is that you program the Google Home to broadcast your favorite news stream and then set a timer that dings when it’s time for you to leave the house.
One thing to note: The Google Home is efficient as a home operator because it can handle a string of commands at the same time, but it’s best if you leave it to two at a time. Basically, think of two commands you can use that are easily separated with an “and.”