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Mastering Tasker - 1: Getting Started
Let's start with a simple description of what Tasker is, so you can decide if it'll be useful to you.
Tasker is a £3.99 application, installed from the Google Play Store, which uses 'Contexts', grouped into 'Profiles' to trigger 'Actions', grouped into 'Tasks'. Contexts can take a multitude of forms - we'll come to them in more detail later - but examples are a time Context (e.g. between the hours of midnight and 7am), a date Context (self explanatory), a location Context (e.g. when you are within 100m of home), a WiFi Context (when you are connected to a particular network), a sensor Context (when device is being held sideways) and so on. There are lots and lots of Contexts built into Tasker and it's also extensible via third party plugins. So that's how Profiles are activated, but what are Actions? Actions are things you would like to perform when the Profile is activated - examples are showing a message on screen, launching an application, sending a message, making a phone call, activating or deactivating WiFi and so on. Again, there are a huge number of potential Actions built in and it's also extensible via third party plugins.
The uses for Tasker are generally only limited by your imagination... I keep finding new ways to utilise it on my device and provided you can get your head around how it works and how you set it up, it's an indispensable tool. And that's what we're here for.
Update: A commenter pointed out that a 7 day trial is available from the Tasker download site. Excellent!
What today's article covers
This article is called 'Getting Started' with good reason. I'll talk you through installing and configuring Tasker, the basic UI and how to set up your very first Profile / Task. I'm going to show you how to use Tasker to switch your device to silent mode during the night. Let's get going.
Installing the application
So you've decided Tasker is for you? Awesome. It's going to cost you £3.99, but you're going to have a lot of fun. To install, either do so from the Play Store website or via the Play Store on your device. Searching for Tasker will bring up a ton of interesting looking stuff but for now, just install the main app.
Running the app for the first time
Now that you've installed the application, fire it up! Doing so lets you configure the background service and let's you see that oh-so-unique UI for the first time.
When you launch the app, you'll see the Disclaimer. You should probably read this, because the developer asks you too. Click the green tick - this is your first introduction to Tasker's UI - a green tick confirms, a red cross cancels. The next page is a quick overview of Tasker's concepts, similar to the above!
click on screenshots to zoom
When Tasker opens, you get a 3 tab view - Profiles, Tasks and Scenes. Initially we're going to be concentrating on Profiles and Tasks, but we'll talk about Scenes later. Profiles and Tasks can be created independently on the appropriate tab, but you'll often find you're creating both at the same time. The green tick at the bottom left saves any changes you've made (and hides Tasker), the red cross discards any changes you've made, the green plus adds a new Profile and the toggle at the bottom right lets you enable / disable Tasker.
If you just hit the green tick for now, you'll see Tasker disappear and a new 'lightning bolt' icon visible in your notification area. This is an ongoing notification for Tasker, which lets you see which Profiles are active. This also serves the purpose of ensuring Tasker doesn't get closed in the background for memory management reasons. Now, if you are on Jelly Bean and you don't want to see this icon, you can happily long-press, select app-info and disable notifications. I don't like seeing the icon myself. If you are on pre-Jelly Bean, you can hide it in the Tasker application itself, but you do run the risk of the OS shutting down the application. That said, I ALWAYS run without the icon, and don't have any issues.
To disable the icon open up Tasker again and hit the menu button. You'll see a 'Preferences' option which brings up 4 tabs. As we're on part 1 I don't want to go into these in too much detail, but if you click the 'Monitor' tab you'll see a checkbox entitled 'Run in Foreground'. If you uncheck that (and accept the warning), the notification icon will disappear. You'll notice in the option below you can also change the icon should you wish to do so.
Creating your first Profile / Task
OK, let's go ahead and create our first Profile / Task pair. Follow the steps below, which i've also captured in screenshots in case you get stuck. To follow these you need to be at the main '3 tabs' screen.
- Press the green plus icon to create a new Profile.
- You're prompted for a name at this point - if you don't put one in, it will be automatically created for you. Let's use 'Night' for this example, then press the green tick to accept.
- Now you're prompted for your first Context. There are 6 different types of Context and it's important to understand what they do.
- Application - an Application Context is active while a chosen application is active (or not active using the toggle at the bottom of the screen). You can choose multiple applications (or indeed all applications).
- Time - if the repeat button is unchecked, a time Context is active between two times that you specify. If the repeat button is checked, then first trigger is at the start time specified and then the trigger repeats at the specified interval until the end time specified.
- Day - the Day Context lets you specify a day / days when the Context is active, either numerically or by day of the week.
- Location - the Location Context allows you to specify a location and accuracy when the Context is active. Location can be either coarse (Cell / WiFi) or Fine (GPS), although using GPS is a bad idea generally from a battery perspective!
- State - the State Context is the first of the real 'meaty' Contexts! A State Context is a continuous Context, active for a period of time. That is to say you would generally have an entry and exit Task for this, unlike the Event Context below. An example of a State Context would be 'WiFi Connected'.
- Event - the Event Context differs from the State Context in that it 'fires' and isn't ongoing. An example of an Event Context would be 'Screen has gone off'.
- So we've told Tasker when we want our Task to trigger (the Context for the Profile), now we need to tell it what we want it to do. Select 'New Task'.
- Again we are prompted for a name - which is optional and will be automatically populate if needed - let's enter 'Silent' then press the green tick.
- Here we can add in our Actions. We add them using the plus icon and save / cancel using the green tick / red cross. The 'Play' button in the bottom right allows us to test our Task. We can also give our Task an image / icon if we choose. Press the plus icon.
- All of the potential Actions are broken down into categories, these are relatively self explanatory and good to browse around for ideas. We want to put our phone on silent, so click 'Audio Settings' and then 'Silent Mode'. In the dialogue that pops up you can choose between Off / Vibrate / On as appropriate, select 'On' then press the green tick. You may have spotted the 'If' box - this allows us to set conditions on our Tasks but again, we'll come to that later.
- We're set! Hit the green tick and you'll be returned to the main screen where you'll see the 'Night' Profile. Clicking on the Profile shows / hides the detail, a long press allows you to export / delete and the checkbox enables / disables the Profile.
click on screenshots to zoom
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That's it - you've created your first Tasker Profile and Tasks, I think that's a good start for part 1!
Please post your feedback in the comments, together with any requests / ideas for future parts!
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