Tasker for Android allows you to automate almost anything you can think of on your phone. It’s even popular on Android in spite of only having a paid version, which shows just how powerful it is.
We’ve covered using Tasker in the past, but its interface has changed over the years. We’ll walk you through the process of getting started with this complex application.
Contexts, Tasks, and Profiles
To use Tasker, you’ll need to know its jargon. Tasker monitors your phone for contexts and performs tasks based on them. A profile is a combination of a context and a task.
For example, let’s say you wanted to automatically enable silent mode at 10 p.m. every day. You’d create a task that enables silent mode and link it to a context that specifies 10 p.m.. When 10 p.m. rolls around, Tasker would set your phone to silent mode.
You can also specify different tasks that occur when your phone enters a context and exits a context. For example, you could instead specify a time context between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. each day. If you set the Enter task to enable silent mode and Exit task to disable silent mode, your phone would also automatically leave silent mode at 6 a.m.
These are just examples, and contexts can be much more than just times. For example, you could set a context that occurs when you have a specific app open or when you arrive at a specific geographical location. You can also create profiles that rely on multiple contexts being true and specify multiple actions that occur in a task. Tasker is extremely flexible.
Creating Your First Profile
As an example, let’s create a simple profile that opens a music player app when you plug in headphones.
First, tap the + button on Tasker’s Profiles tab.
We’re creating an event that needs to occur when headphones are plugged in, so we’d select State -> Hardware -> Headset Plugged.
After you select your context, you’ll be able to customize it more. Here, we have options for selecting whether we care if the headset has a mic or selecting the Invert option, which will create a context that occurs when you unplug headphones. This shows how flexible Tasker is — the default settings specify a profile that occurs whenever any headphones are plugged in, but we could easily tweak these options and create a context that only occurs when headphones with a built-in microphone are unplugged.
After you’re done customizing these settings, tap the back button at the top-left corner of the screen.
You’ve now set up a context. Tasker will allow you to select a task — tap New Task to create a new one and link it to the context. You’ll be asked to provide a name for your task.
Tap the + button on the next screen to add actions. A simple task can involve a single action, while a more complex task can involve multiple actions.
We want to open an app here, so we’d select App -> Load App and then select our preferred music or podcast-playing app.
Depending on the action you chose, you’ll see further options you can customize. We don’t need to customize any setting here, so we can just tap the back button at the top-left corner of the screen to continue.
We now have a simple task that performs a single action. You could add additional actions and Tasker would perform them in order — you can even add a Wait action to force Tasker to wait before performing the next action in the list.
For example, let’s say we want to ensure our volume is set to a proper level whenever we plug our headphones in. We could tap the + button again and select Audio -> Media Volume.
We’d select the volume level we wanted and then tap the back button at the top-left corner of the screen again.
Our task now open our music player and sets the phone’s media volume to our preferred level.
This is great, but the music won’t automatically start playing when we do this — the app just opens. To have the task automatically start playing music, we’d add a new task and select Media -> Media Control -> Play.
(Note that the Play button event seems to not work on some phones. If you really wanted to do this and this doesn’t work on your phone, you may want to install the Media Utilities Tasker plug-in and use the Media Utilities -> Play/Pause action.)
When we’re done adding actions, we tap the back button at the top-left corner of the Task Edit screen to continue.
We now have a new profile that performs the actions we created when we plug in headphones. You could disable this profile by toggling the On switch to Off on the Profiles tab.
When we switch out of Tasker, our profiles will take effect and we’ll see a notification telling us whether any profiles we’ve configured are currently active.
This is Just the Start
There’s a lot more you can do with Tasker, including:
- Install Tasker plug-ins, which can add their own profiles and actions, enabling Tasker to do more things and integrate with other apps.
- Create scenes using the Scenes tab in the interface. Scenes allow you to create custom interfaces that can request information from the user and display other information.
- Set up more complicated tasks involving variables, conditions, and loops.
- Use the Tasker App Factory to turn your Tasker actions into standalone Android apps that you can distribute.
Of course, there are also many other profiles and actions built into Tasker that we didn’t cover.
You should now feel comfortable enough to start exploring and creating your own profiles. Feel free to explore the lists of available profiles and actions while creating new profiles — you can always tap Android’s back button to go back a level or use the built-in search feature to find the option you’re looking for.
Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.
- Published 08/21/13