Got Android? Ready to fly around your phone like a pro? Read this all-new Android Shortcut article to uncover all sorts of efficiency-enhancing Android secret shortcuts that’ll have you cruising through your phone and life at an infinitely more productive speed.
Out-of-sight options you’ll uncover:
- A hidden gesture that’ll help you fly through menus faster than ever.
- Zoom around your device.
- A little-known way to make app switching even easier.
- Time-saving typing secrets that’ll have you type out text faster than ever.
- A neat trick to make your phone’s calendar much, much easier to use.
- Manage your inbox more intelligently, and more.
Ready to uncover all of your phone’s efficiency-enhancing magic?
Advanced app actions
Smarter smartphone typing
Better web browsing
Incredible inbox commands
We’re tackling the topic of basic time-savers — some foundational system-level shortcuts that’ll help you get around your phone faster and more efficiently. And while we’re calling them basic, you’d better believe they’re all out of sight and all too easy to overlook (or maybe just forget about after a while).
Here, specifically, are six handy but hidden Android shortcuts worth mastering:
Quicker Quick Settings access
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: Android’s Quick Settings panel is all about efficiency, but typically, you have to swipe down twice from the top of your screen to see it in its fully expanded form. So what if there were a way you could cut those steps in half? One of Android’s simplest but most effective built-in shortcuts lets you do exactly that.
HOW TO FIND IT: This one’s as easy as can be to pull off. No matter what you’re doing on your device, just swipe down from the top of your screen using two fingers side by side. That’ll skip over the usual half-panel view and take you directly to your fully expanded Quick Settings panel, with all the available information and toggles in plain sight and ready for your tap-a-tap-tappin’ use.
The smarter app-switching swipe
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: If you’re using Android 10 or higher and have Android’s gesture navigation enabled (meaning you see either a single thin line or a pill-shaped button in the bottom-center area of your screen instead of the old three-button interface), you’ve got a super-handy way to snap between recently used apps in — well, a snap.
HOW TO FIND IT: To hop back quickly to your last most recently used app, just slide your finger toward the right along the bottom edge of your screen. From there, you can slide back to the left to return to the app you came from or continue sliding toward the right to keep moving back in your recently-used-app spectrum.
And here’s an especially useful and not at all widely known advanced possibility: Instead of swiping straight across in a horizontal line, you can also swipe toward the right in an arc motion — lifting your finger up a little bit as you go. That’ll push the app previews upward and let you see what’s there and waiting, which makes it a heck of a lot easier to know where you’re going and find the app you want. The higher you move your finger, the smaller the app previews will become and the more you’ll be able to see.
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: Android’s Overview mode — the card-based list of recent apps that you see when you swipe up from the bottom of the screen and then stop after an inch or so, with gesture navigation (or when you tap the square-shaped bottom at the bottom of your screen in Android’s legacy three-button setup) — is an even easier way to see all of your recently used apps in a swipe-friendly menu so you can find the one you need. And that area of the operating system has a couple o’ nice consistency-creating shortcuts of its own.
HOW TO FIND IT: Once you’re in the Overview menu, with Android 10 or higher, you can keep the swiping going and simply swipe down on any app’s card (instead of tapping it) to open it. Swiping upward on a card, meanwhile, will dismiss that app from that list and cause it to disappear.
A more versatile Back shortcut
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: With the gesture system in Android 10 and higher, swiping inward from the left side of the screen activates Android’s Back command and takes you back one step in whatever app or process you’re using. But that isn’t the only way you can tap into that function.
HOW TO FIND IT: In addition to the left-side-of-screen swipe-in, Android’s gesture system supports a right-side swipe-in for the system-level Back command. If it’s ever more convenient to swipe in from the right side of the screen — if, say, you hold your phone in your right hand and have your sweet little thumbalina right there along that edge of the device — save yourself the trouble of awkwardly reaching over to the left and instead just swipe in from your screen’s right edge to dance your way back a step anywhere, anytime.
The magic app menu swipe
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: Speaking of Android’s gesture-based Back command, one of the most frustrating flaws with that action is the way it overlaps with other actions already present throughout the Android experience. Specifically, that Back gesture often conflicts with the gesture for opening a drawer-style menu within an app, like what you see within Gmail or Google Drive. But fear not, my fellow shortcut-seeking superstar, for there’s a way around that.
HOW TO FIND IT: Ready for this? When you want to open an app’s menu drawer, swipe in downward from the left side of the screen at a 45-degree angle. That’ll consistently pull up the app’s menu instead of activating the Back command, as frequently happens when you swipe across in a horizontal line.
The slide-down menu secret
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: Another common Android menu setup is the three-dot menu icon you see in lots of apps’ upper-right corners. It’s present in tons of core Google-made apps, including Messages, Chrome, Gmail, Drive, Contacts, and Phone. And there’s a really neat, extra-efficient way to open it that no normal person would ever know existed.
HOW TO FIND IT: Rather than tapping that three-dot icon to load an app’s menu and then tapping the item you want, simply swipe downward on the icon and move your finger directly to your item of choice — without ever lifting your person-paw from the screen. The menu will appear as you swipe, and whatever item your finger is touching when you let go will be activated.
Advanced app actions
We’re gonna dive even deeper into ways you can save time with efficiency-enhancing app shortcuts throughout Android — starting with a broad way to give yourself easier access to useful functions in most any app and moving from that into some spectacular specific shortcuts for Drive, Docs, Calendar, Photos, and beyond.
Android’s oft-forgotten App Shortcuts system
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: Android has an incredibly handy system called, rather fittingly, App Shortcuts. Those shortcuts are completely hidden out of sight, and they’re consequently all too easy to ignore on accident, but Google almighty, can they ever be useful. You can think of App Shortcuts as direct links to specific functions within apps on your phone — ways you can get to individual actions or areas within an app without having to go through the typical process of opening the app up, hunting around its menus, and tapping multiple commands to get where you want to go.
HOW TO FIND IT: To look through your App Shortcut options, press and hold your finger down on any app’s icon — either on your home screen or in your app drawer — for about a second. The options vary from one app to the next, but you’re bound to find some fantastic treasures. For instance:
- With Google’s Messages app, long-pressing the app’s icon lets you jump directly into a variety of recently used message threads.
- With Google Docs, you can hop straight into a new document or to the service’s search function without having to first open the app and poke around.
- With Google Drive, you can get direct links for searching, uploading a new file, or even scanning a physical document with your phone’s camera.
- And with Google Calendar, you can create a new event, a new task, or a new Assistant-linked reminder right from that hidden long-press menu.
The list goes on from there, so take the time to tap around and explore what the apps you use have to offer. And when you find a shortcut that seems especially useful for the way you work, remember this extra invisible trick: You can pull any shortcut out of an app’s long-press menu and put it directly on your home screen for even easier one-tap access. Just press and hold the shortcut you want and then drag it into any open space on your home screen.
Direct document access
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: If you find yourself looking at a specific Docs or Drive document, file, or folder frequently, save yourself the steps of opening the associated app, finding the items there, and then tapping their titles to get to ’em and instead give yourself one-tap shortcuts to open the suckers straight from your home screen.
HOW TO FIND IT: The option for this one is pretty buried, but it’s well worth your while to dig up. In the Docs Android app, start by finding the document in question on the app’s main screen. Long-press it, and then look way down on the menu that pops up for the “Add to home screen” command. (Depending on the size of your phone, you might have to scroll down that menu a fair way before you see it appear.)
Tap that bad boy and follow the prompt to place the shortcut wherever you want it – and say “hocus pocus” for good measure — and before you know it, you’ll have an app-like icon sitting right on your home screen. Tapping it will take you directly into the document you selected, without any extra steps required.
In Drive, it’s a teensy bit easier to find: Tap the three-dot menu icon alongside any file or folder’s name within the app, then look for the “Add to home screen” option there.
Heck, you could even get ambitious and create a folder on your home screen where you store a variety of high-priority or in-progress documents, files, or Drive-based folders.
Calendar shortcut sorcery
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: Google’s Android Calendar app has a trio of useful shortcuts you should absolutely find and imprint into your magnificent mammal-noggin.
HOW TO FIND IT: There are three Calendar shortcuts in particular I’d make a point to start using:
- From the app’s agenda view, swipe any event or reminder toward the right to delete it in a single, swift action.
- Tap or swipe downward on the app’s top bar, meanwhile — where you see the current month’s name — to bring a monthly view into focus for easy at-a-glance reference. Tap on the bar a second time (or swipe back up, with your finger starting just beneath that area) to hide it when you’re done.
- And anytime you’re scrolling through your agenda view in the Calendar app and want to jump back to the current day, tap the small calendar icon (the box with a blue dot it in, directly to the left of the menu icon in the upper-right corner of the screen). That’ll zip you back to today, no matter how far into the future you’ve traveled.
More or less photos in a pinch
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: Got Google Photos? The Photos Android app has a handy way to change the number of pictures that are visible on-screen with next to no effort.
HOW TO FIND IT: While viewing any collection of images in Photos on your phone, pinch your fingers outward (as in, away from each other) on the screen to change to a more zoomed-in view with fewer but larger photos being shown. Keep pinching outward, and eventually, you’ll reach the all-the-way-zoomed-in view of a single, individual image.
Pinching inward, meanwhile — making your fingers go together — will zoom you out progressively from that single-image view all the way to a month arrangement that shows lots of small thumbnails broken down by month.
Terrific YouTube time-savers
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: You’d never know it (again!), but the YouTube app on Android has a couple of wonderfully useful shortcuts that’ll go a long way in enhancing your experience and making it easier to enjoy whatever videos you’re watching.
HOW TO FIND IT: First, double-tap your finger on the left edge of any actively playing video to skip back 10 seconds in its playback or on the right edge to skip ahead by that same amount. Either way you go, if you keep double-tapping after that initial time, you’ll add 10 more seconds with each subsequent effort.
And second, whenever you’re watching a video, swipe up anywhere on the video box (whether it’s playing or paused) to quickly move into a full-screen, landscape-style view. And then, once you’re in that full-screen mode, swipe back down on the video to exit out and go back to the default, vertical view.
A zippier zoom
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: Pinching to zoom is fine when you’ve got your fingers free, but if you’re holding your phone in a single hand, that sort of two-fingered manipulation isn’t always especially practical. For those moments and any others when you want a fast-zooming shortcut alternative, Android’s got a great option just waiting for you to use.
HOW TO FIND IT: These methods won’t work everywhere, but they’re available and quite effective in Chrome (when you’re viewing a desktop version of a site or a site that isn’t properly optimized for mobile) as well as in Photos (while viewing any image in full) and Maps (while looking at any active map area).
In any of those situations, you can double-tap anywhere on a page to zoom into that area — or, in the true shortcut sorcerer twist, you can double-tap and leave your finger down, then drag downward to zoom in or upward to zoom out. It sounds a bit strange, but give it a try. It’ll get you where you need to go without all the awkward finger yoga that often comes with one-handed pinching.
Smarter smartphone typing
If there’s one area of the smartphone experience where we could all use an injection of speed-increasing energy, it’s text input — the timeless act of tapping or swiping words onto your screen. Google’s own Gboard Android keyboard has gotten really good over the years, and it has some really useful shortcuts that can save you time and make your on-the-go typing faster, easier, and more effective.
Here are four outstanding out-of-sight options that’ll bring a turbo boost to your Gboard typing experience and help you stay extra efficient when summoning words onto your phone’s screen.
Careful cursor control
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: Ever find yourself in the midst of typing an email or a chat message and then realize you need to add or change something several characters back? We’ve all been there — and trying to get that tiny on-screen cursor exactly where you want it can drive even the most patient person positively batty. Well, Gboard has a hidden answer.
HOW TO FIND IT: Just touch your finger to the space bar, and — without lifting it up — slide it to the left or right. That’ll move your cursor accordingly and let you place it wherever it’s needed.
If sliding on the space bar doesn’t do anything for you, don’t panic: Just tap the gear-shaped icon within Gboard’s upper row (or if you don’t see that icon in the keyboard’s top row, tap the three-dot menu icon within that same area and then find the gear icon in the larger menu that comes up). Next, within the keyboard’s settings, select “Glide typing” and make sure the toggle next to “Enable gesture cursor control” is activated and in the on position.
Fast character access
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: On the surface, Gboard seems to make it slightly difficult to get to special characters like the underscore or asterisk — but there’s actually a super-simple way to find and access practically every number or symbol your language-lovin’ heart could ever desire.
HOW TO FIND IT: All you’ve gotta do is touch your finger to the “?123” key and then slide it upward across the keyboard. You’ll see a screen full of numbers and special characters instantly appear, and you can then just swipe your finger (without lifting) to the one you want. Once you let go, that character will be inserted into your text, and the keyboard will go back to its regular QWERTY panel.
Some of the symbols — like the parentheses, for instance — have even more special characters embedded within ’em. You’ll see an ellipsis (…) at the bottom of their keys when you slide over ’em, and if you keep your finger in place for a second or so, you’ll see a selection of additional related characters pop up for your sliding-selection pleasure.
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: Whether you’re typing out an acronym or just feeling especially shouty, there are bound to be times when you want to capitalize a letter beyond the first character of a sentence. And sure enough, Gboard has a secret shortcut that makes that especially easy to do.
HOW TO FIND IT: Touch your finger to the Shift key (the up-facing arrow to the left of the “z”) — and instead of letting go, keep your finger down and swipe over to whatever letter you want. That letter will come through capitalized, and the keyboard will then automatically switch back to lowercase when you let go.
If you want to capitalize text you’ve already entered on your phone, meanwhile, double-tap the word you want to adjust to select and highlight it. Then hit the Shift button — the same up-facing arrow directly to the left of the “z” key we were just talking about a second ago. The first time you tap it, the word you highlighted will change into Sentence Case. Tap it again, and it’ll go into ALL CAPS. And tap it one more time, and your word will shift back into all lowercase letters.
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: Look, we all make mistakes (yes, even yours turly). With Gboard, you can erase an error — or maybe just something your better judgment tells you not to say — with the swipe of a finger.
HOW TO FIND IT: First, head back into Gboard’s settings, look under “Glide typing,” and make sure “Enable gesture delete” is activated. Now, when you want to erase a word or multiple words, touch your finger to the Backspace key (the key to the right of “m”) and immediately slide it toward the left. The farther you slide it, the more words that’ll be highlighted and selected. If you select too much, no worries: Just slide that fantastic little fingie of yours back toward the right a nib.
When you’re all set, simply lift up your finger — and say “giggity, giggity, Gboard figgity,” if you’re feeling merry — and whoosh: Your unwanted words will be gone like the wind.
The key here, by the way, is to do a long-slide gesture — sliding and holding your finger down, in other words, as you can see in the image above. For ages, I couldn’t get this one to work consistently because my gut instinct was to flick my finger to the left. And take my word for it: Doing that won’t accomplish anything other than making you feel like a nit.
Better web browsing
It’s tough to imagine an app that’s more broadly and frequently used than Chrome. Chrome is the de facto standard for World Wide Webbinode browsing on Android (and most other platforms, too, for that matter). And you’d better believe it has some splendid shortcuts built into its bones and ready to be discovered.
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: Refreshing a page doesn’t have to require multiple steps. The next time you need a site you’re viewing to reload, remember Chrome’s single-swipe shortcut for starting a page over in a flash.
HOW TO FIND IT: There’s not much at all to this. Whilst viewing any web page within Chrome on your phone, just swipe your purty little fingie downward from anywhere in the main browser area. (You’ll need to be scrolled all the way to the top of the page in order for it to work.) Once you see a circle with an arrow appear, you can let go, sit back, and say: “Ahh. Isn’t that refreshing?”
Painless page previewing
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: Do you ever find yourself looking at a web page and wanting to open a link without navigating away from the page you’re already viewing? Usually, you’d have to go through the clunky process of opening the link as a new tab, switching over to that tab, looking at the newly opened page, then closing it and going back to your original tab. Well, stop that silliness immediately, you silly ol’ salamander. Chrome has a much better way to handle this.
HOW TO FIND IT: Press and hold any link within a web page, then select “Preview page” from the menu that pops up. And by golly, wouldya look at that?
There’s your link — showing up as a panel on top of the page where you found it. That way, you can check it out and take a quick look without disrupting your workflow and shifting entirely away from the page you were already viewing. You can scroll and tap through the panel to your heart’s content — and then, if you decide you’ve seen enough, you can simply swipe the sucker down to dismiss it. Or if you decide you want to open the link up as its own separate tab, you can tap the icon in the panel’s upper-right corner to expand it.
Quick link copying
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: Sure, you can copy a site’s address by opening the main Chrome menu, selecting “Share,” and then selecting “Copy to clipboard” from the list that appears — but sweet sassy molassey, that seems like an awful lot of steps. Why not snag a URL for pasting with far less work?
HOW TO FIND IT: Tap the address bar at the top of the screen while you’ve got any page open in Chrome, then hit the copy icon (what looks like two overlapping rectangles) directly next to the page’s URL. And that’s it: The link will be on your system clipboard and ready to paste anywhere your sticky little heart desires.
The spoken share
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: Little-known fact: When you’re looking at a web page in Chrome and want to send the site to a colleague, a comrade, or maybe even a koala, you don’t have to do the tap-a-tap finger dance of opening the Chrome menu, finding the share command, selecting your messaging app, then finding your person (and/or marsupial) of choice. Instead, you can just speak up and tell your phone what you want to do.
HOW TO FIND IT: Pull up Assistant while you’re gazing at the page in question and tell it to Send this page to followed by the name of the creature in question: Send this page to Myrtle, Send this page to Elmer, or whatever the case may be (assuming you’re contacting a 97-year-old turtle, in those specific examples).
On Pixel phones, a plain-text link to the page will be pasted right into the appropriate thread in your default system messaging app. On most other Android devices, you’ll end up getting a screenshot of the site in that same area instead.
Either way, you’ll share what you’re seeing without having to do an ounce of heavy lifting.
The specific text share
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: When you want to show someone a specific part of a web page — an area of text midway down the screen — Chrome has a tremendously useful shortcut for creating a link to that exact area of text and then sending it anywhere you need.
HOW TO FIND IT: Press and hold your favorite finger down to highlight any text on any web page you’re viewing. Once the text is highlighted, select “Share” from the menu that comes up, and then pick any app or process where you want to send the link from the menu that comes up (or tap the Copy icon if you just want to copy the link to your system clipboard without immediately sharing it to anywhere). That’ll give you a special link that’ll take anyone to the precise part of the page you highlighted the second they open it so they’ll know exactly what you wanted them to see.
Pure voice power
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: The next time you’re looking at something on the web and your hands are occupied (and don’t worry, I won’t ask for details), remember that Android can let you control your Chrome experience almost completely by voice — at least, if you’ve got a Pixel phone that’s the Pixel 4 or higher, which is where the “new” Assistant required for this is available.
HOW TO FIND IT: Activate Assistant with any page open and say one of the following commands:
- Go back
- Go forward
- Bookmark this page
- Open a new tab
- Close this tab
- Close all tabs
- Open Downloads
- Open History
Just be sure to say “thank you” when you’re finished. Hey, even virtual helpers have feelings.
Incredible inbox commands
So far, you’ve mastered out-of-sight shortcuts for getting around Android, interacting with all sorts of apps, inputting text on your phone, and making your way around this wild ol’ wily web of ours. Today, it’s time to turn to yet another area where shortcuts can make a world of difference — and that’s your inbox.
Head into Gmail on your phone, and get ready to change the way you think about handling both incoming and outgoing email.
Custom swipe control
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: Ever wish you had an easy way to snooze messages from your inbox — or maybe even to mark ’em as unread without having to pull off a complicated finger caper? Well, prepare to be pleased, my prickly porcupine pal.
HOW TO FIND IT: Open up the Gmail Android app’s settings (by tapping the three-line menu icon in the upper-left corner and scrolling down until you see the “Settings” option). Tap “General settings,” then select “Swipe actions.”
There, you can configure exactly what action is associated with swiping an email to the left and to the right from your inbox or from any other message list view. You can choose from archiving, deleting, marking as read or unread, moving to another area of your inbox, and snoozing.
Set things up in way you like, then just swipe away to your heart’s content (and with the optional but highly recommended occasional cackle).
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: Speaking of snoozing, when you snooze an email within Gmail, you’ll see three single-tap suggested snooze times for “Morning,” “Afternoon,” and “Evening.” Weirdly enough, there’s no way to change those default times within Gmail itself — but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to do.
HOW TO FIND IT: The secret to customizing Gmail’s default snooze times resides within a totally different Google app: Google Keep. Random and nonsensical, you say? Completely confusing? Impossible for any average, non-total-nerd human to possibly realize?
Correct! On all fronts. But, well, two things: First, this is Google. Are you really surprised? And second, I am a total nerd (and I may or may not be an actual human; the jury’s still out on that one). So I’ve got ya covered.
Open up the Keep app on your phone, tap the three-line menu icon in its upper-left corner, and select “Settings” from the menu that comes up. There, you’ll see options for “Reminder Defaults” in the “Morning,” “Afternoon,” and “Evening” areas. Tap each one and set it to whatever time you like — and the next time you go to snooze a message in Gmail, you’ll see those times as the suggested options.
Fast account switching
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: If you’ve got multiple Gmail accounts connected to your phone, take note: You can switch between ’em at lightning speed without having to do any deep menu digging.
HOW TO FIND IT: Flick your finger up or down on the profile picture in the upper-right corner of your inbox. That’ll move you in a continuous loop through any connected accounts — so if you have three accounts connected in total, one flick down will take you from account #1 to account #2. A flick back up will bring you back from #2 to #1. And so on. Pretty flickin’ cool, right?
Quick address copying
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: Copying an address whilst composing an email to someone on your phone doesn’t have to be difficult — at least, if you know about Gmail’s secret shortcut for that command.
HOW TO FIND IT: The next time you’re in the midst of writing an email in the Gmail app, tap your finger onto the recipient’s name or address in the “To” field. That’ll give you a handy little pop-up that offers one-tap options for copying the address or removing it from the email.
Instant phone call and calendar connections
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: Ever find yourself reading an email on your phone — then realizing you need to call the person who sent it? Or maybe you need to create a calendar event based on something said in the message? Instead of flip-floppin’ around and hopping between apps on your device, use this nifty shortcut to save yourself steps — and time.
HOW TO FIND IT: While viewing a message within the Gmail Android app, tap the sender’s profile picture in the upper-left corner of the message — y’know, either their own custom photo or that graphic showing the first letter of their name. That’ll pull up a hidden but handy menu of options:
With one more tap from there, you can start a new message to that same person — or, more useful yet, start a new calendar event or call. (I’m assuming the calling option is grayed out in the screenshot above because I was looking at a message from myself, and Gmail apparently doesn’t think calling yourself on the phone is a valid pastime.)
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: On the surface, it seems like the Gmail Android app is lacking options for formatting the text of a message — putting your words in bold, italics, and so on. But oh, they be there. You’ve just gotta know the shortcut to find ’em.
HOW TO FIND IT: Press and hold your finger onto the text area in the body of an email you’re writing. You’ll see a “Format” option pop up, and if you tap it, you’ll find yourself facing a full text-formatting panel at the bottom of the screen.
Rapid address adding
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: Save yourself the trouble of tapping up to the “To” field and add new recipients into an email right from the body of the message — without any interruption to your typing.
HOW TO FIND IT: All you’ve gotta do to summon someone new into an email thread is type the @ or + symbol into the body of email — anywhere in the email — and then start typing the person’s name. As long as that person is in your contacts or someone you’ve emailed before, you should see their name and address show up as a tappable option within a letter or two. From there, you just tap their name, shout out “Accio, email recipient!” for good measure (and instant shaming from anyone around you), and watch their name and address appear right where it belongs in the “To” field, without any extra effort on your part.
Custom shortcuts you can set up in Android for your own personal phone usage habits. Ready?
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: The Google Assistant on Android can handle some seriously powerful forms of multistep automation, but it’s up to you to see out its routine-creating capability and put it to use.
HOW TO FIND IT: Open up the Google Home app (or go install it first, if you don’t already have it), then:
- Tap the Routines icon at the top of the app’s main screen.
- Tap the circular plus icon in the lower-right corner of the screen that comes up next.
- Tap the Add Starter button, then tap “Voice command” and type in a phrase you’ll use to launch the routine on demand. You’ll be able to say that phrase to your phone or to any other Assistant-enabled display, speaker, or gadget where you’re signed in.
- If you want the routine to run automatically at certain times, tap the “Time” or the “Sunrise/sunset” command next and put in whatever parameters you want. Take note of the “Hear Assistant audio on this device” setting, which lets you specify which Assistant-connected device you want any audio associated with the routine to play on, as well as the “Get notified on your phone when this routine starts” toggle, which lets you decide whether you want to be pestered with an alert every time the routine starts or not.
- Next, tap the Add Action button and think about what, exactly, you want your routine to do. You’ll see lots of potentially interesting options, ranging from having Assistant read you certain types of info to playing different sorts of media and even adjusting your phone’s settings. You can choose any item or combination of items you want and have Assistant perform ’em all for you in one fell swoop.
- Once you’ve got everything set up the way you want, be sure to hit the Save button to save your changes and set your routine live. It’ll then activate on its own based on whatever schedule you created — and you can always manually activate it, too, by saying your launch phrase to your phone or any other Assistant-enabled device. You can also create a one-tap shortcut to activate it on your home screen, if you want, by tapping its name on that main Routines screen in the Home app and then tapping the icon that looks like a phone with a diagonal arrow inside it at the top-right corner of the screen.
Custom Quick Settings
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: Remember the Android Quick Settings section we talked about way back on day 1 of this adventure — back when we just barely knew each other in this e-course context? (It feels like an eternity ago, now that we’re total e-BFFs and whatnot.) In addition to embracing all the toggles that area of Android offers by default, you can add all sorts of useful extra options into the mix for easy on-demand access, no matter what you’re doing on your phone.
HOW TO FIND IT: Grab an app called Shortcutter. It’s free with an optional $2 upgrade for some of its more advanced features.
Open the app, tap the “Pull-Down” section, and look through the many additional Quick Settings tile choices it gives you.
There’s a lot to take in there, I realize, and some parts are more useful than others. Allow me to call out a handful of especially practical possibilities worth exploring:
- Under the first category of options, “Shortcutter Micro Apps & Services,” you’ll find a pop-up stopwatch and countdown command, a one-touch Quick Calendar pop-up that lets you see a month overview and add new events into your agenda, a Quick Reminder pop-up that lets you create your own on-demand reminder notifications (which then remain present on your phone until you dismiss them), and a Floating Calculator function that brings a collapsible, moveable calculator on top of whatever else you’re doing.
- Under the second category of options, “Custom Tiles,” you can create your own custom Quick Settings buttons that’ll open a specific web page, call a specific number, open up a text to a certain person in your contacts, or open any app or function within an app on your phone. For that last part, look for the “Shortcut” feature. That’s what’ll let you do something like opening up a specific file within Drive.
- Under the third category of options, “Action Tiles,” you can summon a single-tap Quick Settings command for creating a new calendar event, launching Android’s multi-window mode, or starting a new blank text message, email, or tweet from anywhere on your phone.
- And under the fourth category of options, “Information Tiles,” you can give yourself a battery info tile that’s much more useful than the typical system default as well as a tile that shows your next alarm and lets you jump to your alarm settings with a single touch of any appendage (choose carefully).
Once you find and activate whatever options you want, all that’s left is to place ’em in the active area of your Quick Settings panel. In Google’s standard version of Android, you can do that by swiping down twice from the top of the screen and then tapping the pencil-shaped icon in the bottom area of the panel. Some phone-makers arbitrarily change that interface around for no apparent reason — on a Samsung phone, for instance, you’ll swipe down twice and then tap the three-dot menu icon and select “Button order” to get to that same place — but one way or another, you should find a vaguely similar option somewhere in that vicinity.
And when you do, you’ll find any Shortcutter commands you added into the mix at the very end of the list — quite possibly in an area reserved for inactive tiles that aren’t even visible in the Quick Settings panel. All that’s left from there is to drag those bad boys up and put ’em somewhere prominent.
Custom device control panel
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: In Android 11, Google introduced a handy new connected device control panel that can be pulled up by pressing and holding your phone’s power button (at least, on devices where the manufacturer didn’t remove or awkwardly bury it for no apparent reason — hi again, Samsung folk!). That same menu moves into the Quick Settings area in Android 12, but wherever you find it, about 10 minutes of careful configuration can transform it into a much more versatile and useful feature with all sorts of advanced options.
HOW TO FIND IT: This possibility revolves around a powerful third-party called Tasker, and it takes a bit of time to explain.
Share menu specialization
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: You know that menu you see when you use an app’s share command — the list of other apps and destinations where you can send that info? As of Android 11, you can pin your most commonly used share targets to the top of that list for easy access. Huzzah!
HOW TO FIND IT: The feature is unfortunately complicated by the fact that lots of apps, including many of Google’s own utilities, now use custom share interfaces instead of relying on the system standard. But with any app that’s actually doing things in a sensible way and using the standard Android share menu, you can press and hold your finger onto any item in its sharing list to pin it to the top. And that item will then stay in that place for all future sharing, anytime the standard system menu is used.
To try it out, go highlight some text within an email in Gmail and select “Share” from the menu that comes up. Then press and hold that perfect little pointer of yours down onto any app you see in the list of sharing options.
You can pin up to four different sharing targets, if you want, and they’ll all appear in alphabetical order in a special row at the top of that menu.
Complete custom gesture creation
WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT: All of our talk about shortcuts over the past several days leads us to this: the mega-daddy of all Android shortcut tools. It’s an app that empowers you to make your own custom gestures for just about anything imaginable — a swipe up on one side of your screen to open your inbox, maybe, or a swipe and hold down on the other edge to mute your phone at a moment’s notice. The possibilities here are practically endless, and the potential is enormous.
HOW TO FIND IT: Go download an app called Edge Gestures. It costs all of two bucks, and it’ll prove its worth (and then some) within your first five minutes of using it. Once you’ve got it installed and granted it the permissions it needs (which are all sensible, required for its operation, and nothing to fret over), Edge Gestures will give you a configuration screen where you can set up whatever gestures your demented little potato brain desires.
Don’t panic: It isn’t as complicated as it looks. The tabs at the bottom of the app let you move between gestures for the left side of the screen, gestures for the right of your display, and gestures for the bottom edge along with some general settings for how the app behaves. Figure out which area you want to use and then pick a command to look through the possible actions. It won’t take you long to find all sorts of useful stuff you can keep on hand and make sure is never more than a single swipe, tap, or press away.