Tasker is, in my opinion, the best app to appear on any mobile platform ever. It can be summed up, perhaps too simply, as providing users the ability to create ‘if X, then Y’ functions — with myriad X conditions and Y actions. X could, for instance, involve receiving a text from a specific contact while you’re at work, and Y could then be having your phone alert you, even though it’s otherwise been put on silent (which Tasker also automatically set when you walked in the office door), but it does so much more than this — users have even used it to create ‘to-do list’ apps with contextual reminders.
Tasker is really more of a tool than an app — and like any tool, it takes time to learn and effort to master. I’m going to get you comfortable with the basics, then teach you its more powerful functions over a series of how-to articles in our Ultimate guide to Tasker App.
Presuming that you’ve already forked out the $3.49 to purchase Tasker from Google Play, let’s open the app and take a look around.
You’ll first notice some tabs up the top of the screen, but otherwise nothing much to betray the power hiding under the hood. Each tab relates to a different aspect of Tasker’s workflow, so let’s begin by learning some of the terms used in Tasker.
Actions are the things that Tasker can change on your phone, from disabling Bluetooth, to turning on your PC using Wake on LAN. The giant list of Actions that Tasker can perform is here: tasker.dinglisch.net/userguide/en/help/ah_index.html. If there’s an Action that you’re surprised to find missing from the list, you can search the Play Store for Tasker plugins, and chances are someone has already created it (Wake on LAN is one such example). A similar app, Locale, actually shares the same plugin architecture, so also search for ‘Locale plugin’, as they’ll work, too.
Tasks are, unsurprisingly, the heart of Tasker. In order for Tasker to perform an Action, it needs to be first placed within a Task. Tasks can consist of a single action, or of many triggered one after the other, and can even include if/else statements and variables. Tasks are usually triggered when specific Contexts occur, but can also be triggered manually, or by a third-party app (NFC tags, for example, require a third party app to trigger a Task).
Contexts are the triggers in Tasker, and are linked to Tasks via Profiles. Contexts are divided into two types: States, which are ongoing but have an ‘end’ event, such as being connected to your Wi-Fi network; and events, which are instantaneous, such as receiving a text message. The list of possible Contexts is huge: see Event Contexts and State Contexts. I recommend perusing these lists to gain inspiration for creating your Profiles.
The Profile page is the main screen of Tasker, and for good reason, too: they are what join Contexts (events) to Tasks (actions). Profiles can be triggered by up to four combined Contexts, but, given their nature, only one of these contexts can be of the ‘Event’ type. Profiles based on State Contexts can also include an additional ‘Exit’ Task, which is triggered when the state ends.
To recap: A Profile is activated when one or more specific Contexts occur, and it will then trigger a Task, which consists of one or more Actions.
Back on the main screen of Tasker, you’ll also notice a Scenes tab, and — if you enable ‘Expert Mode’ in preferences — a Vars tab. Scenes are graphical elements that you can create to get user input, such as pop-up boxes or widgets, and Vars are the variables you’ve created to have Tasks communicate between each other, or to carry information from other apps. We won’t be getting into either of these today, though.
So, what you need to do now is think of something that you want done automatically. Common Contexts are location or Wi-Fi triggers (for the most accurate, but battery friendly, method to determine location, read Tasker’s ‘Location Without Tears’ guide, and common Actions are adjusting phone volume, or disabling the keyguard. Today, let’s create a profile that automatically turns your phone to silent while a meeting is in progress.
I do this by having Tasker monitor my ‘Work’ calendar for ‘Busy’ events, but you could alternatively have it look for specific strings, including locations, if you wish.
To create such a Profile, press the ‘+’ button down the bottom right of the screen, then select the ‘State category > App > Calendar Entry’. I change Available to No, and press the magnifying glass icon next to Calendar to choose my ‘Google:work’ calendar. Press the back button to save.
You’ll then be asked to select or create a Task to trigger during this Context. Name your task in a way that makes it easily identifiable, then choose those actions you want it to perform by pressing the + button, and either wade through the 20 different categories to find the Action you’re after, or type it into the filter box.
In this case, type Silent, select it, and choose vibrate or on (i.e. no vibrate) mode. When done, press the back button. You can now add in any other Actions you want. For more advanced profiles, these actions can even contain logic, such as if statements or performing operations on variables, but we’ll deal with these later.
Most Settings Actions (those denoted by a little cog icon) are reverted when a Profile becomes inactive, so, unless you’re fiddling with variables or more complex settings, there is no need to add an Exit Task.
Now, what if you want this profile to only trigger while you’re at work? To add in additional contexts is rather easy; from the Profile tab, just expand the profile you just created by pressing its label, then long-press the existing context, and choose Add. Likewise, if you do wish to add an Exit Task, simply long-press a Profile’s Task, and choose ‘Add Exit Task.’
This is just a taste of what’s possible with Tasker. As everyone’s life is different, it’s really up to you to think of the situations that Tasker can help with, by going through lists of the different Contexts and Actions available, as well as the plugins available on the Play Store.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this series via our Facebook, Twitter, or RSS feed. In the mean-time, get fiddlin’ and tell us what useful functions have you created with Tasker in the comments section below.