Google Now

'Remind me to use Google Now more often'

Google Now gets more and more powerful every day, which is aided by the fact that much of the processing it does is handed off to a Google data center over the Internet. Aside from the inherent issues when you don't have connectivity, this gives Google Now a ton of capability in terms of voice recognition, and lets Google add new capabilities without pushing app updates.

We've all played around with the standard voice actions in Google Now — making calls, sending text messages and performing searches — back when it was just "Google Search", but there are so many more things that it can do for you. While there are dozens of different voice actions available, we've compiled a list of several that can truly be incorporated into your daily life.

For each type of voice command, we'll first show off the general phrasing of how you need to word your query then an example or two of what it can be used for. While there are many different ways to effectively give Google Now these voice prompts, these syntax layouts and examples should give you a great starting point.

Make a phone call

"Call [person's name]"

Example:

"Call Jerry Hildenbrand"

Get directions

"[Transportation method] directions to [location]"

Examples:

"Biking directions to the Space Needle"

"Walking directions to Safeway"

"Driving directions to Mt. Rainier"

Send Messages

"Send SMS to [person] [sentence]"

Example:

"Send SMS to Phil Nickinson 'Have a safe flight today'"

Set reminders

"Remember to [action] in [time frame]"

Examples:

"Remember to water the lawn at 3PM today"

"Remind me to get aspirin next time I'm at Target"

Ask questions

"How many [unit] in a [unit]?"

Examples:

"How many millimeters in a foot?"

"How many US Dollars in 500 British Pounds?"

"How many calories are in a pound of potatoes?"

Make meetings

"Schedule a meeting at [time frame] with [person]"

Examples:

"Schedule a meeting tomorrow at 9AM with Alex Dobie."

Music & Movies

"Play [music or movie title]"

Examples:

"Play The Rolling Stones"

"Play Downton Abbey"

Alarms

"Set an alarm for [time]"

Example:

"Set an alarm for 6:30AM"

Song search:

"What's this song?"

We hope that with a little bit of knowledge on the crazy number of things Google Now can do with just voice commands that you'll be more willing to give it a try in normal usage. Be sure to stay on the lookout for new voice actions as they come available also — Google is always working on new tricks.

 

Reader comments

Getting the most out of Google Now voice actions

99 Comments

Despite improvements to Google Now many of them seem to be US ONLY. For example, if I tell my phone play get lucky, it will search Google. I live in Canada - and I've never been able to get Google Now to work like it does in all the videos giving it praise.

It works perfectly if you use listen to. You can also say a specific song by an artist like I want to listen to hot for teacher by Van Halen. Also you don't have to say what song is this to make it listen for a song. You just pushed a little music note when it appears

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Thanks! Yes this worked better too.

If you say "listen to (song) by (artist)", it will load up the song on your google play music collection.

I can only get it to play music thats actually on my phone. I want it to play stuff from all access. oh well

I thought I was nuts for thinking I used to be able to scan bard codes with Google Now, and then out of nowhere it was gone. I wonder why they removed that functionality. But I guess Google Goggles still has it's place in Android until the next spring cleaning.

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Try Google Goggles, I use it for all different types of things, it even works to translate languages that are written

There's some additional syntax for the alarm one.

Set alarm for [time] label [some label]

Set alarm for 6:45pm label "Take pizza out of the oven."

I do some of this with the Google Search app. Is it the same thing? I use that app because it opens ready to listen to your voice, whereas with Google Now you seem to have to activate it manually.

The new Moto X phone can be set to listen for your voice all the time. It will use one core only while its in a standby mode until your voice is heard asking it to do something. I saw one that was on like this for over 12 hours and still had 75% of battery left. I cant wait to get my hands on one.

Google Now is the next evolution of voice search and can do some things voice search can't. It takes the place of voice search on phones running 4.1 and beyond.

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If you have a phone with Android 4.1 or newer, then yes, it's the same thing. Voice Search is just a shortcut that turns on the microphone on Google Now.

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Thanks. I have 4.2 (or whatever came on the GS4), so it seems to open the Google Now search interface.

Come on, Andrew, you couldn't have recorded this *after* the game yesterday? We Mariners fan don't get to see too many winning scores. :)

I too can't get certain voice actions to work. Mostly involving music :/ Hope they fix this soon.

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When you use Google Now to set a meeting like you did, does it also automatically send a meeting invite to the person your scheduling a meeting with?

I use Google Now daily. The traffic card is especially helpful for my morning and afternoon work commute.

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It's really smart about locations, too. I travel for work, and there are hospitals in nine or ten cities that I visit regularly. When I'm in Chicago, it offers a traffic card for the UC Med Center, when I'm in Cleveland, it offers a card for Cleveland Clinic, etc. It's totally effortless, and it's much handier than I ever expected it to be.

In a way I think Google Now is brilliant but like many others I don't use BC of its noticeable impact on battery life. I really hope that within the year or so we can finally stop worrying about how many hours we get off a single charge.

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Depending on phone and Android version, battery life shouldn't be a concern.

My N4 on stock 4.2.2 with Franco's kernel was easily getting 13+ hours on battery life of moderate to heavy use (and I'm definitely a power user) and a little over 3+ hours of screen on time.

My N4 on stock 4.3 with stock kernel easily gets 12+ hours on battery life (with moderate to heavy use) and 2+ hours of screen on time (my usage varies, so it can be 3+ at times).

Battery life has gotten leaps and bounds better since 4.3 was released.

I suspect the server connection is intermittent. As in: Some of the time, your phone has to interpret the command. I can see no other reason why sometimes the feature is brilliant, and other times it fails at the simplest of tasks. I disabled many of the features by uninstalling and re-installing the app, then ignoring its pleas to be set up. Now I no longer get reminded it's time to leave for a meeting I was in 4 hours ago. I'll wait until it's out of beta.

Haha so true. I hate getting Cards telling me it's time to leave for an appointment from a location I'm not at. Why can't it figure out where I actually am instead of assuming I'm miles away and that I need to leave from there.

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Not working in sweden either, was curious so switched input language to english US, and lo and behold, it works perfectly.
I love my android, but I'm afraid some if these features will take years to trickle out to other languages and regions :/

To clarify, voice recognition/search works fine in another language, but not the commands

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I never seem to get the play music command to work. My default music player is Play Music and I have some local files and some cloud. Any suggestions?

I have the same problem. It actually plays what I want about 10 percent of the time, even if I happen to know the song title perfectly.

Does anyone know if it's possible to add an audible noise or alarm to a reminder? Love the 'remind me to do x next time I'm at x' command, but wish the resulting reminder also gave an accompanying alarm/reminder tone.

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I've used the reminders before and it does ding when it goes off, but I don't know if it's tied into your notification volume as I almost didn't hear it. I assume it is. Also, as it's dependent on a data connection, if you get into a store too quickly and loose signal you won't get the reminder until you leave the store. Happened to me at Home Depot. I ended up having to go back in because it reminded me of something else I needed to get that I forgot about.

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I always found it strange not to get a audible alarm when a reminder has been set. Why would they design it like that?

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From within Google Now, tap Menu -> Settings, then tap Notifications (the word, not the toggle). Here you can pick when types of triggers will get notifications, which ringtone to use, and whether to vibrate.

Yeah I have all that set but still nothing. A lot of stuff in Google Now just doesn't work.

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Aww I was hoping to get new voice actions from this list. I'm familiar with the ones listed

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"Navigate to" is a good alternative to "directions to". It pulls up navigation without going through maps then selecting the navigate method.

Note this is not tested with the new maps as I haven't updated for my own reasons.

The more I use Google Now, the more I like it. It's a pretty useful tool, thanks!

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Good stuff will definitely bookmark this. You would be surprised how many people don't including myself don't know how to properly use Google Now.

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Some of the phrases don't have to be exact wording. For the alarm, I usually use "Wake me up in XX minutes" or "Wake me up at XX:XX"

Unfortunately the 'Play' command doesn't work with Spotify and the 'text' command doesn't work with Google Voice.

Nice article!

For calling someone with multiple numbers, you can say "call [someone] mobile". Works great!

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Thanks for the suggestions. The last time I experimented with Google Now, I don't think it was allowing direct access to Maps. Good to know about the "Navigate" command!

I love this app. I use it everyday for alarms, reminders, calls, search, navigation. Etc. It never let's me down.

Posted From my HTC One running PlayBook 3.0 via Android Central App

Also, in the video he world press the mic icon for it to listen. All I do is say Google and it immediately starts to listen. Great app.

Posted From my HTC One running PlayBook 3.0 via Android Central App

Google Now is awesome! I try and show it to everyone at work who uses Android, but all of them have it buried under touchwiz or sense.

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I think this works for sense the same way. Install this on touchwiz, make sure you go into s-voice and disable it opening with a double press home button. Every boot make home 2 shortcut the default. It lets you easily replace google now for that s-voice

Thanks. It has more to do so with everyone not having a clue what Google now is....its sad, such a great thing to have yet not everyone is aware of it.

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best reason for rooting My GS3 was immediately removing 90% of samsung's bloatware (s-voice, remote controls, flipboard, etc) thereby freeing a bunch of memory and allowing project butter's smoothness, along with Google Now, to shine thru :-)

now My home button actually does home and task list (long press) and long press "soft" menu key opens Google Now

I ask Google every couple months to make it so long press on headset talk/play button launches Google Now with open mic, lol

Too bad Google now doesn't do location reminders like for example: "remind me when I get home to call mom." So when you arrive home, google reminds you

This works for me. Used it a couple weeks ago. I noticed it didn't remind me right when I got home. I was home for about 15 minutes before it reminded me. Also, make sure google knows where "home" is.

The only thing I wish I could figure out how to get the "next appointment" card to work properly. None of my Google calendar entries ever show up, but my wife's does and she uses an iPhone (unfortunately). If anyone has suggestions let me know.

Another cool feature that I have noticed that is worth mentioning is that when GNow starts listening, if it hears music in the background, a new button will appear that will identify the song without having to say anything at all.

I don't know if I just got lucky but when I did the same thing Erik Turner did when I was watching a TV show, it told me what was on and who was acting in it....Freaked me out, lol !

Didn't know i could ask Google now for song search usually i just press the search button and wait for music search to pop up if does.

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you can also say "Open Youtube", "Open Maps","Open Settings", "Open Gmail", "Open Calendar". This only appears to be google apps, 3rd party it sometimes opens it in play store, sometimes a URL.

If you're asking how to do it on the HTC One (which I used in this video), you just go to settings > power > and check "Show battery level".

Also:

"Navigate to [home|work]. "

You can also state the" label" for voice-created alarms. Haven't figured out if you could specify the sound.

Splattered for your amusement... via the AC App

Here is another tip, just say "Help Me" or "Help" and Google Now will show the examples for each type of command.

Has anyone on here ever gotten a package tracking card? I've had this functionality enabled and have had packages ship from all sorts of vendors using all sorts of carriers. Never a single card.

I have the little "track" link on Gmail on my desktop but nothing in Now.

I thought for sure when I ordered something from the Play Store I would get card then, but nada.

Anyone else?

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You missed a great one in Google Now. I use the translate if only to hear phrases in other languages. Translate to spanish (say phrase). It reads it back in said language.

You guys are scratching the surface on GNow. You can also do the following and then some.

What is the weather [time period] in [location]? Or
What's the weather in [location] [time period]?

How old is [person/place/thing]?

Who is [person]'s wife/husband?

Who won the [sport] championship?

Who starred in [movie/TV show]?

What movies has [actor/actress] starred in?

There really isn't a special syntax, you can pretty much as GNow anything and it will either tell you directly or show exact results.

It's awesome! :-)

GN is a great concept. But still very poor in what it offers on the cards. And configuring the cards is a nightmare! For example, when you accidentally swipe away a card, there is no way to restore it - you can turn settings "on" and "off" all you like. Also you can't edit places, you can't edit your interests, etc. All you can do is add sports teams, stocks, and reminders. I like GN for the idea, but the execution is mediocre.

I own a moto x, i live in canada. Google voice will Not play music using my voice. Ive tryed play song and artist, ive tryed listen to song artist, just song and just artist and all i get are search reaults. Its very frustrating

I see the command to make a voiceless call, but I don't see any commands to terminate the call. Similarly, I don't see any voice commands to answer a call. Are you aware of any such commands? Jeff

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Google Now works pretty well most of the time but I have major issues in the following areas:

1) There is no precise and easy way to active Google Now using a hardware button (eg: iPhone.) Unlocking screen, pressing and holding the home button, swiping up then saying "ok Google" is simply garbage. Utter garbage.

2) When I try to send SMS or e-mails using Google Now, if the recipient has multiple emails or phone numbers, Google asks "to which address?" and for some reason that's when the voice recognition gets unreasonably erratic. For example, I will say "HOME!" several times, and often I give up or just press the correct email / phone # - usually while I'm driving which is fantastic. ⸮