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What is Tasker and how does it work?

Android is about customization and making your phone work for you, and nothing exemplifies that quite as well as Tasker… except maybe Nova Launcher. Tasker is an automation app that lets us mere mortals work a little Android magic. Yes, magic. Magic is science we don't understand yet, and that makes it a perfect analogy for Tasker, as really the biggest obstacle the app faces is people not knowing what it is, how it works, and just what it can do for you.

So, let's answer those questions and make a little magic.

What is Tasker?

A task

Tasker is an automation app. You create a list of actions, called a task, which can then be executed according to a variety of contexts. You tell Tasker you want it to do A, B, and C when X and/or Y happens. You might be thinking that Tasker's like IFTTT, and you'd be half right. Tasker tasks are similar to IFTTT applets, and both services have a wide variety of plugins. IFTTT has wider service support and cross-platform usability, but Tasker can do more on the Android devices it touches with more complex actions.

Actions in Tasker tasks can be as simple as turning on or off a setting like Bluetooth, or as complicated as sending app-specific media and control commands through third-party plugins. Contexts can be a variety of things, from automatic profiles or plugins, shortcuts, or simply opening the app and pressing play.

How does Tasker work?

When you open up Tasker, you have four tabs to work with: Profiles are contextual ways to trigger Tasks, which are the lists of organized Actions you want to perform. Scenes are visual interfaces that users can build to execute tasks, as well as Popups and other visual elements that can be used in Tasks various ways — such as waking up the screen on my phone without the use of root. Variables are values that can be assigned and changed over time. Tasker has a lot of global variables built in, and you can assign your own variables, should you desire.

Making a task

To create a Task, you first give it a Name, and then you can begin assigning actions to that task. Actions are grouped according to type, but you can also search for actions by name, which makes things significantly easier for Tasker builders… so long as you know the proper name for the action you're looking for.

Once you select an action, you configure it, such as telling Wi-Fi to turn off rather than on, or telling a plugin which app to direct commands to. Once you have your actions in order, you can execute the task by pressing play, or by adding it to a Profile, which can be launched at a certain time, when a certain app is open, or a number of other contexts.

Just what can it do for you?

Tasker can get complex

Tasker can do a multitude of things to your phone, and it has done this for me over the years. Even before Android had automatic rules for Do Not Disturb, Tasker ensured my phone wouldn't disturb me while I got my beauty sleep. At show time, Tasker would set my phone to silent, ensuring my Fantasmic ring tone didn't blare out in a live broadcast. When I was getting in the car, Tasker recognized the Bluetooth head unit and executed a task that would turn off my Wi-Fi and turn on my music.

Before Google Assistant put so many commands at my fingertips, Tasker and AutoVoice — a third-party plugin that allows users to program specific voice commands for our tasks — combined to give me vital hands-free commands, and when it combined with Moto Voice on my Moto X, it felt like actual magic.

This is my Tasker core

The Tasker use that keeps me around, however, is my Tasker + Google Play Music alarm clock. This alarm profile and task brings back the convenience and nostalgia of my old CD and iPod alarm clocks, turning back on my current Google Play Music queue rather than playing the old song or alarm tone day after day after day.

The limits of Tasker

Tasker can do so, so, so much, but the same time, there are some very grey, very hazy limitations to what Tasker can do. What you can do varies from phone to phone and some of the cooler examples you'll see require a rooted phone. Beyond devices, the biggest limitation Tasker can face is your time — how much of it are you willing to spend to do this stuff? I've spent weeks fine-tuning my precious alarm after I switch phones, but that alarm also gives me something nothing else on Android can.

Tasker takes time

That's the heart of Tasker. It can work Android magic, if you're willing to take the time to understand the logistics and the programming behind it. That magic tests the limits of Android and the limits of user ingenuity, and if you're willing to suspend your disbelief, it can leave you in awe.

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

25 Comments
  • I purchased Tasker a couple years ago and have used it occasionally.
    However, is Tasker still beneficial when you don't have root access? I am normally using a Nexus or Pixel device, so it's not a problem to root. However, I haven't been using root for awhile, since I like Android Pay. Now, most other devices are locked down tight, so rooting is a thing of the past for most people that don't run Google devices.
  • Yes. I have mine set to lock my screen into portrait when the slider on my Priv is out. Still trying to make closing the slider hang up a call while I'm not on a headset working, though. Also supposedly you can assign keyboard shortcuts to a Tasker action.
  • its still useful without root. with root its awesome. I have a nexus and use tasker to turn ring and media volume down when i reach office and up when i step out of office. I also use it to kill 2 apps when i close it(these apps are poorly made and drain battery). so as a backup
  • I love that task! I haven't used tasker (I accomplish most of what I want with IFTTT integration) but I love the idea of killing those battery draining apps automatically when closed. That's a great use-case. Thanks for sharing! Kris
    (Nexus 6P - Nova Launcher)
  • Out of about 300 different actions (and plugins can add hundreds more), only about a dozen need or can use root. So there's plenty it can do without root.
  • +1... and some addons like AutoApps let you do things without root that normally would require root. I've got lots of profiles that 'tap' parts of the screen autonomously in lieu of using root.
  • I heard of Tasker ftom day 1 with Android Central. Never tried it but I have a dull life. Can you save tasks and transfer them to a new phone, unrooted.
  • Yes. I've had Tasker since my Thunderbolt and I've exported/imported tasks to new phones. It's not a 1-touch process but you can transfer them to a new phone without root.
  • all ur tasks are saved on to google and it uses android save. so all u have to do is restore after a reinstall
  • Thanks!
  • I usually have to do manual backups in the app, but they're easy to make and easy to copy to Google Drive for transferring phones.
  • I bought it years ago...and still can't figure out how to use it or even what to do with it. There is literally nothing I can think of that I want bad enough to slog through the learning curve on this app...
  • Exactly this
  • The things that I use tasker for are mainly to do the things that I find myself doing over and over again. If I'm tapping the same buttons repeatedly during the day or week, a tasker profile is probably the way to go. For example, every time I open maps, I want to turn GPS on, so instead of doing it manually every time I open maps (or any app that requires GPS), tasker takes care of it. Or every time I use the daydream headset, google requires that Bluetooth, NFC, and GPS all turn on, so I've got a widget that does all that for me then opens up daydream. When I'm done with daydream, another profile turns all that stuff off. There's also the work/home state of the phone that is automatic through tasker (volumes/Bluetooth/wifi/etc) I have reminders to pay monthly bills. Then I've got some stuff I do with my Android Watch that uses tasker, like open my garage door from my watch as I enter my neighborhood. It really just comes down to how tasker can make life easier for you, or more streamlined. Once you get familiar with the layout of the app, it ends up being a game... every automated task is a level, and you try and beat the level, then think of another task that's a little bit harder, then try and beat that level.
  • I have it, use it on the stock 7 Edge. I use it to forward texts from NOAA Tsunami warnings Twitter account. My family and friends love to go clam digging, fishing crabbing etc on the Oregon coast.
    I have Tasker configured so that if I get a text from NOAA's Twitter account - looking for specific words within that text - it will automatically forward those Tsunami warnings, cancellation texts to the people I have listed within that app. Now - how cool is that? Priceless. 👍 Maybe the same can apply to Tornado warnings in the South, Southeast? If there is an entity - government or otherwise that has a similar purpose - sending warning texts - this is totally doable. And to me - well worth the effort. I don't think there is another app that will do that - forward texts - that has specific content. None that I am aware of anyway.
  • You can look at the Tasker wiki (tasker.wikidot.com; warning: many are old, Tasker has had some actions reorganized into different categories, e.g. Misc no longer exists as such) or the /r/tasker subreddit on reddit.com (see the sidebar for the 1000+ profiles/tasks link) for ideas of what you can do. Basically, if there's anything you find yourself repeating day after day, week after week, you can automate it. There are many tutorials on YouTube if you're just jumping in. The Tasker 101 series by HollywoodFrodo is a popular one.
  • Stay tuned...
  • I love tasker. I love it so much I've even made and published about a dozen apps on the play store, solely using tasker as the developing environment. Check out my apps by searching for DumbSmartApps on the play store. A list of all my apps will show up including a Battery Temp Alarm, Screen On Time Tracker (Screen Mileage), Date to Date Calculator, Text Messaging Encoder/Decoder, CO2 Phase State Calculator, and a Kodi Cast Toggle Widget. Download a couple and tell me what you think!
  • I'm surprised Ara didn't mention that Tasker recently was updated to 5.0 with a Material Design friendly interface (Lollipop or newer only). Looks prettier. She does have recent screenshots, so there's that. By the way, new users will see only 3 tabs in Tasker (Profiles, Tasks, Scenes). To enable the Variables tab, and Projects at the bottom (for keeping items organized), and other things (e.g. the ability to export named items), one must disable Beginner Mode (menu / Preferences / UI).
  • You are correct on both counts! Actually the new UI is why I'm writing about Tasker again! I've been wanting to do more, but it didn't make a whole lot of sense to write up a new guide then have to rewrite it once the Material overhaul came.
  • Who is your daddy and what does he do?
  • I've been using Tasker for years, and I recommend it to everyone. I have it set to do simple tasks like automatically turn volume and screen brightness down when I am at work, then turn everything back up when I am driving, then another setting for when I get home, and one for when I am church to mute everything. I like that you can set locations and times for those tasks, it makes it a "set it and forget it" solution for volume, WiFi, Bluetooth, screen brightness, etc.
  • The first three things I download whenever I get a new phone is Nova launcher, Zooper widgets and Tasker. I, of course have the Pro versions as will which I download. I love Tasker and usually have about 18 tasks set to run at any given time. After having had Tasker for a few years, I still find new and interesting things to try out from time to time.
  • What keeps you on Zooper Widgets after two years of no updates? Have you tried KWGT?
  • I've owned Tasker since my first Android phone, but I've since moved my autonomous tasks over to Macrodroid. For the 14 tasks I have it do, I prefer its UI.