Tasker review: The thing you need to do all the things

In an expanding market of automation apps, Tasker is still tops

Android is an enigmatic and wondrous ecosystem in which many, many things are possible. Unfortunately, many of those things aren't possible out of the box. That's where automation apps like Tasker come in.

Tasker helps our supposedly smart smartphones do more for themselves, and do more for us. Tasker is the duct tape that many of us use to bind apps and sensors together into many wacky inventions. Like duct tape it cannot fix everything, nor is it the easiest substance to work with, but almost every house has duct tape, and almost every serious Android user should have Tasker in their back pocket — or wherever they keep their phone.

Let's take a deeper dive into Tasker.

What is Tasker?

Tasker can do just about anything... once you figure it out

Tasker is a puzzling little app on first glance, and while Tasker does many, many, many things, the easiest explanation is Tasker is an automation app that takes advantage of Android's openness and versatility to help you do more. Want to turn on Bluetooth when you get in the car? Tasker can do that. Want to disable your lockscreen while you're at home? Tasker can do that, too. Want to hack together your own personal assistant to read out texts and caller ID while driving, and dictate responses? Tasker can do that, and one of its plugins can do it even better. Tasker can replace (and does replace) many apps for many people, if they delve into the actions and contexts that can make all of this happen and tinker.

Tasker's been around for a while, evolving out of Apt for WebOS, and it has only gotten more and more powerful as the years have gone by, thanks to the addition of more and more APIs by Google that the developer has offered up to users as new functions and features. It's only gotten prettier, too, with it's lovely Holo interface. Tasker's real trick is in the simplicity beneath all of the fun and insane things it can do: Tasker makes things happen when you want, either manually or automatically. It's the nearly infinite ways you can combine these two categories, tasks and contexts, that can make Tasker seem a little further away than it actually is.

Tasker basics: Getting over the learning curve

I'm not going to sugarcoat it: Tasker is intimidating.

Tasker has myriad options

Tell me this doesn't look like rocket science the first time you use it.

The learning curve is steep and the official support app isn't exactly the easiest thing to digest either for beginners — but it is a wonderful resource to turn to when you need help. Part of what makes Tasker work for most users is that the support groups around Tasker that are there to help each other troubleshoot and tinker in the app when things don't work. These communities are also a fabulous resource when you want to learn how to do more or need help figuring out why your task/profile doesn't work.

Profiles trigger tasks made up of actions.

I'll try to break down the basics as easily as I can for you. A task is a list of actions. Each action completes a single thing, such as turning on bluetooth or opening an app. You can automate tasks to run at designated points using profiles, which are triggered by contexts such as time or sensor data (connectivity, location, etc). You can create scenes that display content or controls by which you can further interact with your profiles. And you can create and store variables for use in tasks, profiles, and scenes.

The easiest profile that I implement on a daily basis silences my phone during the newscasts on days I work. Two one-action tasks and a series of profiles.

Task to silence my phone. Simple, but effective.

The task to start each profile, titled Showtime, sets my phone to silent. At one point I also had it turn off auto sync, but it became unnecessary.

Exit task to restore vibration to my notifications and calls

The exit task for my profiles is a simple reversal of the action in the first: setting my phone back to vibrate.

Once these two tasks are made, we begin assembling them in profiles. Upon clicking the new profile button, we're given a choice of contexts, which are the various points that must be achieved in order to complete the task. Contexts are the IF and the designated task is the THEN, in this basic programming scenario. These profiles will have two contexts, the first being time and the second being the day of the week. And while you can have AND (time AND date have to be correct), you cannot have OR (time OR date correct), so for four different showtimes require four different profiles. Thankfully once you make one, it's easy to clone them and change the contexts.

Tasker profiles

Each profile has the same entry and exit, they simply trigger at different times.

Tasker goes to infinity, and beyond

That said, Tasker can do so much more than act as a glorified Do Not Disturb app. Tasker can interact with other apps and piggyback their functions. Using AutoNotification to intercept notifications from Motorola Assist, I can trigger a more powerful task when I get into my car without battery draining sensor monitoring by Tasker itself. There are people who have programmed their own personal Jarvis in Tasker, automated their entire homes with Tasker as the command center. Some amazing soul made an entire game (opens in new tab) using Tasker.

Plug it in, baby!

Many of the more advanced applications for Tasker take advantage of the copious amounts of plugins that are developed for Tasker. There are too many to list, but I will highlight a few that I believe every user should know about: Tasker App Factory, and João Dias's many plugins such as AutoVoice, AutoVera, and AutoNotification.

Exporting a task with Tasker App Factory

Tasker App Factory (opens in new tab) is a wonderful tool for any phone, but for me and my Moto X it goes just a step further. Tasker App Factory — you guessed it — turns tasks into standalone apps, which can be distributed and installed, even on devices without Tasker. And by exporting them as apps, I can trigger them with voice using Touchless Controls. There's a method for doing this with the AutoVoice plugin I'm about to mention, but I found this to be easier. Not to mention Tasker App Factory is free.

AutoNotification settings. These too can be daunting, but once you get the hang of it, they're infinitely useful.

I just want to play my music... in the car

João Dias's many, many plugins (opens in new tab) are amazing not just for the developer support he provides to these plugins, updating quickly and fixing plugins promptly when a Tasker update breaks them, but the support he directly provides to his users through YouTube and Google+ is exemplary. He's actually the one who finally clued me in to how easy my beloved Google Play Music alarm clock actually was - and don't worry, I'll be sharing that in an upcoming post. His plugins also have the benefit of having a trial version before you pay for the full versions, which are moderately priced considering the effort that much go into them.

We gotta stick together, like duct tape

Tasker's greatest asset: the people who use it

Tasker is very much a trial and error type of app, and as such is heavily reliant on support groups, such as the forum from the official site and the Google+ communities. That alarm clock that I use every day now, I had to turn to the Tasker community on Google+ to get that finally working - which is slightly embarrassing, as simple as it turned out to be. A lot of things in Tasker are like that actually. It all seems big and scary and complicated, and then when it works, it just kinda hits you over the head with how simple it can actually be.

What's the best/craziest thing you've ever done with Tasker? I'm always stunned by the things people come up with to do in this little app, and I'm sure those who are unfamiliar with it would have their minds blown, too, so feel free to show off your Tasker skills in the comments.

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.

  • Duct tape can fix everything.
  • Duct tape can fix a shattered smartphone screen? And world hunger?
  • Absolutely
  • It depends on your definition of "Fix"
  • Transparent edible duct tape can. (World peace takes a little more time.)
  • World peace is easy.. duct tape all the triggers so they can't be used
  • Literal troll is literally not funny.
  • Except, oddly enough, duct work.
  • Google should really purchase this duct tape and make it part of the OS. Perhaps it only appears when developer options are enabled, so tech tards don't hurt themselves with it.
  • Hahaha.... You're on to something there!
  • Gorilla Tape is better
  • My main things i use Tasker for:
    1) In conjunction with the "Secure Settings" app, I disable my PIN if I am connected to a list of WiFi networks or BT devices (like a "trusted bluetooth device" setting)
    2) Disable screen rotation if I load up a specific set of apps
    3) Turn off screen if I turn my phone upside down (unless I am using certain apps, like the camera)
    4) If I am plugged in, connected to a specific WiFi network and turn the phone upside down, put it in silent mode (this is what I do when I go to sleep at night)
    5) If I am connected to my car's BT and plugged in, I set the screen brightness to either 100% or 20%, depending on the type of day and a bunch of other little things, too. it takes a while to figure out how to do everything I want, but its so powerful once I do!
  • I use #1 and #2 (and make the screen timeout longer if the app is something I may sit and read for a couple of minutes before touching the screen). Time Warner no longer lets you use the old version of their app that worked with Xposed's patcher if you wanted to run live TV with debug on, so I wrote a one-liner in Tasker to disable USB Debugging when the TWC app runs and re-enable it in the exit function if I was at home (I have a global "outside" variable). Debugging is off and screen locking is on when I'm outside. Buying Tasker has stopped my effort to learn Android programming for the moment - I can do just about anything I wanted to write an app for using Tasker (and Secure Settings). It may look like rocket science to most people the first time they start looking at Tasker, but to anyone who's spent a while writing code, Tasker just makes writing little tasks for Android trivial. If you can think it, you can write it in Tasker in a few minutes. Best money I've ever spent.
  • Can Tasker trick your phone to think its on its home wifi network so that it will allow you to use the TWC app outside of your home?
  • There's an Xposed module that tricks apps into thinking the phone is connected to WiFi. I dont know the criteria for TWC but the first post in the thread got it to trick the Xfinity app: http://forum.xda-developers.com/xposed/modules/app-fake-wifi-connection-... Tasker should be able to toggle that on/off, tho it may require a reboot.
  • I got rid of Tasker in favor of Automate It. I didn't like how obscure it seemed and Automate It has only improved its user interface. While I am sure that Tasker still has more power, for the things that I use it for I do not need a more complex program. Thank you for this great review, though. I might give Tasker another look. Posted via Android Central App
  • I'm going to be writing some more Tasker how-to's over the coming weeks, too, so now would be a good time to get back into it.
  • I love Tasker, but I just can't figure out how to make my own tasks. I always jack it up somehow. I'm solely reliant on copying other people's with step by step instructions. If you have any of those made up, I'd love to be a mooch. :-0
  • I've done a few and posted instructions on Google+.
  • I always liked tasker but, similarly, I find myself reaching for trigger these days, it's just so quick and simple.
  • I use Tasker to lower the media volume and play music upon plugging in my USB DAC. I'd say it lowers the volume 4 out of 5 times I plug it in. So, I'd give Tasker 4/5 rating. Too bad Automateit doesn't have this option or I'd use that instead.
  • Does it support turning on/off non-standard lock screens such as Knock Code? (without root)
    Can it toggle the LED on/off? (without root) I bought and then quickly refunded tasker after it appeared these would not be possible, but obviously had 15 minutes or less to find out. If it is possible let me know and I will buy it back.
  • What gives an app the power to change your lockscreen - on off or change the pin. Is " device administrator" an app can ask for this and you have to grant it after the app is installed. Your phone will show a window with what looks like permissions- as the app could for example ask to be able to perform a factory reset.
    So I think tasked can disable any lock screen. And torch yes it can do. Posted via Galaxy ace plus running Speedmod 2.5 with Xposed
  • That's a bit longwinded- basically yes it can disable your lockscreen if you give the app device administrator permissions the first time around. To disable it you go to settings>security Posted via Galaxy ace plus running Speedmod 2.5 with Xposed
  • An example of a device admin is android device manager. Or an app which locks individual apps. Posted via Galaxy ace plus running Speedmod 2.5 with Xposed
  • I meant notification LED, not the camera LED/flash, although I would have to assume tasker could do this. My bigger concern is around the lock screen - I did see that it could support lock screens but only the "PIN" style - can it do face unlock, pattern, etc? If not I would assume LG specific knock code would be out as well.
  • It can enable PIN or Password lockscreens, and it can disable the lockscreen completely. There may be some Plugin coming in the future that can turn on pattern, face or knock screens. (It can't do everything that writing an app can do, but it can do a lot that a non-programmer couldn't do otherwise.) As far as the notification LED, yes, it can turn it on or off, set the interval and color - just about anything you'd want to do with it.
  • I don't know about knock code, but I used to use the secure settings plugin to enable/disable pattern lock. Not sure if it needed root but I don't think so. Posted via Android Central App
  • I used to juggle several profiles for my DND mode until I ran across a video on YouTube that simplified things for me. Now I use a profile that looks for the word "Mute" in calendar entry descriptions and puts my phone on vibrate for the duration of the entry. Now I can use it for work, meetings, and one-offs like the theater. I also use it for speaker-phone control. During a call, if I pull the phone away from my head, speaker phone is enabled, and if I put it back to my ear, it's disabled.
  • I'm going to try the speaker-phone control idea. +1
  • Yeah, good idea on the speaker phone thingy! I'll give it try too. Posted via Android Central App
  • i tried the speakerphone task...but it executes only during start of the call and not working afterwards...!!!...any idea how to get it work throughout the cal??... BTW: this is my first comment in android central..:)
  • Here's how I got it to work: Add new Profile
    Choose State -> Sensors -> Proximity Sensor (make sure you select invert). Then select your Speak Phone On Task. Add a second condition for the trigger State -> Call (from the drop down, select Any) And finally, add an Exit Task to turn Speaker Phone off. I hope you get it working.
  • Oh my!!!...I was doing it in as much complex way as possible...
    The method u given is too simple...it works perfectly... Thanks!!!..:-)
  • I've asked this in a previous article and didn't get a response from the author but I got suggestions...what case is that on the moto x pictured? Is it the supcase hybrid? Any help would be appreciated! Posted via Moto X using the Android Central App
  • I thought I replied to it... anyways, here it is: http://www.amazon.com/SUPCASE-Motorola-Unicorn-Beetle-Hybrid/dp/B00GQUNXNY/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1407962593&sr=8-11&keywords=moto+x+supcase&tag=hawk-future-20&ascsubtag=UUacUdUcU1081751
  • I might have just missed it then. Thanks for the reply! Much appreciated! Posted via Moto X using the Android Central App
  • Tasker can be daunting at first, but there's tons of YouTube "tutorial" videos that take you step by step through different profiles. I found them very helpful and am now on my way to making my own tasks.
  • I use a similar app, Llama, for a bunch of automated tasks. Turn wifi on and off when I get home /leave home
    Turn lock screen on/off when away from home
    Start slacker when I plug in headphones
    Change screen timeout to 5min when playing Ingress
    Set volume to quiet at night when I'm home (normal if I'm out at night)
    Lock screen orientation while charging at home Posted via Android Central App
  • I, also, used Llama for a while. Lately, for the most basic tasks, I've been using IFTT.
  • Me too. I wonder how much more or less functionality Tasker has, I'm curious.
  • I use Tasker to enable WiFi when connected to certain cell towers. Even though Wear Mini Launcher allows me to disable/enable WiFi from my watch, I prefer this automation. Like others, I use Tasker for a "Trusted Bluetooth" function (at least until "L" is released). I've just started playing around with AutoCast, one of Dias' awesome plug-ins. While Trigger or IFTTT could accomplish some of these things that Tasker can do, I prefer the learning experience and the feeling of ultimate satisfaction upon success. Similar to why I teach myself various things like programming and car mechanics. Tasker is also very useful when paired with the Pebble. Dunno if anyone else has tried Pebble Tasker?
  • I have this app and I've tried to get some profiles set a couple of times but each time has been a lesson in frustration. I may reinstall it today and try to follow along with the next few articles about it. Posted via Android Central App
  • Maybe the powers that be should start a Tasker sub-forum, so people could ask for Tasker-specific help. It would be of no interest to someone not using Tasker to see Tasker code, and make it an easy place to find things Tasker-related.
  • Achieving most basic things in Tasker is pretty easy if you approach them in a logical, reasoned way. What is it that you're trying to do?
  • Used to use Tasker mostly for sound profiles but recently starting using Agent https://www.androidcentral.com/e?link=https2F2F...
  • Does anyone know of a way to program a profile that will forget a wifi network? And then inversely, type in credentials to an SSID to connect back to a network? I've tried and Googled and can't seem to find an elegant way to do this.
  • I've never used tasker, but as I understand it, tasker can run shell commands. You will need root for this suggestion. So, Wi-Fi configuration info is stored in the file: /data/misc/wifi/wpa_supplicant.conf
    in plain text. I should be possible to manually manipulate this file, you can keep the configuration for the that network you want to temporarily add in a separate file, then when you want to add it, make a backup copy of that wpa_supplicant.conf file, concatenate the configuration of the network you want to add onto the wpa_supplicant.conf file and then you may need to turn Wi-Fi off and on to get the file re-read (there may possibly be a way to do it without turning Wi-Fi off and on again).
    And when you want to forget that network, you can copy back your backup of the wpa_supplicant.conf file, and again turn Wi-Fi off and on again. It should also be possible to simply strip out the configuration of the network you want to forget without resorting to restoring a backup file (thus preserving any other networks that might have been added since the backup was created) but perhaps a bit more complicated to implement that.
    Also thinking about it, it might be best if Wi-Fi was switched off when modifying that file. Although perhaps what I suggest is what you view as not elegant enough, but I think it would work. Posted via Android Central App
  • You could probably also achieve a lot of it without root using AutoInput. I haven't tried it so I'm not 100% sure, but it seems likely.
  • I'm assuming autoinput is an app? I'm looking for it in the play store but not seeing anything that will help. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places?
  • Found out it's a beta test app, signed up, got to the play link but found that my device isn't compatible... I'm rooted on a note 2. Bummer.
  • Hmmmm, I'll have to see about this. I'm all for trying new things, I'm just not sure about turning the wifi on and off as far as fluidity of the profile. But I'll try it out! Thanks!
  • Automateit is the best for me Tasker has more features but it throws so much at u at once Posted via Nexus 7 2013 or Galaxy S5
  • I have 2 things I am working on right now - but before I get to them - I'll tell you about the best profile I made.
    Profile 1) If WiFi connected - turn off Auto Brightness, set screen brightness to about 1/3 - because if I am connected to WiFi I am probably indoors. Otherwise - set Auto Brightness on, because if I am not connected to WiFi I am probably outdoors. Now onto my 2 latest profiles -
    1) Home Automation - https://plus.google.com/114291878202038589039/posts/WobTes5YoHs - this uses the free open source Domoticz for my home automation server, which means I can control it via HTTP.
    2) EXTERNAL Music Control - https://plus.google.com/114291878202038589039/posts/hPv2PzbjvNo - this uses Logitech Squeezeboxes.
  • Profile 1 is a great idea!
  • I have a few little profiles to turn on and off features based on time but the main profile I have and really enjoy is one I have to auto respond to text messages while I'm driving. I am connected to a Bluetooth earpiece while driving and that turns it on. When I am finished driving, I turn the earpiece off and the profile automatically turns off. I LOVE that feature! There is no need to unlock the phone, open an app and turn anything on. It just works. This profile is really useful with friends that text constantly if you don't respond within a millisecond of getting the first text. Posted via the best darn Android App, the Android Central App
  • I didn't realize that you could do all of this with a small $3.00 app. Looks like a great app that I will have to buy. Posted via Android Central App from my HTC M8
  • Has anyone figured out how to make Tasker and Timely talk to one another? Timely uses its own alarm event, so "Alarm Done" profiles won't trigger. :-(
  • Use Alarmpad. It's less pretty but has full Tasker integration and a helluva lot features.
  • Trigger is a better app IMO. Tasker's NFC functionality is nonexistent, anyway.
  • Main uses
    (1) Display Bank Account balance and Credit Card Available Balance in home screen via Minimalistic Text Widget: After every transaction, they send a text message which contains transaction amount and balance available. Using Tasker, the amounts are retrieved and pushed to MT widget. Since everything is done at the time of receipt of text message, Balance is updated in near real time. (2) Display Data Balance and TalkTime Balance and respective Expiry (number of days remaining) using same principle as above (am from India and have a prepaid connection) (3) Track major system events like Battery status, cable plugged in, call made/received, text sent/received, App installed/updated/Uninstalled etc and create a system log and at the end of the day transfer the days log into Evernote as a separate note with date as title This is just the tip of an iceberg. I have a zillion tasks running in my Nexus 5 Posted via Android Central App
  • I've used Locale forever, like since 2009, when I don't believe Tasker existed. I've resisted switching because Locale is simpler, I've already paid for it, and it does what I want (mostly settings management based on location, time of day, active app, Bluetooth connections, etc). Should I throw off the shackles already and switch to Tasker? Posted via the Android Central App
  • if you have the chops, Tasker is the best deal on a smartphone app ever.
  • How to enable automatic screen orientation when keyboard is out (to type in landscape), uh?
  • In the late stages of my partner's pregnancy, I wanted her phone calls to ring out loud regardless of whether my phone was on silent, vibrate etc. I used the call received Tasker trigger to look for her number and switch the phone to loud whenever she was calling, and then just used the exit task to set the sound profile back again straight after. Instant priority call system!
  • Hello all! Question for experienced Tasker users. I look up the name, phone number and address to some local business on my Moto X.
    I think I will be contacting this place in the future so I want in my contacts.
    I am lazy and don't want to manually enter in the information into my contacts. Can Tasker help here? Maybe some type of script that I just push a magic button and all the contact information is added nice and tidy? Or is there a way to do this already and I just missed it? I don't think there is. I remember some type of lawsuit the apple brought to Samsung because they copied what I want to do from apple, is that correct?
  • I used this guy's tuts (Hollywoodfrodo) when I first started using tasker, his extensive 51 video array of tasker tasks soon had me writing my own.
  • I set up Tasker on my kids tablets to make them answer either Math or Spelling Questions in order to "unlock" the device via scenes.
    I also have it inform me via email of new app installs on my kids device.
    I use Tasker to keep track of my Fitbit, it gives me a notification if its not near my phone, just forgot it this morning but was able to catch it before i was too far from home to go back.
    I use a SiriuxXM morning alarm launched via Tasker, it plays real loud for 2 seconds to wake me up, then goes back down to a lower volume and increases over the next 10 minutes. It also has a snooze and Off button and the screen will stay on and go to my (non default) home page with my weather widget as long as my phone is plugged in.
    I use it to auto launch a random music player anytime I connect to Bluetooth Audio, headset or car.
    I have a Speak the Weather widget button.
    Use it to auto power off my tablet and extra phone when battery hits 30% so there is power when i need it.
    I use it to change the screen timeout when using different apps, e-readers, my favorite games, navigation all get longer timeouts then normal.
    And of course, Trusted Unlock via Wifi or Bluetooth was the original reason I Purchased Tasker.
    Tasker is always one of my few "Stock" apps that gets installed on every device as soon as i get it.
  • I use tasker for a few things, but mostly the common and simple things everyone else does and a few extras.
    1) Trusted devices. Whenever I connect to my hone wifi or my BT headphones it disables the lock screen (after entering the code once for security).
    2) Announce the battery levels every 2% after hitting 15%. I sometimes forgot I didn't plug it in when low, and it's a good consistent reminder.
    3) Trigger BetterBatteryStats to make a reference when I connect my phone to a power source to track charging efficiency.
    4) Chromecast Sleep Timmer. Kills google music and disconnects the chromecast on a timmer.
    5) Announce the name of the person texting me so I know if I need to reply.
    6) If I'm wearing my BT headphones, it announces the person texting and reads the text over the BT. (and I have yet to get it working, but I want to setup a hotword for it to trigger a Voice recognition reply event)
    Been planning an auto reply for Birthday wishes. When I get the annoying birthday texts (I don't celebrate my Bday) it waits 1-3 minutes and replys with a thanks so I can ignore it. Also could use this for an auto-reply when at the movies.
    Lastly, since I have Kindle fire that I haven't upgraded to a real rom, I made a volume UI to adjust the controls seperatly, since they are all combined.
  • Automagic is the best. Both Automagic and Tasker have some things they will do that the other one will not. However, for the sheer power of automation and simplicity, Automagic is king. It can do 99% of what Tasker does, but without any plug-ins required. And by this I mean that if you buy every possible plug-in for Tasker, then it might be a little more powerful than Automagic. If you want a user-friendly automation app that you can use without dozens of hours of tutorials and forum help, try Automagic. You will be so glad you did!