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How to use Google Now cards: 7 tips for managing what they show you, when and why

Ben Patterson | June 9, 2015
Google Now and its "cards"--those bite-sized alerts, reminders, and personalized recommendations--are so prescient, they're positively spooky. One such card might tell you that today's the birthday of a close friend, while another might point out a news article that it somehow knew you'd want to click.

Google Now and its "cards" — those bite-sized alerts, reminders, and personalized recommendations — are so prescient, they're positively spooky. One such card might tell you that today's the birthday of a close friend, while another might point out a news article that it somehow knew you'd want to click.

Google Now cards may also alert you to traffic jams on the way home, thunderstorms in tomorrow's forecast, that dinner rezzie you made for Friday, a thrilling victory by your favorite baseball team, or a hot new bistro in your neck of the woods.

So, what's going on here? Is Google Now reading our minds or something? Can these Google Now cards be controlled — or stopped?

Read on for 7 things to know about your Google Now cards, starting with...

1. Google Now knows all about you thanks to Google, Gmail and your apps

As you may have already guessed, Google Now gets a lot of help from Google itself when it comes to picking out your Now cards — for example, by keeping an eye on what you've searched for, which links you've clicked, and where you (and your phone and/or tablet) have been.

Google Now has another clever trick up its sleeve: It scans your Gmail, looking for confirmation messages and other clues that might trigger helpful alerts and reminders. (If that sounds creepy, remember that Google already scans your Gmail so it can display "relevant" ads next to your Gmail messages.)

Certain apps on your handset may tip off Google Now about new reminder cards. For example, Spotify might recommend new playlists based on songs you've listened to recently, while the Lyft app might let you know how much it'll cost to take a cab home.

Bonus tip: You can control whether Google uses your so-called "web history" for Google Now cards, search suggestions and other uses.

2. You can change which Google Now cards you get

If you're not loving the cards you've been dealt, you can always nudge Google Now in a different direction.

For example, you can tell Google Now that you want your weather cards with degrees in Celsius rather than Fahrenheit, or that no, you don't want to see any more cards about that new café down the block. You can even nix an entire category of cards — such as, say, cards about recent stories that might interest you.

Just tap the (tiny) three-dot menu button sitting on the top-right corner of a card (or the little "i" button if you're using Google Now for iOS), and answer the questions that follow (like "Which distance units do you prefer?" and "Continue to get updates for your research projects?"). Google Now will remember your likes and dislikes and deal new cards accordingly.

 

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