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Get the most from Google Now with these tips and tricks

Derek Walter | March 8, 2016
Google’s digital assistant can do way more than quickly search the web, once you learn all of its hidden tools.

Google Now should be the brain that powers your Android phone. Google’s digital assistant service pulls in disparate information across all corners of your Google account and makes sense of it so you don’t have to. It’s been an invaluable component to how I use Android. 

The service, which compiles information into cards and push alerts, analyzes all of the data that flows through your Google account. As you can probably imagine, all of these details tell a lot about what you’re into and where you’re going.

But since the service launched over three years ago, it’s evolved to dabble in more areas by integrating with third-party apps and other Google services. So to really get the maximum value from it, you need to take the time to know what it can do and how to bend it to your will.

With Google tweaking the capabilities all the time, that’s seemingly a never-ending process. Here are a few of the most important tricks you need to know that will help you master Google’s all-knowing service.

The basics

If you don’t have a Nexus phone, you’ll want to install the Google Now Launcher. Along with a smooth, minimal skin you’ll have access to Google Now just one swipe to the right off of your home screen. It’s not a requirement to use Google Now, but it sure makes it a lot easier.

You’re probably familiar with how Google Now produces a stream with updates on your favorite sports teams or television shows. It’s pretty simple to use, but deeper customization is necessary if you want to turn on or off certain notifications. Just slide over to Google Now, tap the three horizontal lines at the top left, and select Settings.

From here you can choose what updates you get from third-party apps, websites you’ve visited or which sports teams you’re into.

You’ll want to check back here from time to time as you may run into the annoying experience of Googling a newsworthy topic, like the election, but then getting constant updates about it.

I’ve lately noticed a lot more news cards, which has also been a mixed bag. Some of it has been relevant Android news, while other cards have been just clutter (the most bizarre was a word of the day from Urban Dictionary, which is not suitable to print). You can turn off your alerts here in the settings, or by touching the overflow menu on a card (top right) and telling Google you’re not interested.

Have phone, will travel

We’ve talked before about how Google Now is an excellent travel guide. Some of this comes from the pre-planning as when flight, hotel, and other confirmation emails go into your Gmail, you’ll have a handy card that summarizes your entire trip. And now if you have an Outlook.com/Yahoo address you’re still hanging on to, you can “Gmailify it” and get the same email-reading capabilities with those accounts.

 

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