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How to automatically send an 'I'm busy!' text from your Android phone

Sharon Machlis | Jan. 7, 2016
You can use the Tasker and Trigger Android apps to let people know why you're not answering your texts.

If co-workers (or friends) have come to expect an instant response when they send you a text, it can be useful to let them know when you're in a meeting and unavailable for a while.

With just little bit of setup, you can create the SMS-equivalent of an email "out of office" message. Even better — you can build a text autorespond that automatically turns itself on whenever you've got a meeting on your calendar and switches off again when the event is done.

Bonus: You can also have it mute and unmute your phone, which is easy enough to do manually with a single tap when you walk into a meeting but also rather easy to forget.

Given the power and flexibility of the Android platform, I'm guessing there are several ways to create an SMS autorespond smart enough to read your calendar. (Alas, I don't know any way to do this on iOS; let me know in the comments if there is.) I've settled on using two paid but highly affordable apps: Tasker ($2.99), which is powerful but somewhat complex to use, and Trigger ($2.99), which "triggers" actions depending on your surroundings; the Pro upgrade is needed to read calendar items.

First, though, a warning: Different Android messaging apps may respond differently to MMS messages (such as texts with photos), at least on Samsung devices (I used a Galaxy Note 5). My autoresponder worked fine with Google's Messenger app and Samsung's SMS app; but Verizon's Message+ veered off the rails. More on this in the set-up info below.

And now, your step-by-step guide to programming a smart SMS autorespond.

1) Install Tasker, then go into Tasker's settings and enable External Access. Now install Trigger. Note: Order is important here. Make sure to install Tasker first, before Trigger.

2) Open Tasker. Click on the Tasks tab on the top nav bar and then the + icon in the middle of the bottom nav bar to create a new task. You'll be asked for its name. I called my task Meeting Autorespond Msg, but you can call it whatever you like. After entering the name, click the check icon.

You'll next be advised to click the + icon again to add an action. Go ahead and do so. You'll want the action to be sending a text message. Select that by navigating to Phone / Send SMS (not Send Data SMS).

Next, you'll need to enter something in the Number (phone number) field so Tasker knows where to send your texts. You want the number to be whoever just sent you a text. To enter that Tasker variable, click the variable icon (it looks like a diagonal tag next to the search icon) and choose "Text From." When you do, %SMSRF will be entered in the Number field.


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