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Tasker: Micro-Managing Automated Routines Can Be Crazy Fun

By Patrick Nelson LinuxInsider ECT News Network
Sep 21, 2012 5:00 AM PT

Tasker: Micro-Managing Automated Routines Can Be Crazy Fun

Tasker, an app from Crafty Apps, is available for US$6.49 at Google Play. tasked /></p>
<p>Want to launch a music app when you plug in your headphones, or wake up to a specific
app? You can do things like this with sets of automated routines that you program via the
Tasker app.</p>
<p>Crafty's Tasker app automates settings on Android devices and lets you micro-manage
them. Does this level of in-depth control and automation make you a control freak? Well,
maybe, but programming your own device with this level of minutiae is a lot of fun.</p>
<p>My first automated routine was to have the device launch the calculator when I mounted
an <a class=SD card. Why? Well, it just happened to be the first set of programming commands that I found when launching the app.

What was amazing -- you'll understand this if you've ever tried your hand at programming anything -- is that the routine worked straight off. The calculator did indeed launch when I slipped an SD card into the tablet's slot.

Underlying Concepts

Tasker performs Tasks that are based on Contexts in Profiles. It's not as overwhelming as it sounds.

Essentially, Tasks are sets of Actions. For example, an Action could be an alert created through an LED flash, or the action of launching or killing an app.

Contexts can be thought of as the criteria for a task or action -- for example, the time and date, the geographic location fed by location services, or simply the application that is currently running.

Profiles are a wrapper for the routines. Clickable and timer-based widgets can instigate tasks. Clickable widgets can be simple toggles. Timer-based widgets run when a when a countdown timer ends.

Creative Ideas

The possibilities for creating order on your Android device are endless. There are vast State-related options for example.

How about dimming the screen when you dock the device? States include missed call, orientation and unread text.

Crafty supplies plenty of ideas. One of my favorites is its suggestion to set a routine for turning on flight-safe mode during night hours to save batteries, but turning flight-safe off every 15 minutes to check for SMS text messages.

Common-Sense Approaches

I suggest you think of the actions you manually perform on your device multiple times a day and create tasks for them.

I find I am always fiddling with the brightness on my tablet, for example.

While experimenting, I created a task that increased the display brightness level when I connected to a certain WiFi network.

Intriguing possibilities, in my case, include micro-managing brightness levels depending on Location Services down to 30 meters -- a brighter display sitting outside a regular lunchspot; dimmer at home, perhaps.

Advanced Operations

Tasker App Factory is a no-charge extension that lets you create your own Tasker-based apps.

I did create an apk. It didn't work at first, though, which was likely entirely my fault for not reading enough of the blurb before starting. I did eventually create an exportable apk app that simply opened the stock browser when launched. I called it "Stock Browser Opener," and I have confidence that I will be an app-vending millionaire one day.

Programmable Variables

Variables -- that is, unknown values -- are also programmable. For example, "%BATT" contains the current battery level. So, when the task runs, the variable's value is used.

In this case, the battery level could be displayed. Variables include signal strength, so conceivably you could create a task to switch radios to WiFi when the mobile service degrades, or other such tricks. You can also create %Home and %Work location-based variables.

The device's movement can be used to create a task by recording a gesture and then linking it to the task as an event.

Conclusion: Tasker is a great app and a lot of fun. The app creator plug-in lets you make apps for selling in Google Play. The app could pay for itself.

Patrick Nelson has been a professional writer since 1992. He was editor and publisher of the music industry trade publication Producer Report and has written for a number of technology blogs. Nelson studied design at Hornsey Art School and wrote the cult-classic novel Sprawlism. His introduction to technology was as a nomadic talent scout in the eighties, where regular scrabbling around under hotel room beds was necessary to connect modems with alligator clips to hotel telephone wiring to get a fax out. He tasted down and dirty technology, and never looked back.

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