We are Android users, and we are a pampered bunch. Android is such a flexible mobile OS that our Android devices often act as our personal genies granting our daily mobile wishes, making some of our mobile dreams come true. And, powerful as OEM-provided genies already are, a task control and task automation app such as Tasker only multiplies their power severalfold.
Most people describe Tasker as a task control and task automation app. But, I see more than that. It’s an Android programming app for complete noobs like me and for advanced users with experience in Android programming. But, instead of scaring you with lines of code, Tasker lets you use a friendly interface, which, at its fundamental level, lets you create mini Android apps that do your bidding.
To learn how to use Tasker exhaustively is beyond the scope of this post. Instead, in this post, you’ll learn the basics of using Tasker to program your Android phone or tablet to do things that you want it to do according to rules that you specify. (Looking for a video tutorial? Jump right ahead to our video guide at the end of this post.)
First, let’s come to terms with the terms in Tasker. Many of the concepts may be new to you, and they can be a bit overwhelming, especially to neophytes. But, once you get the logic of Tasker, you’ll find that it’s a truly powerful app even for idiots in programming.
- Action — The basic element of Tasker. It refers to phone or tablet functions and features that perform something or brings the phone to a certain state. Tasker supports more than 200 actions grouped into 21 categories.
- Task — A group of actions. Usually linked to a trigger or “context”, but can also be a free-floating, standalone task executed manually. A task can be run within another task. You can clone, export, import, and lock tasks.
- Context — Situations or conditions which, when true, trigger the execution of the task(s) associated with it.
- Profile — Some sort of “container” or “package” for context(s) and linked task(s). You can define several contexts for a single profile, and all those conditions must be true for the linked tasks to run.
- Variable — A name for an unknown value that can change over time, like the battery level or the date.
- Scene — A custom-made user interface. You can create your own layout of buttons, menus, popups, and other UI elements.
- Project — A group of profiles, tasks, scenes, and variables. Each project has its own tab (at the bottom of the main screen) with a user-defined project name. You can also export or import projects. You can even export a custom project as a standalone Android app (APK): just tap on the project name/icon, select Export, and choose “As App.”
Tabs and modes
Although I find Tasker’s features and overall user interface somewhat complex and definitely intimidating to a casual user or a newcomer to Android, the tabs on the main screen are rather self-explanatory.
Freshly installed, Tasker’s interface shows three tabs by default — Profiles, Tasks, and Scenes. The default interface is set up for newbies and beginners (i.e., Beginner Mode).
The default UI looks a bit different from non-beginner mode. For instance, in Beginner Mode, you can find three buttons at the bottom row of all tabs: Search, Add, and Help. When Beginner Mode is disabled, these three buttons are replaced by the default project tab (represented by a Home icon) and the Add button, plus at the top row of tabs you get a fourth tab named Vars (i.e., for variables).
Easily switch to “advanced” mode by unticking “Beginner Mode” on the UI tab on Tasker’s Preferences page.
Tapping on a main tab’s name (except the Vars tab) on the main screen opens a menu with buttons for importing files and for setting the sort order for that tab.
In “advanced” mode (i.e., with Beginner Mode disabled), tapping the default project tab opens a menu with buttons labeled Add, Import, Rename, Set Icon, and Lock/Unlock.
The Add button lets you create a new project, which will have its own tab. The Import and Export buttons, of course, let you share your Tasker project files to others, or use files created by others. You can also assign custom icons to your project tabs.
You can protect your projects by setting a lock code; when prompted, just type your lock code in order to view and edit a project.
Tasker’s main menu offers commands and options that help you use and manage how the app works. Access the main menu via the capacitive Menu key or the virtual Menu button (three dots icon) at the upper-right corner of the screen. You’ll find these on the menu:
- Browse Examples — redirects you to a list of premade example profiles, which you can download and import to Tasker.
- Data — for clearing, backing up, or restoring backed up data.
- Info — contains information about the app and how to use it.
- Preferences — opens the Preferences page (more about this in the next section).
- Enable/Disable Tasker — enables or disables Tasker.
- Search Tasker — search data or feature within the app; not available in Beginner Mode.
- Exit — closes the app.
- Run An Action — performs a single action (e.g. maximizing screen brightness)
- Run Log — records events and procedures done through the app.
- Developer Options — advanced options for devs; not available in Beginner Mode.
Tasker’s preferences and options reflect the flexibility of the app. To some people, this can be truly discomfiting, but to those with elevated understanding, this actually shows what Tasker and Android are all about — freedom and flexibility.
Beside many of the options on the Preferences screen, you’ll see big question marks. These can offer relief if you start to scratch your head about what an option might be for. However, some of the help tips are clouded in developer or programmer language, and an idiot like me may need some time to completely digest the info.
Tasker’s configuration options are grouped into four tabs. You can customize the app’s user interface via the UI tab. On the Monitor tab, you can set personal preferences for the app’s monitoring behavior when the display is either off or on.
On the Action tab, you can set values for camera delay, task execution priority for widgets or shortcuts, displaying warnings and/or errors, and maximum number of queued tasks. On the Misc tab, you can specify how long to keep backups, whether to allow other apps to run tasks, and debugging options.
In the next section, you’ll continue to learn more about how to create a task and assign one or several actions to a task.