Google Now is one of the reasons you need to upgrade your Android device to Android 4.1 or 4.2. I’ve heard a lot of comments from readers who are hesitant to use Google Now because of the “Google Borg.” I can empathize, especially with Google’s revelations about government requests. Many feel that allowing Google even more access opens up even more concerns for privacy diminished privacy. However, as I said here, privacy is dead, regardless of whether Google knows you or not.

The fact is, Google Now and it’s companion app, Voice Search, are tremendously beneficial.

In case you don’t know, Google Now is Android/Google’s answer to Siri. Rather than being a full virtual assistant (and congratulating you for wiping your own butt), Google Now takes a more hands-off approach by presenting you with a combination of helping tasks and useful information. Google Now is integrated into the Android OS, giving it the ability to perform a variety of tasks like sending emails, making phone calls, setting calendar appointments, and searching for information. My favorite aspect of Google Now are the handy “cards” that appear for a variety of topics. You can see a full list of cards here.

Voice Search is essentially Google’s search capabilities coupled into voice commands. For instance, voice search could search Google for clam chowder recipes just by saying “search clam chowder recipes.” Basically, anything you search for in your browser can be done via Voice Search on Android.

I’ve taken quite a fancy to having Google Now and Voice Search perform many tasks for me. For instance, my favorite action is to have my phone draft text messages and send responses.

Send Text Message Google Now Command

The voice commands are particularly handy when I’m driving and need to send a quick message or response. I also love that I can grab directions and open navigation simply by using voice commands.

Until the Jelly Bean versions of Android, voice commands were admittedly sub-par. Now, as you see, voice commands are great. Here’s a list of common commands:

  • Navigation – say “Navigate to [place name]” or “Take me to [place name]”; Note: you can set “home” and “work” addresses to simplify those directions;
  • Open an app – say “Open [app name]”; works for most apps
  • Make a phone call – say “Call [contact’s name]”
  • Text – say “Send text [or SMS] to [contact’s name] [message contents]”; Note: make sure your message immediately follows in one run-on-like sentence;
  • Set an alarm – say “Set alarm for [time]”; Note: you can add text by continuing your statement;
  • Send an email – say “Send email to [contact’s name] subject [subject of email] message [email contents/message]”;
  • Calendar event – say “Create calendar event [event name] [place] [time]”; Note: you can say days (Friday at Noon) or dates (May 28, 2013 at 3:00); I also find it calendaring works best if you use 24 hour time;
  • Play a song – say “Listen to [song name, artist, or album]”

As you get used to Google Now and voice commands, I’m sure you’ll find more and more uses for them. If you’re running a custom launcher, such as Nova Launcher, you can create a custom gesture to allow you to directly open the app. My custom gesture is a swipe up to open voice command.

Jeff Taylor

I'm just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I'm also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.


Alex · December 7, 2013 at 11:25 am

I have one question. When you are in writing an email message, how will you command “add a new line,” “quote ” ” and “unquote ” ” “colon :” “Semi colon ;”

I know Google Voice Commands can recognize “.” as “period” “,” as “comma.”

But I cannot figure out how to commands on others that are commonly used when writing an email.

Thank you very much in advance.


    Jeffrey Taylor · December 7, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    Alex, beyond “period”, “comma”, and “question mark”, I can’t get very many other commands to work.

Vera · July 21, 2014 at 2:17 am

Hi, thanks for the article:-)
how do I delete a word while dictating? It really is bothering me to have to stop every time.

    Jeffrey Taylor · July 21, 2014 at 6:27 am

    Unfortunately, it’s not possible. You have to manually delete unwanted text. My process is to dictate my text, proofread, then restate the wrong word. I don’t worry about editing as I go, since that slows down the process.

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