My favorite Google Home trick and how to find it

Chris Monroe/CNET

Say, “Hey, Google, good morning,” to your Google Home ($100 at Best Buy) smart speaker and it will spring into action. The built-in Google Assistant will greet you, tell the time, forecast the day’s weather, remind you about your appointments and report the news. Thanks to a feature called routines, Google is able to bring all of these responses together under one command. 

Routines help Google Assistant respond like a well-trained human assistant. With one command, you can flip on your smart lights, play music, turn your connected thermostat up or down and more. While preprogrammed options like the “good morning” routine can be great, you can also create custom commands and responses uniquely tailored to you.

To make use of routines, you need the Google Home app and a device with Google Assistant. The app is available for iOS and Android. Google Assistant is built in to modern Android phones. Routines also work on smart speakers like the original Google Home or the newer Nest Mini ($50 at Best Buy), smart displays like the Nest Hub ($90 at Best Buy), or even tablets or iPhones ($699 at Apple) if you download Google Assistant. 


Routines will work on your smart display. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Open the app, log in with a Google account and you’ll see a Routines button at the top. Tap it to see the list of preset options. Tap one and it will spring into action. These are great options to get a sense for what routines can do. Hit Manage routines at the bottom to start customizing. You’ll see that same list of presets in this menu as well. Here, you can customize each of those presets to your liking, or you can start your own from scratch. 

I’m going to walk through the options for a custom routine, but all of those are present for the presets as well. To make your own, hit Add a routine. Here, you’ll see fields for a command, a day and time, Assistant actions and media. For the command, enter whatever phrase you’d like to use to trigger all the actions that follow. 

Maybe you want a routine when you’re ready to workout, so your command could be, “It’s workout time.” You can add alternate phrasing in this menu as well. Note that Google Assistant doesn’t respond well to questions — it searches for the answer itself instead of realizing you’re triggering a routine. For the best results, keep your commands to statements and phrases. 

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The second field lets you set a day and time so you can schedule your routine to trigger automatically. Your smart home can do the work with no input from you. 

In the next section, you need to tell Google Assistant what you want it to do. Your options are pretty wide and include just about anything Google Assistant can do if you’re giving individual commands. I have trouble with unlimited options, so I always hit Add action, then move to the Browse popular actions tab to get ideas. Check whatever boxes you want to trigger your smart home, get info and more.

Scroll all the way to the bottom to see Custom responses. Click the checkbox by Say something and hit the gear icon to fill in what you’d like Google Assistant to say. If you want Google Assistant to provide backup when you’re telling a joke or asking your kids to go to bed, it can do that. Check out the video above to see custom responses in action.

Get Google Assistant set, and you can have your routine end with music, news or podcasts by adding media. You can arrange the order of any option you pick. 

Thanks to routines, you can get more out of your Nest Mini by making Google Assistant your customized, personal assistant. Here is a list of our favorite devices with Google Assistant built-in, and here are more tips to get the most out of your smart speaker

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