If you’ve blinked at any point in the past few months, I hate to tell ya, but you’ve probably missed something significant with the Google Assistant.

Every few weeks, it seems, Assistant’s either showing up on some new sort of device or expanding what it’s able to accomplish. And really, it’s no surprise: Assistant, as we’ve discussed approximately 72 gazillion times before, is increasingly the focus of almost everything Google does these days — and for good reason.

As a human mammal who relies on plastic and glass gadgets to get things accomplished, of course, the most important thing to know is how you can take advantage of Assistant’s latest and greatest capabilities. And if you’ve got a Chromebook, my goodness, do you have some intriguing new options to consider.

Here are some of the most useful Chromebook-specific Assistant commands I’ve encountered.

(Assistant is available on most current Chrome OS devices as of this fall. You can confirm it’s activated on your Chromebook by going into the Search and Assistant section of the system settings, clicking the line labeled “Google Assistant,” and then making sure the toggle at the top of that screen is lit up. While you’re there, you might also want to activate the voice activation option — which’ll allow you to summon your Assistant simply by saying “OK Google” or “Hey Google” — and then set the “Preferred input” setting to voice, too, if you plan to interact with Assistant mostly by speaking. You can also always open Assistant by hitting your Launcher or Search key and the “a” key together or by hitting your dedicated Assistant key, if you’ve got a Pixelbook or Pixel Slate.)

1. Start new drafts in a snap by calling for Assistant on Chrome OS and then telling it to create a new document, spreadsheet, or presentation. You’ll be transported to a blank slate in the appropriate Google service faster than you can say “Docs, crocks, faux hawks” (which, if we’re being completely honest with each other, is a pretty strange thing to say).

2. Find files in Drive without any fuss by asking Assistant for whatever you need: Open my monthly analysis spreadsheet, open my legume comparison document, and so on.

3. Control your calendar without lifting a finger by asking your Chromebook’s Assistant what’s next on my calendar — or even for something more specific, like: What’s on my agenda for Thursday?

Google Assistant Chromebook: Agenda JR

4. You can add new events to your calendar without the usual hassle, too: Just fire up Assistant on your Chromebook and tell it to add an event or set an appointment followed by the event’s title, date, and time. The system will repeat the details and then let you verbally confirm everything’s A-OK — and just like that, your schedule will be updated.

5. The Chrome OS version of Assistant can help you adjust your device’s settings without the need for any digging. Try telling it to turn Wi-Fi on or off — no clicking or menu-hunting required.

6. Assistant can also turn Bluetooth on or off in a flash, without having to interrupt what you’re doing.

7. Need to make your Chromebook louder or quieter? No problem: Just tell your friendly neighborhood Assistant to make the volume louder — or get even more specific with commands like turn the volume up to 80 percent or turn the volume down to 20 percent.

8. You can control your Chromebook’s display brightness in the same way: Tell Assistant to turn the screen brightness to 50 percent or any other number to make easy on-the-spot adjustments.

9. If your Chromebook supports Night Light mode for less harsh dim-light viewing, you can control that via the Chrome OS Assistant as well: Just ask your Assistant to turn Night Light mode on or off, and give your peepers a much-needed break.

10. Speaking of a break, if you want to stop all the interruptions for a while, ask your Chromebook’s Assistant to turn Do Not Disturb on or off. Ah…silence.

11. See exactly how much power your Chromebook has left at any moment by activating Assistant and asking it: How much battery do I have left? Optionally follow up with a choice expletive, as needed.

Google Assistant Chromebook: Battery JR

12. When you need to keep track of the time, tell your Chromebook’s Assistant to set a timer for any amount of time you want — 30 seconds, five minutes, three hours, you name it. You can then go back to whatever else you were doing, and as soon as the time has elapsed, an alert will sound and a message will pop up on your screen letting you know your timer’s done.

13. Want to snag a screenshot fast? Skip the usual shortcuts and simply tell your Assistant to take a screenshot. You’ll see the capture appear in the lower-right corner of your Chromebook’s screen and can then find it in your regular Downloads folder.

14. Just like with Assistant on any other device, you can use your Chromebook’s virtual genie to tap into Google’s cross-platform reminder system. Tell Assistant remind me followed by a nugget of info and then the time, the day and time, or even a physical location that you want to serve as the reminder’s trigger. Your reminder will pop back up at the time or place you ask on whatever device is most appropriate at that point.

Google Assistant Chromebook: Reminder JR

15. You can always check in on your pending reminders, too: Just tell Assistant show me my reminders, then do a little dance. (Dance not actually required but highly recommended.)

16. Give yourself a moment away from the workday monotony by asking your Chromebook’s Assistant to play music. You can name a specific artist, album, or even just genre or mood; whatever your wish, Assistant will abide (and you can change its default music service, by the way, by clicking the gear icon within the main Assistant interface and then selecting “Services” followed by “Music”).

17. Prefer the soothing sound of white noise? Try telling Assistant to play white noise — or get even more specific and ask for one of these ambient sound options:

  • Relaxing sounds
  • Nature sounds
  • Water sounds
  • Running water sounds
  • Babbling brook sounds
  • Oscillating fan sounds
  • Fireplace sounds
  • Forest sounds
  • Country night sounds
  • Ocean sounds
  • Rain sounds
  • River sounds
  • Thunderstorm sounds

Not available yet, unfortunately, is “screeching modem sound” — but hey, maybe one day.

18. Find your photos in a flash by telling Assistant open my pictures of — followed by a place, person, or even general theme (Thanksgiving, birthdays, children, screeching modems, etc). Assistant will sift through your Google Photos collection for you and pull up the most relevant results right then and there.

Google Assistant Chromebook: Photos JR

19. You can even use Assistant to open a website without the need for any physical input — which might be handy for those times in which you’re actively engaged in mid-workday pottery but still want to check the news. Just tell Assistant to open computerworld.com (or any website you want) or try something more specific, like open Google News, open YouTube, or open Ask Jeeves (which may or may not open a portal to 1996; proceed at your own risk).

20. For super-speedy navigation, tell Assistant show me how to get to or navigate to followed by the name of any business or address — or, if you aren’t sure where you want to go, try something like search for restaurants near me.

21. The next time the need for a quickie email enters your ever-noodlin’ noggin, ask your Chromebook’s Assistant to send an email. You can then follow its spoken prompts to provide your contact’s name and the body of the message, and it’ll handle the rest on your behalf.

22. Last but not least, perhaps the most useful Chrome OS Assistant command of all: find my phone. Issuing that gem will cause your trusty Assistant to ring any Android device associated with your account, no matter where it may be hiding.

Now, if only it could find my sanity — or, heck, even just a sandwich — I’d really be set.

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[Android Intelligence videos at Computerworld]

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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