Using your Google Home.

Not strictly security related, but I’m tired of googling around whenever I want to figure out how to do something with Google Home. So I wanted to put some of the more common tasks into one easy to use page.

Firstly, what is Google Home. It’s a set of smart speakers or apps created by Google to assist you in many tasks. The functions that the assistant can perform grows daily so it’s hard to keep track of what you can do and easy to forget something days or weeks after you’ve figured it out. Hence this page. When you say Hey Google to your phone or to a Google Home speaker you’re talking to your Google Assistant. You can use this to a Google Nest speaker or your phone. Most commands will work on both with similar results.

Setting up your Google Home
Setting it up
  • Download the Home app on your android device here. You may already have it if you use other devices such as the Chromecast.
  • Set the language to US English. For some reason the new features and functionality are restricted to US English users. It makes no difference to the rest of us that use English if we set it to US English so do that. To do that, open the Home app on your phone. Click the Settings Cog, scroll down to the bottom of the screen and choose More Settings. On the next screen choose Assistant. Go into Languages and set the language to US English.
  • Change your assistant voice. Once you set the language to US English your devices will start talking to you with a US accent. It’s no big deal but you may have a preference to have the voice in an accent from your locality. It’s easy to set up. To do that, open the Home app on your phone. Click the Settings Cog, scroll down to the bottom of the screen and choose More Settings. On the next screen choose Assistant. Go into Assistant voice and try them out. Tick the circle for the one that you prefer.
  • Link to your music provider. If you link to your music provider you can just say “Hey Google play XXXX” and it’ll play for you. So go into the Home App, click the Settings Cog and go into Music in your Services section. Link with your music service in here, e.g. Spotify.
  • Connect up your smart devices. If you have smart devices, e.g. plugs, lights etc. it’s handy being able to just say “Hey Google turn on the hall light”. To set this up go into the Home App, click the settings cog and go into the Works with Google section. You will have to read your devices instructions on how to integrate with Google. But do so, it’s very handy.
  • Set your speaker up as a bluetooth speaker for your phone. Not all apps are smart. There are times you’ll want to play something from your phone and have it come out on the speaker. So pair the speaker with you phone. To do this just say “Hey Google, set up a bluetooth device” and it’ll talk you through the setup.

This is only scratching the surface but that gets your Google device pretty useful.

General access

If you have an Android phone or a Google Home / Nest Device just say “hey google”. Your phone will start listening to you or your smart speakers should light up to show that they’re ready for your command.

General Usage

I’ll use this section to outlines some of the common and not so common commands for the Google devices / assistant.

Hey Google ….
Time functions
what time is it? self explanatory
what time is it in New York? you can ask Google home for the time anywhere in the world.
set an alarm for 3PM you can set a simple alarm.
cancel the 3PM alarm
set an alarm for 4PM recurring on weekdays / thursdays or more sophisticated ones.
set an alarm that plays [radio station name] the assistant will ask you for the time.
set a music alarm that plays [song name by band) the assistant will ask you for the time.
snooze / stop when your alarm plays you can use these commands to quieten it. You can say “stop” without the introductory “hey google” as the alarm is expecting you to want to stop it.
set a timer for [x] minutes
set a [name] timer for [x] minutes if you want to set up multiple timers
how much time is left on my [name] timer
Memo / Calendar functions
remind me to [whatever] on [date] and [time] pops a memo into your Google calendar. It’ll display on your phone as well.
what are my reminders reads out your next few reminders. If you do this on your phone, it’ll also display them as a list.
delete my reminder to [whatever]
schedule an event adds an event to your calendar. Google will ask you for a title for the event and then it will ask for when the time is.
Schedule an event
Project meeting
15th May at 2PM
what’s next on my calendar reads out the next item on your Google calendar.
list calendar events for tomorrow reads out the entries fro tomorrow from your Google calendar.
remember [thing to remember] e.g. remember “that I put my passport in the filing cabinet”
remember that I set a password to whatever
Ask about the [thing to remember] e.g. where is my passport?
what is my password?
what did I tell you about passport?
what did I tell you to remember lists all of the items that you told Google to remember.
forget what I told you about [thing to remember]
Sounds / Music
play ambient sounds for x minutes plays some background noise.
play [song name]
play [album title]
play [genre] music blues, jazz, 80s etc. etc.
play music for [activity] Working,Driving, Falling Asleep, Boosting Your Energy, Relaxing,Making Dinner, Being Romantic, Having Fun,Dancing, Working out, Family Time
play new songs by [artist]
play some [artist]
skip skips the current song
restart restarts the song
jump back/forward [x] seconds
turn up / down the volume
play the [podcast name] podcast
play the [x] episode of [podcast name]
previous / next episode
skip forward / back [x] seconds handy for avoiding ads
whats the weather forecast for [x] today, tomorrow, Tuesday etc. etc.
what does the temperature feel like outside this takes into account wind so it may feel cooler or warmer than the forecaster temperature.
is it going to rain today
whats the weather forecast for [London] you can get the weather forecast for any location
what time is sunset today
Working with a Chromecast
Start Netflix on the TV
Start Youtube on the TV
Watch [tv program name] on TV It’ll start the TV program if it’s available on your TV service.
Play next episode
Pause / Resume TV
Skip back [x seconds / minutes] on TV
Smart Home Commands You need to have your smart devices configured for Google Home
turn on the bedroom lamp
set the bedroom lamp to 50%
set the thermostat to 21 degrees
show me the back camera
Shopping list
add [item] to my shopping list will add an item to a shopping list for you
what items are on my shopping list handy to use on your phone when you’re out and about
Random stuff
how long will it take me to get into work
what time does [store] close at today Be as specific as possible.
what is €1 in British pounds Handy currency conversions
pair a bluetooth device This will set the speaker up to pair with your phone. You just need to set up bluetooth on your phone to complete the pairing.
what is 14 * 20 Asking it to do some maths.
broadcast [whatever you want] this will send your message to all of the speakers in your network, except the one you’re broadcasting from. If you have only one speaker you can broadcast from your phone to the speaker.
reply [whatever you want] this will reply to the sender with your message
tell me a story plays a random kids story
tell me a [bedtime / princess / Hansel & Gretel] story you can play more specific stories for your kids.
read along you can ask Google Home to read along with certain books. It’ll play sound affects at appropriate times in stories. Examples of some books can be found here
Talk to….

Google home can talk to 3rd party apps to interact with them. This extends the functionality to extra apps. Just say “hey google, talk to [appname]” to get it going. There are many apps that Google Home can talk to. You’ll only really find out if your app is supported by going into your app details and see if it’s a service.

Examples are

Headspace You can ask headspace to run meditation programs for you through the speaker or you can ask it to set a sleep program
OurGroceries This is a handy grocery app. It’s more powerful than a standard list. You can share your grocery list amongst several family members.
Autovoice This is a complicated app. With Autovoice you can set up your own routines to get Google Home talking to apps it wasn’t designed to support. Not for the faint hearted.

If you have any commands that you find invaluable please put them into the comment section below and I’ll add them to the list. The list isn’t exhaustive. I’ve only put in commands that may be useful to most users, and they’re adding new ones every week so there may be functionality that I’m not even aware of.

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