Google Home tips and tricks: Get up and running with Google Assistant

All the Google Assistant cheats you'll ever need

Google Home tips and tricks
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If you're expanding your connected home with a Google Home, the likelihood is that you're barely scratching the surface of what your new smart speaker can do.

Whether it's giving you the latest traffic report or explaining difference between a lager and an IPA, Google Home can do a lot, but there are also quite a few tricks worth knowing to get the most out of your device. Here's a roundup of the best tips so you can get up and running and master Google Home like no one else.

Make sure you also check out our super comprehensive Google Assistant missing manual, the best Google Home Easter eggs and the top Google Assistant compatible devices.

Set your preferences first: Address, nickname, payments and more

If you haven't already, you can add in your home address for more specific weather and traffic reports. In the Google Home app on your smartphone, just tap the profile icon on the bottom right side of the home screen, then select More settings.

From here you'll be able to enter your home and/or work address, set a nickname, choose your preferred mode of transport (for when asking Assistant for directions), add payment methods and more. Make sure this is one of the first things on your list once Home is set up.

Google Home tips and tricks

Using wake words

This one might be obvious but just in case you're not sure, Google Assistant responds to two sets of wake words: "OK Google" is the main one you'll hear but "Hey Google" rolls off the tongue better. You don't have to change any settings for this as Assistant will hear both.

Unfortunately, you only have these two phrases for now, and yes, it's very much made this way so you have to say the word "Google" a lot. Custom wake words would be great, but this means a greater likelihood of Google getting it wrong, so we wouldn't bank on the feature arriving soon. In fact, Google itself told us that it doesn't think there's enough demand for it.

Change music sources

Assistant will play music from a variety of sources - Google Play Music, Pandora, Deezer, Spotify and YouTube Music - but you can ensure it always chooses the platform you like the best. From the home screen, tap on the Settings button, scroll down and you'll see Music listed under Google Assistant services. Tao on that and you can choose your default provider.

It should be noted that YouTube Music, Spotify and Deezer require premium paid accounts but Google Play Music and Pandora have free options.

Google Home tips and tricks

Connect Google Home to Bluetooth speakers

Google Home speakers can hook up with other non-smart speakers via Bluetooth which means you can connect to a better sounding device. That's particularly useful for the cheap and cheerful Google Home Mini, which doesn't pack much punch in the sound department.

Just go to the Home app, select your speaker and go into Device settings. You'll find Bluetooth pairing in there.

Set up multi-room audio

If you want a Google Assistant-powered multi-room set up, you can do this via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth now. With the Wi-Fi route, you can hook up your smart speakers with any Chromecast built-in speakers or speakers with a Chromecast Audio. With Bluetooth, you can pair your smart speaker/s with any Bluetooth speaker and multi-room audio will be enabled.

Google Home tips and tricks

Casting with Google Home

If you've already set up your Chromecast or Chromecast built-in device then you're halfway to casting with Home. If not, it's a relatively simple process that involves plugging in the device and syncing it up to the same Wi-Fi network Google Home is on.

From there, you should definitely rename your Chromecast something like 'TV' or 'living room' - basically something easy to remember. Head to 'More settings' in the Google Home app. Then tap on 'TVs and Speakers.'

Link a new Chromecast TV or speaker (or device with Chromecast built in) by tapping the plus symbol. Google has also added support for casting Netflix and Google Photos, meaning you can say "OK Google, play House of Cards from Netflix on my TV".

Change the Assistant voice

Sick of hearing the same voice talking back at you? Google now lets you choose from eight different voices. Later this year, it'll be getting a ninth in the form of John Legend. On the smartphone app, go to Settings > More settings > Preferences > Assistant Voice.

You should now see a row of eight voices to choose from, each one set to a different color. Try them all out and see which one suits you best.

Get it talking to your phone

The number of smartphones offering Google Assistant has grown significantly. And as this is the same Assistant inside Home, you can have your smart home helper throw information to your phone by simply asking it to. Nifty.

Control smart home devices

To get your Google Assistant smart speaker controlling your smart home kit, add them in the Google Home app under Devices (once they're set up, of course). Here you can rename devices and set up Rooms as groups too.

Google Home tips and tricks

Make free voice calls

Free Wi-Fi calls can be made on Google Home speakers in the US, UK and Canada. To call numbers or local businesses, there's nothing to set up. All you have to do is say the name of contacts, like "Hey Google, call Mum" then you need to head to the Google/Google Assistant and Google Home apps to turn on Personal Results sharing first.

Use Google Home as an intercom

Google Home's Broadcast feature lets you send a message from a speaker or phone to other speakers around the house. Dinner's ready? Have Google tell the kids. You'll need two of more Google Assistant speakers or Smart Displays to make it work, and one member of the house must be signed in on all of them. Then it's simply a case of asking Google to do the rest of the work.

Turn on Continued Conversation

This is a really good one. It can be tiresome having to say "Hey Google" or "Ok Google before each command. Continued Conversation allows the Assistant to listen for a few seconds after each command for any follow-up questions. So for example, you could say "Hey Google, how long will it take me to get to work?" and then follow up with "And will I need a jacket today?".

To turn this on, open the Google Home app, hit the profile button bottom-right, tap More settings, tap the Assistant tab, hit Continued Conversation, tap the toggle to on. Should you be worried about privacy, this is also where to come to turn it off.

Add multiple users with Voice Match

Like Amazon, Google will also support multiple users, and Home will discern who is who by recognizing your different voices via its Voice Match feature. By doing so, it will serve up information relative to your profile, such as commute time, personal music playlists and even Netflix profiles.

To set up multiple user profiles, each user just needs to find the Home device on their smartphone app, connect to it and add a voice recording to confirm. You can have up to six profiles on one Google Home at a time.

Google Home tips and tricks

Actions speak louder with words

Google Assistant supports Actions (also referred to as 'Assistant apps'), which are its equivalent of Alexa's Skills. The difference is that you don't have to install them; Google Home learns Actions - also referred to as Services - automatically when they're dispatched by developers. That means you'll probably want to know what's available.

Head to Settings > More settings > Assistant apps for the full list of around 200 Actions, which includes those from Uber, Domino's, Fitbit, Hearst, Headspace, Disney and the NBA. Tapping each one will bring up more info and an example of things you can say to make them work. Google's started improving the discovery part of the app to help you find more of these features, but it's good to have a way to see them all.

Set up parental controls

Kids: Can't live with then, can't stop them from accessing the dark corners of the internet. Except you can with Google Home if you turn on parental controls. There are several things you can do here (click above for a full guide) ranging from restricting access to inappropriate YouTube content to making them say "please" when asking the Assistant to do things.

Google Home tips and tricks: Get up and running with Google Assistant

Use the Nest Hub as a digital photo frame

One of, if not the best feature of the Google Nest Hub is how it functions as a digital photo frame when not in use. Or at least it can, if you enable the feature. To do so, select your Nest Hub from the home screen, select the gear icon and then Ambient Mode. Here's a guide on getting your photo albums working on Google smart displays.

Turn Home into a travel guide

If you've used Google to book a holiday before, you'll know that its flight search tool is pretty good for getting a sweet deal. This extends to Home, as you can ask the tiny assistant to search for flights on certain dates, and get Google to keep track of them for you. If there's a change in price, Google will email to notify you. It's an impressively pain-free experience.

Create scheduled Routines

One of the more recent features allows you to set a schedule for Routines, meaning you'll no longer need to manually activate them. Go to Settings > More settings > Routines and you'll have the option to "Set a time and day". Choose which days and times you want the Routine to take place, then you can tell it what you actually want the Routine to be.

Check your history

Like the Echo, Google Home always has a record of your activity at hand so you can see what you (or others in your house) have been asking the smart assistant. From the home screen head to Settings > More settings and then scroll to the bottom to My Activity. It will take you to your history page and you can also delete Google Assistant recordings here.

Google Home tips and tricks

Get smarter with IFTTT

Until all the devices in our homes talk to each other seamlessly, we'll have to make do with IFTTT. But that's OK because we really like it, and Google Home plays nice with it too. First you'll need to make sure the IFTTT app is installed, then log yourself in.

You'll then need to search for Google Assistant, and once you've got your accounts connected, you'll be able to say things like "OK Google, turn on the kitchen lights when the front door opens", assuming you have the right smart appliances.

Remember Assistant is contextual

One of the Assistant's great features is that you can ask follow-up questions and it will remember the context. Try asking something like, "Hey Google, what's the capital of Spain?" and then follow it up with, say, "And what's the most populous city?". It means you can treat Google Home a little bit more like an actual assistant, and less like a piece of tech.

Use Home to translate languages

One of Assistant's latest tricks is acting as your personal translator. Just say "Ok/Hey Google" followed by something like "Help me speak Italian", "Be my Spanish interpreter" or "Translate Japanese to Hungarian". You can also just say, "Turn on Interpreter mode".

Set up Guest Mode

You're having friends over but can't be bothered to make a playlist. Let them do it instead. on the home screen tap on the device you'd like to add Guest Mode to. Tap Settings and then tap Guest Mode. Slide the toggle to on

Users will be able to pair with their phones (Home transmits an inaudible signal to verify devices). If that doesn't work though, you can find the Guest Mode pin number in the device settings and enter it manually.

Google Home tips and tricks

Use the power of touch

You might not have noticed yet, but the top of Home has a touch interface. You can use taps to play/pause music, or even move your finger in a circular motion to control the volume. This goes for the Max too, where you can drag a finger along the top to adjust the volume - or a tap to pause what's playing. You can see a full list of touch controls for all the Google Home speakers here.

Use it as an alarm clock

Like Echo, Google Home also functions as a reliable alarm. Just say "OK Google, set an alarm for 7am" and you're in business. If you want to set a timer, you could say "OK Google, set an alarm for 10 minutes time."

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