Tasker-plus-astrid-1

Tasker is an app that I wouldn't ever write a separate article about, because first of all I'm not qualified to do so, and second it wouldn't be an article, it would be an ebook. Or an ebook series. Anayways, Tasker an automation app for Android, one that lets you combine situations, locations, phone states etc with various tasks. It's is as powerful (and complicated) as apps go, but I initially downloaded it for one specific reason: give my to-do list a brain. Setting tasks by time alone is…inefficient. One day my shopping list reminder hits right when I'm at the store, the next day it hits 5 hours after I'm home from there. By using Tasker together with the todo app Astrid, such issues are a thing of the past – and if you think that locationn based reminders are old news, that's just the tip of the iceberg of what this combo can do. 

To get this working you need a few things. Obviously you need Tasker, which is a $6.50 download on Google Play. You also need Astrid, which in itself is free. Lastly you need the Astrid Locale add-on, a $1.50 plugin to an app called Locale that also works for Tasker. Why am I not using Locale, which is Tasker-like? I tried, and it simply didn't work properly (Locale fans: "not working properly" = WiFi based reminders triggering too slowly, develoepr didn't have a perfect solution). Tasker might be complicated, but there's a reason why it's so popular. 

To learn how to set all of this up you first need a quick crash course in Tasker. You need to know how to use two aspects of Tasker, "profiles" and "tasks", where profiles combine contexts and tasks. Contexts, or triggers as they're also referred to, are essentially anything the phone can possibly be aware of. This includes things like incoming calls, connected WiFi networks, locations, widget button presses, active apps, you name it. Any of these can activate a profile, which in term triggers tasks. Tasks are not tasks as in to-do list tasks, but rather actions that the Tasker app can perform. Examples of actions include changing settings, opening apps, playing sounds, writing files – the list here is as long as the one for contexts. The idea is that you make a profile that combines contexts/triggers with tasks/actions and in turn make the phone do something when something else happens. As an example, I have a profile that activates the speaker phone when my device is completely flat (and, obviously, in a call), which simply lets me put the phone down and have the speaker phone turn on, and off again when I pick it back up. 

As I said though, I'm not here to talk about uses of Tasker in general, but rather with Astrid. Using Tasker with Astrid in order to trigger actual reminder type tasks simply involves using the Astrid plug-in as your action that is triggered by a context in Tasker. This task is found under plug-ins -> Astrid Filter Alert when you're asked to select an action in Tasker (Astrid is mentioned a couple of other places in the actions menus too, but this is the one you want). Hit the "Edit" button besides "Configuration" and it will launch the Astrid Locale Add-on configuration screen. This screen will give you a list of all your Astrid lists (categories you can sort your todo tasks under) and allow you to select which one to use, as well as how often the reminder can go off. This will cause Astrid to remind you of your tasks in that specific list when the context is fulfilled in Tasker. 

The potential combinations here number in the hundreds, but to give you some idea of what I'm talking about, I'll give you some examples. My main use for this is a profile that combines the context of me not being connected to my home WiFi network with the Astrid list Shopping. This lets me add items to my grocery list in Astrid (the list called Shopping) and be reminded of that list when Tasker detects that my phone is no longer connected to my home WiFi network, normally meaning that I just left home. This is an alternative to normal location based reminders that use GPS locations, both in that it uses WiFi state, and in that it reminds me when I leave home instead of when I arrive at the store. The reason is simple: I live so close to so many stores that it's just as easy to have it remind me when I'm on my way out the door at home as when I'm actually at one of the stores, which would also require several locations programmed in (one for each store). The same sort of reminder would also be useful for reminding you of work tasks when you reach work, remind you of errands to run on your way home when you leave work, and so on. 

Another thing I experimented with was phone call based reminders. What if you have something that you want to talk with someone about the next time you talk, but not phone them up directly for that one thing? That can be both personal and business, where the latter certainly could include contacts you wouldn't call to ask about minor things. With Astrid and Tasker, you can create a context for when you're on the phone with a specific contact, and link that to an Astrid list. That way you could be reminded of all your tasks in the list John Smith every time you're on the phone with John Smith. I tried this setup out, and it worked perfectly. 

I also experimented with app based reminders. Are you one of those people who put off paying bills until you're using the online bank anyways? Assuming that you're using that through an app (which I do most of the time), you can set this combo to remind you to pay specific bills whenever you open up the mobile banking app. This can be used for lots of other things as well, like for instance reminding you of buying a book in paper form when you next open up the Kindle app to read, remind you to do a backup of app data the next time you open a specific app, or a whole range of other things that I'm sure people reading this are already thinking up. Since Astrid allows you to add tasks both via email and a web interface, as well as allow collaborations, you could even do things like remotely add a reminder to buy milk to your partner's device that is triggered by him/her plugging the device into a car dock. Jut be aware that while tasks can be added remotely and in turn be triggered by tasker, the link between context and Astrid task list has to exist beforehand. 

I really wasn't kidding when I said that this isn't like traditional location based reminders, as those are quite frankly very basic compared to a setup that can do things like remind you to back up your SD card whenever you remove it from the device. And again, using Tasker with Astrid is actually just one of Tasker's tasks, so this is an app you'll likely end up using for other things as well – which can help justify the price. I've barely graced the surface of what Tasker can do myself, and what sort of reminders I can create using this combination of apps. I've gotten so used to task notifications that don't actually remind me of things when I need to remember them that switching to a whole new method of dealing with tasks takes a while. Finally, if you're looking for more things to do with Tasker, our forum members have been discussing the app and potential uses for quite a while now