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What is Google Now and How Do I Use It?

Google Now is one of the most talked about features of the latest Android Jelly Bean. It’s Google’s intelligent personal assistant service that’s able to anticipate what you need, just when you need it. It also uses natural language technology to answer questions and perform actions you ask it.

Launching Google Now

Before we get into the way Google Now works, let’s see how to activate it on the Nexus 7. Just hold the Back or Home button at the bottom of the screen, and a circle with the word Google inside it will appear. Slide your finger towards it, like I did below, and you’re in.

Activate Google Now

Verify you want to use the service, and you’ll be taken to its main page.

Google Now main page

What Google Now Provides

It’s populated by so-called Cards, and these cards appear depending on location, what you search for on Google, and even Gmail messages received. For example, the service has realized that I support Chelsea (sports teams can be changed in the settings menu, too), and now shows me my team’s latest score. Once I get near a public transport station, I’ll get a card about the next buses coming, and always the latest local weather.

Once a new card pops up, you’ll get a notification. Like this one, for example, telling me that Chelsea will be playing tomorrow.

Google Now notification

It will notify you about meetings and even about flights you’ll be boarding (provided you got the ticket in your Gmail inbox). When you’re close to a local landmark, you’ll get the chance to check in or you’ll be told about the groovy photo spots around.

Google Now local landmarks

It requires your tablet’s localization services to be enabled. It can even calculate how long your commute will take, depending on available traffic information.

It also allows you to make search queries in easier. Just tap the search box at the top of the Google Now page, or you can just say the word Google and tell it what to search for. The voice recognition is pretty good too.

Google Now search

Google Now Settings

You can tell Google Now what you want it to get its nose into. Just go to the Settings menu, using the bottom right side menu button.

Google Now settings menu

There, you can access four types of settings — Voice, Google Now, Tablet search, and Privacy & accounts. The latter allows you to set the way the service works with searches and other privacy related options. Tablet search lets you set where Google Now can search – for example People or the music on your Google Music account.

Privacy and Accounts

The most important settings, though, are the ones in the Google Now category. They allow you to decide which cards are shown, their priority, as well as to tweak the way each one behaves.

Google Now card settings

Google Now can be be quite useful, if you’re not too scared of letting Google know where you are, what you search for, and where you go. It’s almost creepy in a sense, as it can predict where you’re going and what info you’ll need. But it’s seriously cool and helpful.

Have you used Google Now? Leave a comment and let us know what you think of it!

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11 Responses to What is Google Now and How Do I Use It?

  1. Cho CoMo January 31, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    Nice!! How do we set the order of the cards displayed?
    My display has Stocks 1st. Would prefer to have Mail 1st.

    • Austin Krause January 31, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

      Hi Cho CoMo

      There isn’t necessarily an easy to to rearrange cards. You can remove ones you don’t view until the one you want is up top but you can’t rearrange them, yet…

      • Bogdan Bele February 1, 2013 at 1:21 am #

        It would actually be pretty cool if you could move them around. Maybe in the next update.

  2. Cho CoMo January 31, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    My Settings button seems to be on the bottom right side and not:
    …”using the bottom left side menu button”…

    • Bogdan Bele February 1, 2013 at 1:21 am #

      A little mistake. Thanks for pointing it out.

  3. Cho CoMo January 31, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    Wow…….Dead board I guess. Sorry for thinking you were for real…

  4. daikyozin January 31, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

    This “feature” is incredibly creepy. I want to share as little as possible with Google.

    • Bogdan Bele February 1, 2013 at 1:20 am #

      Well, you’re not forced to use it. It can be creepy or useful, depending on the way you look at it.

    • mesa February 1, 2013 at 2:28 am #

      just disable location awareness. cards wont work with it but voice search still does.

  5. KingOkocim March 15, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

    I think it’s obvious that the main thing that needs to be updated is to have the capability of rearranging. Otherwise, I think it’s great. I have kind of accepted the fact that I don’t have a lot of privacy with all the technology I use. I might as well take advantage of the fact that data is being kept on me and enjoy this app. I think there are so many possibilities they can go with this if they decide to give it funding.

  6. svn December 25, 2014 at 6:49 am #

    Hi, first of all, hello fellow blue, I’m new to android and I was not keen on android at all, that is until, Lollipop came along, now android is beautiful like WP and IOS, I’m going to buy a device soon. Great article btw.

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