How to manage your school day with Google Now

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Credit: Derek Walter

Google Now is one of Android's best features, delivering reminders, calendar updates, and traffic reports automatically throughout the day. It can be a powerful assistant for students, as it takes the many details that fill your life and repackages them into a series of cards.

Optimizing Google Now works best for those who are all-in with the company's products like Gmail, Chrome, Search, and Calendar. It also works very well as a hub for setting quick reminders, such as assignment due dates.

Google Now cards

Google Now organizes information into context-based cards.

If you don't mind sharing a lot of information about yourself with Google, your smartphone or tablet will feel more connected to your day-to-day life, including school.

Get going with Google Now

If you haven't gotten Google Now up and running yet, doing so is obviously the first step. Head to the Google Search app, enter the settings, and flip the switch for Google Now to On. 

Get Google Now

Sign up for Google Now from the Google Search app.

The service is designed to tailor itself to your specific needs, so the more permissions you enable, the better the Google Now experience will be. One of the most important is to enable Personal results, which is located under the Accounts and privacy tab. 

Google Now settings

Be sure to enable Personal Results in Google Now to get the most out of the service.

This lets Google Now mine your Gmail for dates. For example, if you discussed getting together with some classmates over email and bantered about a date and time, Google Now will pop up with a card asking if you want to be reminded about the event.

Also, any appointments you have plugged in to your Google Calendar will present themselves as cards, which frees you from constantly needing to dig through your calendar app. It is a great way to get a preview of one's day, as your classes, labs, or study groups could all be nicely packaged.

Find the information you want 

Google Now has all sorts of different cards that pop up depending on your search history, which can include the desktop if searching through Chrome and logged into your Google account. This may appear slightly invasive, as you will start seeing suggested articles, TV shows, or sports teams.

It isn't perfect, as recently I researched Lemon Meringue Pie (the likely name for Android L) for an article; soon thereafter Google Now started giving me recipe suggestions.

However, there are several other situations where it is extremely useful. For example, if you had been researching a newsworthy topic for a class, like the current U.S. GDP, you may start seeing suggestions for related articles. It will also spot dates in your Gmail and ask if you wish to be reminded about them.

Fortunately, you can just swipe away the card if it's not relevant. Most cards also have a setting on the top right corner where you can answer a series of questions if you want to keep getting that kind of update. Doing this will help Google Now learn your preferences and become a better digital assistant.

It works rather well for reminders: something you may need often when it comes to keeping track of due dates, classes, and group projects. From within Google Now, tap the reminder button at the bottom of the app (the finger with the ribbon wrapped around it) and speak or type what you need to be bugged about. Select a date and time, and a card will appear when requested. Or just say "OK Google, remind me..." and say what you want to be reminded about, and when.

google now reminder voice

Tell Google Now to remind you something based on a location.

Additionally, Google Now will create location-based reminders. For example, you can tell Google Now to remind you to e-mail your assignment when getting back to your apartment. It will use your device's location to provide the proper notice when you get there.

To explore all of Google Now's different card categories, scroll again to the bottom of your card list and touch the magic wand. From here, you can add in details such as your favorite sports teams, stocks, and TV shows. You can even choose to hide scores in case you are stuck in class during the game and want to catch it later on DVR. 

Spend some time exploring this section to get an idea of what kind of updates you want. You can impress friends with the TV section, as it will suggest shows from streaming services or cable/satellite providers. 

Put Google Now one swipe away

If you are on an Android device running 4.1 or higher then get the Google Now Launcher for the best experience, as it puts Google Now just one swipe away from the home screen.

google now launcher screen

The Google Now Launcher puts the cards to the left of the home screen.

If you can't add on the Google Now Launcher or you prefer one of the many other choices available then consider one of the many Google Now widgets. Depending on the size you choose it puts one or more of the cards right on the home screen.

Another advantage is the quick access to Google Now's voice commands. You can just speak, "Okay, Google" and perform a search, set a reminder, or any of the other supported tasks. It enables you to quickly perform these actions instead of going through the hoops of unlocking the phone, finding the Google search app, then typing your query.

For example, it can rapidly speed up the research process. "Okay Google" works even when the phone is launched, so just say your search query and research away. Because Google Now pulls in your desktop search history, you can revisit a search topic with a group at a coffee shop even if your computer is still back at the dorm.

Google Now is a major project for the company, so it gets constant tweaks and updates with new features, such as the recent addition of travel suggestions from Field Trip or a card that tells you where you parked.

Updates to Google Now are typically dynamic and web-based, so they appear without the need for any kind of update from the Play Store. So stay on the lookout for new cards and how they can be tweaked to best meet your lifestyle.

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