How to use Google Assistant’s new add-on, Action Blocks


If you’re a Google Assistant power user, you might be interested in the ability to add home screen launchers for Assistant Actions. Jack Wallen shows you how.

Image: Google

To some, Android Assistant is all the things. After all, there’s not much it cannot do within the Android ecosystem. But Google is always coming up with ways to make it better and more efficient. Such is the case with the new add-on, Action Blocks.

Action Blocks is a way to make routine actions easier accessed, by way of customizable buttons on your Android home screen. So if there are certain tasks you frequently use Assistant for, you can turn those tasks into Android home screen launchers. 

With Action Blocks you can create a single-tap launcher for things like:

In fact, just about anything you can do with Google Assistant can be turned into an action block.

Let’s walk through the process of installing and using Action Blocks.

SEE: Managing and troubleshooting Android devices checklist (TechRepublic Premium)

What you’ll need

The only thing you’ll need to work with Action Blocks is a device using Android 5 or newer. 

How to install Action Blocks

Action Blocks must be installed from the Google Play Store. To do so, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Google Play Store on your Android device.
  2. Search for Action Blocks.
  3. Locate and tap the entry by Google.
  4. Tap Install.
  5. Allow the installation to complete.

How to create an Action Block

Open the Action Blocks app from within your Application drawer. At the bottom of the main window, tap Create Action Block (Figure A).

Figure A

actionblocka.jpg

The Action Block main window on a Google Pixel 4.

In the resulting window, select from either one of the common actions, tap Create Custom Action, or expand the More Actions section and tap one of those entries (Figure B).

 
Figure B

actionblockb.jpg

Selecting the Action Block to add.

If you don’t find the Action Block you want to add from either the Common or More sections, tap Create Custom Action. In the Custom Block creation window, type out the action you want to use for the block (Figure C).

Figure C

actionblockc.jpg

Creating a custom action block.

Let’s say, for example, you like to have the latest tech news read to you. For that, enter the following in the text area:

read me the latest technology news

After you’ve typed the Assistant command, scroll down and tap Test Action (Figure D).

Figure D

actionblockd.jpg

Testing the command to be used for your Action Block.

After the test succeeds, back out of the test and you will be asked if the command worked as expected (Figure E).

Figure E

actionblocke.jpg

Did the action work as expected?

Tap Yes and you’ll be returned to the Action Block creation page. Tap Next and then tap Choose Image to select an image for your new Action Block and give the block a name (Figure F).

Figure F

actionblockf.jpg

Selecting an image and creating a name for your new Action Block.

Tap Save Action Block to save your configuration. You will then be able to add the new block to your home screen. Tap Next and then tap Add Automatically and you’ll find your new Action Block on a new page of your Android home screen (Figure G).

Figure G

actionblockadded.jpg

A new Action Block has been added to the home screen.

By default, these blocks are pretty large. If you long press the block, you can then resize it (Figure H).

Figure H

actionblocki.jpg

Resizing a new Action Block on the Android home screen.

And that’s all there is to creating a new Action Block on Android. Although this feature may not be for everyone, if you get really creative with this tool, you can make Google Assistant seriously efficient.

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