Make yourself at Home: the 12 best Google Home tips and tricks

From custom voice commands to ostrich sounds, here are our favourite Google Home special moves...

Getting a smart speaker can be like starting a new friendship - it's only three months down the line that you learn they can juggle and do an excellent impersonation of an ostrich.

And so it is with the multi-faceted but modest Google Home, which seems to learn new skills on a daily basis, only to tell precisely no-one. 

Some of its best tricks - answering obscure questions, telling you the news, playing Spotify songs - are easily found in the Home app's 'discover' section.

But other features are either buried in its settings or require some extra services like IFTTT to bring them to life. That's why we've gathered all of our favourite new Home skills to help your new friendship blossom. But first, a starter tip for UK-based Google Home fans...

2) Talk to your calendar

Until very recently, Amazon’s Alexa could add entries to your Google calendar, but Google Home couldn’t. Strange, eh? Thankfully, this odd oversight has now been fixed.

To add a new entry to your Google calendar just say ‘Hey Google, add event’. Your Home will quiz you about the name and time of your ‘e-vent’, before adding it to your calendar.

Unfortunately, you can yet choose to add entries to individual calendars yet, or choose between work and personal calendars. But hey, it's a start...

3) Make it your sous chef

If your Home lives in the kitchen, try this cracking new feature. Say ‘Hey Google, find me a recipe for [insert latest culinary addiction]’ and you’ll the option of both a list of ingredients and step-by-step audio instructions, just like a slightly more patient Monica Galetti was standing right next to you.

If you’d rather search for recipes using an old-fashioned laptop, Google is now adding ‘Send to Home’ buttons underneath its partners’ recipes in search results, which you can later trigger in the kitchen by saying ‘Ok Google, start cooking.” We haven’t yet seen these in the UK search results, but there are apparently already five million recipes with voice instructions to be getting on with.

Incredibly, owners of the Anova Wi-Fi Precision Cooker can also now connect it to their Home for voice-activated sous vide cooking (via More settings > Assistant apps). What a time to be alive.

4) Turn out the lights with 'bedtime'

Of course, it’s great that Google Home is adding support for new accessories on a seemingly daily basis, but this also means some pretty darn clunky command phrases.

Luckily, shortcuts are now incoming for Android users (go to More settings > Shortcuts), and iOS users can get similar custom voice commands with IFTTT. Our favourite IFTTT recipe for Philips’ Hue lights lets you turn what would be a tiresome “Ok Google, turn off all the lights” command into “Ok Google, bedtime”.

Just head to this IFTTT Applet, connect your Hue lights, and tweak the wording to your favourite ‘lights out’ phrase. “Ok Google, hello darkness my old friend…”

5) Turn it into your travel agent

It’s that time of year when thoughts turn to holidays, and all of the painful deliberation and organisation that involves. Luckily, we now have voice assistants to lend us a helping hand.

Say “Hey Google, find me flights to Reykjavik between November 10th and November 17th” and she’ll not only give you a precise idea of the cost of flights, but will also offer to set up email alerts from Google Flights to tell you about any price changes.

Okay, you’ll probably still want to use a screen to check out the hotels, but it’s a good way to throw around destination ideas while you focus on more important things like drinking.

6) Doze off to its ambient sounds

The Home’s new cooking skills (see tip 3) make it a fine kitchen companion, but a good reason to have one on your bedside table are its strangely addictive relaxation sounds.

You can either take pot luck by saying “Hey Google, help me relax”, or pick your favourite with “Hey Google, play forest sounds”. There are now 15 different choices of ambient sound, from babbling brook to oscillating fan – check out the full list to find your favourite.

And if that doesn’t send you to sleep, it might be time to call on a meditation app (“Hey Google, talk to Headspace”).

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