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How to integrate Overlays for Android with Tasker

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Overlays is a great new Android app that allows you to place widgets on top of apps, and it has a ton of uses on its own. It does however also have a Tasker component, and that opens up for a lot of new possibilities.

Note: Please check out the link to my other post on Overlays for background information on Overlays before continuing this post. I decided to cover Tasker integration in a separate article to avoid chasing non-Tasker users away from an app that is perfectly awesome on its own. 

Overlays’ generic profile system has a lot of use, but I think that for most users the app profile system will be most useful, at least for larger widgets. If you use Tasker, however, you can toggle profiles using a Tasker action, meaning that you can utilize Tasker’s full range of features to control Overlays’ widget profiles.

In many ways, this is an extension of Overlays’ app profiles. My video in the other article showed a music widget appearing on top of Google Maps, which would be useful when using navigation in your car. Using the Tasker action, however, you could make similar scenarios, but make them a lot more intelligent. For instance, you could have the music widget be visible whenever headphones are connected, or whenever you’re connected to a specific Bluetooth device. You could have a battery widget appear when the battery level is below a certain percentage, or you could create a workout mode that integrated various control widgets with for instance automatic reading of SMS, or something like that.

To actually configure Overlays for Tasker use, you essentially just create a new generic profile in Overlays, give it a name, and configure it the way you want. Then you simply leave it disables, exit Overlays, and toggle it on and off using Tasker.

Those who are used to using Tasker’s scenes feature might ask why Overlays is any different than scenes, as they both share a lot of similarities. The simple answer is that while they overlap for a lot of things, Overlays’ ability to use any normal widget means that it can tap into apps and features that can’t be controlled from Tasker, and thus not from scenes. Widgets are after all more common that Tasker plugins, and what Overlays does is to make widgets available to Tasker.

In fact, Tasker scenes and widgets can be combined if you use Overlays properly. I have integrated it into my sidebar scene, and the result can be seen in the video below:

What is actually happening in that video is that I toggle an Overlays profile using a button in my Tasker scene, and then I have the widget resized and placed so that it fits perfectly next to the controls in the scene. This gives the illusion of the sidebar button toggling a widget next to it, while in reality it activates an Overlays profile that places a widget on top of the scene, in such a way that it matches up with it. I also have a toggle setup in the task that toggles the opacity of the part of the scene that the widget covers, which in combination with a fully transparent widget background allows me to set a different background color for the widget that what the widget itself actually allows.

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While I have the Overlays toggle task as an actual button, there is obviously nothing that stops you from doing it as part of a scene’s launch task. That way you could display widgets on top of scenes automatically, which could be used to make widgets part of a scene. A possible scenario that I may explore myself is to combine a scene based file browser with a music control widget to see if I can’t make fix an issue with Android widgets that I’ve been complaining about for over two years.

Regardless of what you end up doing with it, Overlays is a very powerful new tool to the Tasker arsenal. It’s well worth the $2 you need to fork up for the Pro version to use it with Tasker, and in the right hands, this is nothing short of gold.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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