Why detailed Tasker instructions are not a good idea

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Most of the time, my Tasker articles talk about general concepts and ways of doing things, rather than provide step-by-step instructions. When I do provide something that looks like that kind of instructions, it’s normally in the form of examples. This has caused me to get a lot of requests for more detailed instructions, perhaps with a project download at the end, and sometimes I cave and do just that. It rarely ends well.

Tasker is a very unique app. You can have your first creation working after five minutes, and then a year later, you can still have problems getting something to work. It’s an app that has multiple levels of mastery built into it, and it’s only by exploring, trying, and failing that you will be able to learn how it works, and how to make something work.

Unfortunately, there’s a way to skip this natural learning curve: by looking for detailed instructions. The idea is that if you can just find someone who have or are willing to describe how to do something in extreme detail, you can just copy it, and everything will be peachy. That logic sounds solid, but unfortunately it’s about as wrong as it gets.

Android is fragmented. Extremely fragmented. The ridiculous number of hardware and software combinations is unbelievable, and that creates havoc for an app like Tasker, which taps into so many aspects of the OS. Many of Tasker’s abilities are completely and utterly dependent on factors such as hardware and software, and you have absolutely no guarantee that something that works on one device will work on another. Even two different ROMs based on the same version of Android and running on the same device can have drastic differences that will affect Tasker in various ways, and that’s the problem.

Detailed instructions create the illusion that when implemented, it should work. Sometimes it even does that, and everything is perfect in the world. More often than people realize though, issues pop up that throw the entire thing off, and what then? Well, if it had happened to the person who created the task/profile/whatever to begin with, it would likely take a minute or two to pinpoint the issue, because that person knows exactly how it works, and where things can go wrong. Then it would be a matter of finding a fix, which may or may not be possible, but at the very least the person would know what the problem is.

Unfortunately, the problems tend to happen to the people who try to copy something blindly, and they have no clue how anything works, which is why they copied it in the first place. So, how do you fix something that you have no clue how works? You don’t. Most of the time, that person then goes back to the person who initially created the instructions, asking why.

Sometimes that’s worthwhile, but I dare say that the majority of the time, it’s completely pointless. Without holding the device in question in your hand, seeing how everything works, trying to fix something that works for you but doesn’t work for someone else is just not realistic.

Personally, I hate posting anything that even remotely looks like detailed instructions. I still do it, because I feel obligated to help as many as possible, even though I know it’s likely going to blow up in my face. It’s amazing how very simple things can go horribly wrong when provided as detailed instructions, with a prime example being my Galaxy S4 wave-to-call profile. The profile took me mere minutes to set up, and everything worked 100% right away. I posted it, and the issues started coming in. Proximity sensors not working, call answering not working, microphone being muted, speaker being muted, and who knows what else. So much for the idea of a profile so simple that anyone could do it, which was what I thought it was when I posted it.

My advice to anyone new to or inexperienced with Tasker is to follow the advice from the first part of my beginner’s guide:

Bottom line, learning Tasker takes time. If you’re not willing to put in that time, you shouldn’t get the app. It’s that simple. Buying the app doesn’t entitle you to have someone program it for you, and user error isn’t an application bug. If you do put in the time and learn it, however, it will very likely revolutionize how you use your device.

There simply are no shortcuts when dealing with Tasker.

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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.