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Automate your Android with mind maps using Dessin

Use this clever, good-looking app to set up simple automated tasks for your phone

Screen shot 2014-12-02 at 12.16.08

Sometimes, using an app to automate aspects of your Android experience can be a cumbersome experience. You’ll find yourself poking around statements and conditions using a simple but not entirely effective UI. Fortunately, if you prefer to do things a little differently, there’s another way. Dessin enables you to create automation out of mind maps, connecting together actions and triggers with a clever touch-based interface that soon becomes a delight to use.

You can use the app to create actual mind maps, of course, connecting together notes and images to plan out your ideas, but in this tutorial we’ll show you how to set up connections that will make your phone or tablet actually do things. The app is available in the Google Play Store for £2.99/$4.99, and it might be worth familiarising yourself with its UI before we start. It’s not particularly difficult, but it’s likely to be pretty different from anything you’ve used before.

For more tutorials like this, make sure to pick up the latest issue of Android Magazine. 

  1. Dessin 1

    Make a Trigger

    First up, we need to make a trigger. We’re going to use a Geofence to begin with, but we’ll show you some of the other triggers you can use later on. Push your finger on the screen, slide it through Triggers, and then slide it through Geofence to create one.

  2. Dessin 2

    Choose your spot

    You can drag around in the Google Maps window to pick the precise spot where you want your trigger to occur. It’s much easier to set the trigger when you’re in the place you want it to happen, as it’s a bit of a pain swiping to find anywhere further away.

  3. Dessin 3

    Make a connection

    Next, long-press on the arrow shape underneath the Maps window. We want to slide through to the connect options, which should open a new green ring of choices around your thumb or finger. We’re looking for the option marked ‘Relay to new’. Now slide through that to select it.

  4. Dessin 4

    Relay the information

    You can now choose what you want to happen when you’re at that specific location. We’re going to set it up so your phone goes silent when you’re within the GPS region. Select that option and slide through it to make the connection. Well done, you’ve made your first automation.

  5. Dessin 5

    What It Looks Like

    You should have something that looks like this: a connection running from your selected location to an icon. But you can do much more than that. Next we’re going to connect another action to the same trigger. Push on the screen to bring up the dial to select your next action.

  6. Dessin 6

    Add a new action

    Create your action in the same way, but instead of relaying it to a new trigger, just select Relay. You can now drag your finger to the location trigger to make a new connection between it and the action. You should now have two actions connected to the same trigger.

  7. Dessin 7

    Use Multiple Triggers

    To add multiple triggers, you need to use logic. Push on the screen again and choose another trigger. This time we’re going to set a day of the week. Select that option and the trigger should now be on the screen. Now push on the screen again and choose the logic option.

  8. Dessin 8

    Select It All

    Find the option called All. This lets you connect multiple triggers together, and means the actions will only occur when they are all fulfilled. Drop it on the screen. You might need to reposition a few things or zoom out to get a better view of what’s actually going on.

  9. Dessin 9

    Connect the Dots

    Now you need to put relays between the All node and the triggers and actions we’ve already set up. When you’re done you should have something that looks like this. You should be confident enough now to try some slightly more difficult things. Move to another position on the screen.

  10. Dessin 10

    Set An Alarm

    You can set an alarm in a similar way. First, select the days you want it to go off, then select the time you want it to sound. Select the alarm action and relay everything together with an All node. You should end up with something that looks like this.

  11. Dessin 11

    The logical choice

    The other logical choices are Negation and Any. Any lets you set a series of triggers, any of which will trigger the action. Negation lets you flip the settings. So rather than activating at a certain time or place, you can use this node to turn an action off instead.

  12. Dessin 12

    All in one place

    Your automations are built into the same page. Sliding the black icon on the bottom left of the screen lets you zoom in and out. Push on the icon, then press anywhere else on the screen and you can scroll around the page. It’s best to keep things tidy, all the same.

  13. Dessin 13

    Learn to undo

    Last but not least, it’s important to know where the undo button is. If you’ve created an intricate connection and accidentally delete a chunk of it, you’re going to be very annoyed. Push on the screen and you’ll find an undo and a redo option in the first radial menu.

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