What’s in store for Tasker and AutoApps? A Mini Interview with João Dias.
If you’ve ever wondered, “why can’t my Android phone do that,” the truth is it probably can. Thanks to the openness of Android APIs, there are lots of automation apps on the Play Store that let you do pretty much whatever you can put your mind to. Tasker is perhaps the most well-known automation app on Android, and it is about to undergo a change in ownership. As we reported earlier today, the original developer of Tasker, Pent, will be transitioning ownership and development over to João Dias, the developer of the popular AutoApps suite of Tasker plugins.
There’s no doubt about it: Tasker is in good hands. For anyone who has ever used the app, you have most likely used at least one of Mr. Dias’ many plugins. You might even use multiple, or subscribe to his entire suite of AutoApps. AutoApps plugins extend Tasker functionality well-beyond what the app is capable of by default. Plus, the developer himself is extremely active on all related message boards, and has built up his own website that is a go-to for any fans of not only his own plugins but also Tasker in general.
Still, as ownership transitions to the capable Mr. Dias, many of you might have questions about the future of Tasker and AutoApps. I reached out to Mr. Dias in order to learn more about what this news means, and here are the responses I received.
On the Future of Tasker and AutoApps
Mishaal: Is there anything you would like to say to start out with?
João Dias: I just want to start out by asking the community to please bear with me: Tasker’s code is very new to me so it’ll take me a while to be able to put out timely updates for it and generally be productive with it.
Mishaal: What will you do with your suite of AutoApps plugins? Will you consider integrating them, or will they continue to be developed separately?
João Dias: My plan right now is this: AutoApps will remain separate apps. Any functionality that would absolutely make sense in Tasker itself (ie. not related to external services) I can consider bringing in to Tasker itself. For example, AutoTools is a great candidate for having some of the functionality merged in. An issue with this is that I don’t want to confuse people with duplicate functionality so I’ll have to think long and hard about any of these changes. I will certainly ask for feedback from the Tasker community about this and see if, together, we can find the best way to deal with the situation.
Mishaal: How will the business model of AutoApps change, if at all, with this announcement? Will the subscription model change?
João Dias: All the public AutoApps can already be bought as single purchases, without a subscription. That will not change, ever. I intend to keep the business model unchanged for both Tasker and the AutoApps.
Mishaal: Will you continue using Joaoapps.com for all announcements, or will you transition to the Tasker website?
João Dias: I will continue using joaoapps.com. The current Tasker website will be available as a sub-site there. This will happen in the next days/weeks so please bear with me and Pent while we go through these changes. Expect some hick-ups here and there, but hopefully everything will turn out ok in the end.
Mishaal: Will you continue to use Google+ and Reddit, or will the Google Group remain the official support place?
João Dias: For now I intend to keep everything related to support as it is. I see no reason to change it. Of course this can change in the future if needed. Again, I’ll be sure to take any feedback from the community about this. Tasker is complicated as it is and if I have a million places where people can go to search for answers, users might get even more confused. I like how Pent managed to keep it all in one place for the most part, so maybe that’s the way to go.
Mishaal: Are there any plans for a user-generated portal of profiles/tasks/projects? Fans are scattered throughout the web (Google+, Reddit, Google Groups, JoaoApps forums, XDA, etc.) and have been looking for a single place to share their creations.
João Dias: Do you remember AutoTools Web Screens? Those are user-generated UI presets for AutoTools where everyone can contribute with their creations. I can see Tasker having such a functionality for Tasker profiles as well 🙂 Would be great! Although it’s a bit of a risk starting to accept user-generated content like that, that can potentially make your device malfunction if you’re not careful. Tasker is very powerful so I have to make sure users are very aware of that when importing anything into it. Right now you have to go through some effort to import stuff into Tasker, which serves as a kind of natural filter: if the user is not technically able to import stuff then maybe he has no business with importing stuff in the first place 🙂
Mishaal: For some, Tasker has been too unintuitive to use when compared to other competitor automation apps. Some would say other automation apps have caught up and even surpassed Tasker in functionality. What are your thoughts on that, and how would you address those criticisms?
João Dias: I can say that I have a big focus on making Tasker as beginner friendly as possible. It’s going to be hard to break out of the mold that Tasker is today, but I have some plans to make it more accessible. For example, the aforementioned pre-made Tasker Profile section could have a list of “official” profiles for all user levels. At startup a user could be asked “What would you like to do?” and a bunch of options like “Play music when I insert my headphones” or “Turn off the ringer when I’m at home”. The user would then be able to follow by example and check out how these tasks are made from the “inside”. Just throwing out ideas though, of course I’ll have to think what the best way to do something like this is.
Mishaal: What are your first plans for future development? Will you focus on adding new features first or ensuring compatibility with the upcoming Android P release?
João Dias: In November of this year I’ll have to update Tasker to target Android 8 at least, so that’ll be a big challenge for me that I have to take on no matter what. But my heart is with new features. Anyone that knows me knows that I can’t resist adding new features to my apps all the time. 🙂 If you follow my G+ community you’ll see near daily updates for my apps.
Mishaal: How will Android P’s restrictions on the use of non-SDK APIs affect functionality?
João Dias: Details are still scarce, but I hope it doesn’t mean that AutoTools Secure Settings or SMS integration in Tasker (and Join) will stop working for example. We’ll have to wait and see.
Mishaal: Will you consider adding additional permissions to Tasker, such as
WRITE_SECURE_SETTINGS, so users can take advantage of this functionality? What about extending other functionality such as the built-in notification listener service?
João Dias: I’ll have to find out what the best way to handle this is. As mentioned before I don’t want users to be confused with duplicate functionality. I also can’t take away existing functionality from AutoApps or people’s existing profiles and tasks will break; I’ll have to find out what the best way to deal with this is with the help of the Tasker community. I think simply adding the permission to Tasker will be easily doable yes, and bring no major side-effects, so I would say that I could add that. 🙂
Mishaal: What are your thoughts on the current UI design/functionality? Do you see yourself potentially re-designing the app?
João Dias: As most people who have tried an AutoApp probably know, UI is not my strong suit. It’ll certainly not be a priority right from the get-go but I’m always up for learning new stuff! 🙂 Hopefully I can make Tasker’s famed UI better as well!
On Reddit, Mr. Dias has also posted some additional details about his vision for Tasker. In one comment, he states that he “envision[s] a future where any app can easily send a ‘command’ to Tasker” and trigger an action (without the need for a plugin.) He states this might work similar to IFTTT’s WebHook events and would make Tasker integration “super-mega easy!”
As Mr. Dias continues to be more involved in the development, we’re sure to learn more about how his vision for the automation app will shape its future development. He is seeking direct feedback from users, and asks that you contact him via his email listed on his Google Play app page. For now, if you’ve ever shown an interest in Tasker, I highly recommend you jump on board and get the app since development will soon skyrocket. Also consider installing some of Mr. Dias’ AutoApps plugins as they’ve now become a lot more valuable to have. The amount of things you can do is mind-boggling, as Mr. Dias demonstrates by coming up with an impressive list of scripts he has implemented just off the top of his head.