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Home / Technology / It’s an unofficial Google Assistant desktop client, and it’s better than anyone has the right to be

It’s an unofficial Google Assistant desktop client, and it’s better than anyone has the right to be

We’re not really thinking about it, but it’s a little weird that Google has not created a standalone version of the PC Assistant, right? Or at least one built into Chrome. After all, Chrome OS has it now, and the assistant is also a big part of the Android experience (Bixby be damned). We even buy smart speakers and screens for the whole house, headphones can talk to Google, and yet desktops and laptops are ignored. But if you want to connect that gap on your own, it turns out you can. There is an unofficial Google Assistant desktop client that is painful in the ass to set up, but road nicer than it has any right to be.

The client was created by developer Melvin L. Abraham, and you can download it from the project̵

7;s GitHub. Just remember, the installation process is kind of disgusting. You need to sign up for a Google Cloud account (free trial will suffice) and follow thirty step installation process here. The very short version is that you register your own project with Google so that you can use the Assistant API in a way that probably was not made for. It is also likely to violate Google’s Terms of Use, and this may stop working at any time.

Although you do not have to be a developer to follow the steps (or even understand them, it is not that difficult to grok), it is definitely not an easy process. But if you make it work, you’ll enjoy the assistant right from a window on your desktop.

The overall interface is actually pretty good. Based on what I can tell, it seems to channel a more phone-based assistant user interface – although it looks like a smart screen, some things look different to my eye. The microphone release lives at the bottom right, but you can also enter commands via a text input field on the left. The theme window controls are at the top right and the settings are at the left. There’s also a story, accessible via the forward / back buttons at the top left next to it, and it even has light / dark theme support buried in the settings menu.

Quite a few settings are available.

The window is adjustable, and you can configure it to stay on top, close when it loses focus, or even automatically activate the microphone for commands when opened. It has a keyboard shortcut (ctrl + win + a on Windows) and even a built-in updater, all with a nice Googly-looking design, sporty big switches, rounded corners and Google fonts. (Much more beautiful than Google’s only other standalone desktop product: CPU-destroying, random desktop icon-flickering garbage that is Backup and Sync.)

Most of the basic assistant commands work – or at least worked as well as they do on other supported devices. The biggest obstacle is the lack of visual controls for some questions, such as whether you ask about your thermostat or want to adjust the lighting. It can display images if you ask for it (including from Google Photos) and provide visual feedback, but follow-up of smart home controls is either via snippet recommendations at the bottom or nothing at all, so it’s not as useful as an assistant-powered smart screen which can display large buttons to change settings. Still, it is difficult to complain too much when it is free.

Light and dark mode.

That said, many commands did not work. There is no always-listen mode, and Continued talk is more inconsistent than it is on other devices – although the settings menu implies that the function is supported, it just seems random and works only road after you expect it to. I also could not trigger any third-party services like Spotify or Netflix, which makes sense. But that means you can not use it to play music or start streaming on other devices. In the end, my routines didn’t work either.

The unofficial Google Assistant client on macOS (above) and basic OS (below).

To give it a try, there are even macOS and Linux versions, although some of the settings we mentioned may vary between platforms.

While I sincerely hope that our coverage does not bring down the Google banhammer, this app is too big not to share. Why is Google not creating a desktop Assistant client?

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