IFTTT – Everything You Need to Know

Our lives seem to get more and more complex every day. So when I heard about a way to automate and simplify my life, I jumped at the opportunity. This simple little tool called IFTTT is free and easy to use. It is also a great way to organize your life across digital platforms and have fun doing it!

What is IFTTT?

Pronounced either by the individual letters, I-F-T-T-T or by using the word “gift” without the “g”, IFTTT stands for “If This Then That.” “This” is the trigger event and “That” is the action that follows when the trigger occurs. The combination of these two linked events is called an IFTTT “recipe”. Instead of calling this combination an app or a program, it is called a recipe, which gives the correct implication that the everyday person (cook) can easily develop a recipe.

IFTTT - feature image 1

While you can create your own recipes, you don’t even have to as there are hundreds of IFTTT recipes pre-prepared and ready for you to use. With IFTTT you have the ability to set up automated tasks without having any knowledge of programing.

IFTTT recipes can do amazing things. Here are just a few:

  • Add a calendar event for bringing an umbrella in the morning when the forecast calls for rain
  • Turn off the GE Café or Profile oven with a remote command
  • Receive a text message when a motion sensor is triggered in your home
  • Get an email alert every time there’s a new free download at iTunes
  • Automatically mute your phone when you enter your church or other place
  • Send a text when a certain stock hits the price you set
  • Automate Tweets
  • Get a notification when your favorite team’s final score is posted
  • Remind you to take vitamin D if it’s a cloudy day
  • Remind yourself to put on sunscreen when the UV Index is high
  • Get an email when a post for the item you are looking for appears on Craigslist
  • Alert you to an overnight freeze so you can cover your plants
  • Log a note to a spreadsheet each time the ISS (satellite) passes overhead

Getting Started With IFTTT

To use this service, just hop over to the IFTTT website where you will see the recipes set up by interest. There are predefined recipes for music lovers, baseball fans, car lovers, gardeners, android owners, iOS users, businesses, weddings, parenting, shopping, and for those seeking a healthy lifestyle. There are even recipes for outer space fans. Some of these recipes are bit far-out, but many are extremely useful.

IFTTT - Recipes for Music Lovers

Using IFTTT is easy. First you create a free account. Then you browse through the recipes and choose one you would like to try. IFTTT works with over 220 different web services and devices. These are called Channels. When you pick out a recipe to use, you are asked to connect to the necessary channel(s). For instance if you want to use a recipe that uses chance of precipitation, the UV index, or the temperature, you will be asked to connect to the weather channel and to choose your location. If you want to use a recipe that sends information to your Dropbox account you will be asked to connect to the Dropbox channel and to enter your Dropbox name and password.

IFTTT Channels include web services like Pinterest, Spotify, Digg, Gmail, Evernote, eBay, Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter and others. There are also Channels for connected home devices like the Amazon Echo, Hue light bulbs, Nest thermostats, WeMo Switches, and GE connected appliances. There are even car-related devices like Dash and Mojio and health-related devices like FitBit, Withings, and Nike+.

If you want to enable a recipe for your iPhone or Android phone, you will have to add an IFTTT app to your phone. Both the apps and the IFTTT service are free.

You can create your own recipe by clicking on your name in the upper right corner of the screen and choosing Create. You will then be taken through a simple step-by-step process where you choose your Channel(s), trigger, and resulting action.

IFTTT - create a recipe

Once your recipe is complete, it will read something like this, “If the temperature gets over 90% flash the Hue lights red.” Of course, if you have more than one Hue light, you get to choose which light or lights you want to respond to the recipe. Once your recipe is enabled.  You have the option to turn off, delete, or edit the recipe at any time. You can also share recipes with others.

I have many IFTTT recipes. One of them emails me a link to technology articles from the New York Times when they become popular. Another backs up my contacts to a Google Spreadsheet whenever I add a new contact. I also have one that turns on the living room lights if it is after dusk and I approach my house with my cell phone and one that sends me a list of apps that have gone free in the Apple store. There two more that I really like. The first will ring my cellphone when I ask my Amazon Echo personal assistant to find my phone. The second will put my Hue lights in a party mode, cycling through color after color.

IFTTT – IF vs. DO

Just a few months ago IFTTT renamed their original application to IF and released a new suite of apps called Do. The Do apps are available for both Android and iOS.  These allow users to create customizable shortcut applications and actions. The new apps are Do Button, Do Camera, and Do Note. The Do Buttons allow you to connect tools and services together and turn their function into a shortcut on your smartphone’s home screen. Instead having a trigger, you initiate the action by pressing the Do button on your phone. You basically set it to perform a certain function every time you press the button.

For instance you can set the Do Camera button to automatically post a photo to Twitter every time you snap a picture. Do Note is focused on sending quick notes. You can email yourself a note, add it to Google Calendar, etc. Do Note can also translate a single word into French or create a note in Evernote. If you are an Evernote user, this can be very convenient. DoNote is also useful for helping you remember things. You can jot down the name of a new song, artist, or drink that you love and have Do Note email it to you for future reference.

Like the IFTTT recipes, there are many prewritten Do commands. My favorite is the Do button that can get you out of a bad date. Just press the button and your phone will ring. The call will continue for as long as you need it to while you may your apologies to your date.

The uniqueness of these little prewritten recipes always amazes me. For instance, I implemented one that sends a map of my current location to my home HP printer and I have used it to let my husband know where I am without a call or text. There is also a Do button which you can use as a counter. Every time you press the button, the action will be stored in a Google spreadsheet. You can count the number of times that some action occurs. You can keep track of anything from the number of glasses of water you drink to the number of times you complimented someone.  On iOS you can add your Do buttons to the bottom of your notification screen for easy access.

IFTTT - do buttons iOS

The idea behind the Do button is to shorten tasks to a simple button press. If you take a lot of photos to send to others or to store in a certain place, the Do Camera app is very useful. You can snap a quick photo and send it on its way quite quickly.

The Do apps are quite new and although currently quite useful, I must state my two gripes about the new Do apps. First is that, as I have started, there are several apps Do, Do Camera, and Do Note that you have to juggle. I wish they could be combined into on app. Next, when looking through the Do apps, many do not indicate what Channels or types of devices you need to own or subscribe to. For instance, in this list from the iPad app, the first one says “Do Hue” and you can probably tell that you will need a Hue light to make it work. However, when you look down the list, unless you know what the symbols beside each Do word stand for, you may have to open each up to see what type of devices they control.

IFTTT - Do list

Conclusion

That said, I really like IFTTT and I use it every day to shorten and automate tasks. IFTTT was launched in September of 2011 and now, just four years later, users are creating about 20 million recipes a day. The reason for its popularity is that it combines connectivity, creativity, and automation with ease of use. In addition, it’s fun. Spend some time exploring the countless ways that IFTTT can help you automate and simplify your life. You’ll find a whole new world opening up to you.

Author: Sandy Berger

Sandy Berger, respected computer authority, journalist, media guest, speaker, and author, has more than three decades of experience as a computer and technology expert. Her eight books include: How to Have a Meaningful Relationship with Your Computer, Your Official Grown-up's Guide to AOL and the Internet, Cyber Savers –Tips & Tricks for Today’s Drowning Computer Users, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Better Living through Technology, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to the Internet, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Gadgets & Gizmos, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Health & Wellness, and Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Travel. Sandy’s newspaper column, magazine articles, feature stories, product reviews, and computer tips can be found at her website, Compu-KISS.

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