Link your favorite apps together
Connect sites & services with IFTTT, a digital assistant that saves you time
I love tools that save time. Especially when they take care of technical stuff for me automatically. That’s why I use IFTTT - If This, Then That.
IFTTT lets you link together the sites or devices you use in creative ways. When you do something with one site or device, something automatically happens elsewhere.
You can use it to link your favorite task app to Google Calendar, for example. Or to link your smart speaker (Alexa or Google Home) to an Internet-connected light. Or link just about anything else that’s online. Here’s a quick explainer on how it works.
IFTTT calls the formulas you create to link services together “Applets” (as in little apps). I think of them as little recipes that get one app, site or device to talk to another one.
Here are some Applets I use to give you a sense of how IFTTT is useful.
Keep a log of stuff you like
Whenever I press like on a Spotify song, a Tweet or something I’m reading on Instapaper, IFTTT saves that item into a special journal I keep on Day One for stuff I like. You could also use similar Applets to create a curation blog on Wordpress or Tumblr that automatically posts stuff you’ve favorited, or that shares stuff to a Facebook group or Slack.
Update a Google Spreadsheet automatically
A new row gets added to a spreadsheet when I…
Like a video on YouTube. This automates a collection of favorite videos.
Someone messages me through my website
Create a link with bit.ly, so I can find all those links later in a single spot.
You can auto-update a spreadsheet with nearly anything you want to keep track of, such as new Spotify songs or things you’ve bought.
Stay focused while reading by auto-sharing articles
I like the IFTTT Applet that pairs Instapaper with Buffer, a social media posting app. Here’s how it works. Whenever I hit the ♥️ like button on something I’m reading in Instapaper, Buffer automatically schedules a Tweet sharing the article with its title and link. I can customize the comment later if I choose. This is useful because it lets me share something without interrupting my reading.
Set up this Applet once by picking hashtags or search terms you want to collect in a spreadsheet. Voila. IFTTT will create a new spreadsheet for you automatically and use it to save all future Tweets that meet your criteria.
9 of the most popular ways to use IFFTT
Find your phone Text your lost Android phone to turn the ringer volume up to 100%
Extend your battery Shut off bluetooth when your battery is low
Avoid awkwardness Get yourself out of a mess (by having your own phone called)
Stay dry Get an email if it will rain tomorrow
Pair Instagram with Twitter Tweet your Instagrams as native photos, meaning images that appear at full size, as opposed to appearing as links
Avoid missed calls Set ringer to high after a missed call
Space out Get a notification when the International Space Station passes over your house
Add songs from YouTube videos you like to a Spotify playlist
Stay hydrated Get an hourly notification to drink a glass of water
How to set something up on IFTTT
Step 1. To set up an Applet, pick a trigger (If this…)
This can be anything online that you want to keep tabs on. For example, if I Tweet with this hashtag… Or if a YouTuber I follow posts a new video… Or if someone presses my Ring doorbell.
Step 2. Pick a follow-up action (…then that)
Your Triggers can be connected to any resulting action you want to set up. For example, when one of those triggers occurs, you can have IFTTT send you a text message, email someone, or call your phone. Or add to a spreadsheet. Or turn your Internet-connected light a particular color. Or almost anything else you can imagine.
Here’s IFTTT’s 1-minute demo video.
Unusual Applets you can set up with IFTTT
Tell Google Home to turn on your oven
Tell Alexa to “scoop the poop” to trigger a litter-cleaning robot cycle
Park your automated mower if bad weather is predicted
Many apps and devices don’t yet work with IFTTT. The Oura smart ring I bought doesn’t, for example.
Linking services to one another requires that you permit IFTTT to access apps on your behalf. If IFTTT were hacked, that data could leak.
A free account lets you create five Applets. Pay $5 to use 20 Applets or $10 for an unlimited number.
Alternatives to IFTTT
Zapier is a similar service for connecting professional services you use. Marketing managers use it to send automated emails when people renew their subscriptions, for example.
Apple’s Shortcuts lets you set up formulas. You can set it up so when you tell Siri you’re ready to go home, it’ll automatically get directions home, send your ETA to someone and start playing the news. Or you can add an icon to your home screen that when you press it, automatically calls a loved one.
Automate for Android lets you create flowcharts to get your device to perform tasks automatically, like sending an SMS when you arrive somewhere.
When I’m not drafting Wonder Tools posts, I work at the City University of New York’s Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. I direct the Entrepreneurial Journalism Creators Program, a 100-day online course for people around the world building new ventures — niche sites, newsletters, podcasts, etc.
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