There are so many useful websites and services on the internet that it can be a struggle to keep track of them all. Just keeping up with social media can mean updating Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest and countless other smaller services. If only there was some way to add an element of automation to it all…
Step forward IFTTT – pronounced like gift without the ‘g’, and short for IF This, Then That”. This wonderful free service exists purely to make your online life easier by automating any task you regularly perform across a wide range of the most popular applications and services. And the best thing is that it’s totally customisable, so you can easily use ‘recipes’ other people have created or come up with your own.
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As you might have guessed by the name, IFTTT works in the same way as an IF statement in programming code. From the available channels – the name used to describe the services supported, such as Facebook or Twitter – you can set a trigger (the IF THIS part) and a resulting action (the THEN THAT part), which will all happen without your input.
For example, one of the most popular recipes on IFTTT is one that watches for any change to your Facebook profile picture (the trigger) and, when it detects one, automatically changes your Twitter profile picture to match (the action). You simply give IFTTT your Twitter and Facebook logins when you sign up and it handles the rest on the fly.
IFTTT’s many users have created some great recipes that you can use instantly. Send any starred Gmail messages directly to Evernote; when you’re tagged in a Facebook photo, send it directly to your Dropbox; get an automated email if it’s going to rain tomorrow; duplicate your Instagram photos in an “Instagram” album on Facebook. If you can think of it, and the services you need are in IFTTT’s 59 supported channels, you can probably do it.
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IFTTT can be incredibly useful simply by using the recipes that exist, and you can have a whole host of them set up in minutes, as we’ll see in the walkthrough. But don’t let yourself be limited by what you can see; with a bit of imagination (and almost no real coding) you can set up a recipe for any obscure task you need.
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Automate tasks using IFTTT
STEP 1: Go to www.ifttt.com and create a free account. You’ll be presented with a welcome screen explaining how IFTTT works – we’d recommend you take a few minutes to read this and understand the service’s capabilities.
STEP 2: Don’t click on “Create your first recipe” yet. Instead click the Channels tab at the top, and you’ll see all 59 supported services. You can use any of these in your recipes, but you’ll need to have an account with some of them.
STEP 3: To activate, say, the Dropbox channel, simply click on its icon, click the big Activate button, and follow the instructions to log in and connect Dropbox to IFTTT. The channel will turn from monochrome to colour, meaning it’s ready for use in a recipe.
STEP 4: Once you’ve added channels for all the accounts you’d like to automate, click on the Browse tab and see if some of your common tasks already have recipes. Change the sorting to Popular to get some of the all-time favourites.
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Here we continue our IFTTT tutorial.
STEP 5: Pick a recipe you want to use and click the arrow to enter its settings. Here you can see what the trigger is, and what action it will cause to happen. You needn’t change anything here, just click Use Recipe and the task will be automated. It’s that simple.
STEP 6: What if you have a task that’s unique? You can create your own recipe. Click the Create tab, then click the big “this” to bring up a list of trigger channels to choose from. Some channels are good for triggers, while others are best for actions.
STEP 7: Say you use Storify to gather together Twitter conversations, and you want to tweet whenever you finish a collection. Click Storify and log in if necessary, choose New published story and, as there are no parameters to add, simply create the trigger.
STEP 8: For the action choose Twitter, then pick “Post a tweet”. By default the tweet will contain the title and URL of the Storify post, but you can also add the date or a description using the dropdown box on the right, or type custom text into the box.
STEP 9: And there’s your personal IFTTT recipe, ready to go. Add a note to remind yourself and others what it does, then click Create Recipe. And that’s it. You can apply that process to any task in the 59 supported channels.