Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to remember to mute your phone when you are in a meeting? What if your lights would turn on as you drive up to your house? Wouldn’t it be cool if the wallpaper on your phone would automatically update when you posted a picture to Instagram? If your Twitter profile picture would automatically change when you changed your Facebook profile picture, that would be cool, right?
I like to work smarter, not harder. IFTTT helps me with that mission. IFTTT stands for “If This Then That” and is pronounced like “gift” without the “g.” IFTTT let’s you create “recipes” and use “recipes” created by others. These recipes all are based around if something happens, something else happens.
Let me explain this better with an example. I use IFTTT in many different ways. One of my recipes triggers if my wife calls and I don’t answer. She will automatically get a text from me that says, “Hey babe! Busy right now. What’s up?” Then she can text me and I can respond or call back when I am available.
I sleep like a rock, but my wife wakes up when someone drops a pin across town. She mentioned that when I get emails during the night, the notification would wake her up. I created an IFTTT recipe so every night at 10:15 p.m. my phone will mute itself. Then at 6:00 a.m. the volume will turn back up.
How Does It Work?
The service is fairly straightforward and anyone can create their own recipes with ease. As mentioned above, the recipes answer “If This Then That.” It uses channels, triggers, actions, and ingredients to create the recipes.
Channels are the building blocks for IFTTT. There are 112 channels, and each has its own triggers and actions. Some of the popular channels are Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, Craigslist, Fitbit, Nest, Weather, and more. Click this to view all 112 IFTTT channels.
The triggers are the “This” part of the recipe. If something occurs, that triggers something else to happen. Some triggers are “I take a photo on Instagram” or “It’s forecasted to rain tomorrow” or “I’m tagged in a photo on Facebook.” These trigger actions.
The “That” part of the recipe are actions. Some actions are “send me a text message” or “make a note in Evernote” or “email me.”
The data from a trigger is called ingredients. The ingredients of an email trigger could be subject, body, attachment, received date, and sender’s email address. Each trigger has different ingredients.
How to Create a Recipe
I know what you are thinking: “This doesn’t sound that easy, Aaron!” Let’s walk through how to create a recipe. How about we create a recipe that emails me when I miss a call on my cell phone. Sound good?
When you click to create a recipe, you will be taken to the page below. Click “this” to get started.
Here is where we choose the first channel. The most popular channels are listed or you can use the search bar to find the channel you need. Right above the search bar you can click to view all channels. I have an Android phone and want the trigger to happen when I miss a call, so I’m going to select “Android Phone Call.”
Now we need to select the trigger for this channel. Remember each channel has its own set of triggers. All available triggers will be listed with a short explanation of what will cause that trigger to fire. I will select “Any phone call missed.”
The next step would be to fill out any ingredients for that trigger. In this case, there are no ingredients to select, so I just click “Create Trigger”.
Now we move to the “that” part of the recipe. Click the blue “that” to keep moving.
Now we need to choose the action channel. Same as the selecting the channel previously, you can search, select from the top channels, or view all channels. I want an email sent to my Gmail address when I miss a call, so I will select the Gmail icon.
The only action available for Gmail is “Send an email”. Makes sense. I’ll click that.
Now we have some ingredient options. I need to assign an address, a subject, a body, and an attachment URL. The cool thing is there are dynamic text options in the ingredients. More on that in a second. I put “firstname.lastname@example.org” in the to address. The subject, by default, is set to read, “Missed phone call from [ContactName] [FromNumber]”. The contact name and number of missed call will be dynamically inserted in the subject line.
The body reads, by default, “Missed phone call from [ContactName] [FromNumber] [OccurredAt] via Android. Again the bracketed information will be filled in dynamically. You also have the ability to put an optional attachment with the email.
You have the option to modify any of the ingredient fields and you can also insert additional allowed dynamic fields. Just click the blue “plus sign” in the upper right of each ingredient field to view available fields. Click “Create Action” and we are almost there!
In the last step, you have the option to modify the recipe title so you can recognize this recipe in your list. Modify the title, click “Create Recipe” and we are done!
Below is the email I received when I missed a call from my esteemed colleague, Kristina Johnson. I blurred her phone number for her safety or whatever.
There are tens of thousands of recipes created by other IFTTT users. Just click “Browse” at the top of any page. You can browse by collections, featured recipes, certain channels, or what you want to accomplish.
*Note: You will need to activate channels the first time you use them. You also need to download the IFTTT app on your phone if you would like to use channels that utilize your phone. Activating is very quick and easy and you only need to activate a channel once.
Sounds fun. Can I use it for work?
The examples above are about how the service can be utilized for personal use. What about for business? IFTTT can absolutely be used to automate business processes. Here are some recipe examples that business people could find helpful.
Monitor your or your competitors’ TripAdvisor reviews
View Instagram posts in your area or at your business
Mute your phone when you have a meeting on your calendar
Keep a spreadsheet of your new Twitter followers
Your phone switches to vibrate when you walk into your office building
Export new blog comments to a spreadsheet
Save your Tumblr ‘Likes’ for viewing later in Feedly
Add to a spreadsheet when you get new Fiverr orders
Post your latest blog post to your Facebook Business Page
Track business miles in a spreadsheet or calendar via text
Record on your calendar or spreadsheet when you get to and leave work
Get daily business articles emailed to you
Track all business trips and expenses in Evernote
Remind yourself to track mileage, expenses, etc when you get home
Backup your contacts to a spreadsheet
Find your lost phone by turning up volume by SMS or email
Save all your tweets in a spreadsheet
Get text notifications before your calendar events
Log your hours to your calendar
Text your wife/husband when you leave work
Get an alert when your (or your clients’) website goes down
Automatically track sales leads in a spreadsheet or your contacts
Receive a text when someone comments on your website
Get an alert when a certain person or certain people email you
Record a voice memo that gets emailed to you in text
Create shared meeting notes via email
Wish customers/colleagues a Happy Birthday on Facebook
And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
My recommendation is to create an account and just jump in and play around with channels and recipes. Every time I login I find a new recipe that makes my life easier and new channels are being added frequently. You can create a recipe to get an email when new channels are added!
Also, cool product channels like Automatic, Nest, Phillips Hue, Google Glass, Netatmo, SmartThings, WeMo, Wink, and more are being added all the time allowing you to automate things like control your lights, adjust the thermostat, and control your electrical outlets with IFTTT.
Did I mention it is all free? Check it out!