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Introduction to IFTTT: automate your life with smart applets

Set up this app with our beginner’s guide, and let your device do the work

IFTTT (“If This, Then That”) is a robust web-based platform that can connect to an iPhone or iPad in order to link multiple Internet services together. Through the app, conditional chains of statements can be created, turning Apple’s handset into a truly powerful automated assistant. In this article, we’re going to walk you through the basics of IFTTT before using a series of examples to demonstrate how the platform can help make aspects of your life more productive, less repetitive, and – most importantly – a whole lot easier.


Just a few of the services that work with IFTTT

The Basics

The premise of IFTTT goes like this: after selecting two different services from a list of supported channels, which can include anything from Facebook to Google Drive to iOS Photos, users can then create an applet where if this occurs, then that happens as a result. The first part of this statement is called a trigger and the second part an action – you then link these alongside channel-specific ingredients to customize how your chosen two services communicate with one another.

For example, you could program the app to automatically save photos to Dropbox if you’re tagged on Facebook, send you a text if it’s going to rain, or turn your heating up if you’re on your way home.


Sounds pretty simple when the concept is diluted down to four words

To learn how to customize your living, work, or virtual space – you’ll need to first download the free IFTTT app, then read on for our easy beginner’s guide. We’ve written instructions showing you how to hook up a useful example scenario with several of the more popular triggers and actions. Feel free to mix these up or go freestyle once you get used to how the app works, though – that’s what IFTTT is all about!


IFTTT can use the iOS Location channel to perform actions when your device enters or leaves a designated area, providing a useful way for office workers to automatically log their hours in a Google Drive spreadsheet. To do this, follow these steps:


Use this map to define your home or work location

1. In the IFTTT app, press the My Applets tab followed by the “+” button to create a new applet.

2. Press +this to choose a trigger. Tap Location from the list of services and then You enter or exit an area. You’ll be shown a map – tap Edit location and find your workplace on the map. Hit Save and then Next.

3. You’ll then be prompted to choose an action. Tap Google Drive followed by Add row to spreadsheet. Choose a title for the spreadsheet, and take a quick look at the basic code in the Formatting section. You can leave it as it is, or add to the formula if you’re feeling brave.

4. Press Next, then Finish. Voila! The spreadsheet will be automatically created in your Google Drive documents and fill up when you start coming and going from work.

iOS Location is also useful for triggering smart appliances when you get home, for example.


Besides knowing where you are, IFTTT can also check on your local weather forecast and inform you of any changes. The below recipe example shows you how to set up IFTTT to alert you with a push notification if your local temperature will drop below freezing overnight:


Don’t be shy of what looks like code – they’re just the “ingredients” of this applet recipe

1. Create a new applet and for the trigger, select the Weather Underground channel. Choose Tomorrow’s low drops below and input 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. For the resultant action, find the Notifications channel and pick Send a notification. You can customize the message if you like but it’s a good idea to keep the ingredients as they are.

3. Hit Next, then Finish, and you’re done! You’ll now receive an automated alert from IFTTT if tomorrow’s forecast is looking bleak.

Weather Underground can also send you a general weather report each morning or evening, or it can alert you against specific weather conditions. You can customize the above recipe by simply selecting a different trigger in step one.


IFTTT can dive into the iOS Photos app, too, and in doing so it allows users to automatically back up captured images to another channel. This recipe takes all screenshots taken (by pressing home + power simultaneously) and saves them to Dropbox, making them easy to access from a computer.


Applets can be easily switched on or off once created

1. To enable it, create a new applet and select the iOS Photos channel before choosing the Any new photo ingredient.

2. As an action, select the Dropbox channel and pick Add file from URL. Don’t worry too much about the wording here – you can customize the folder path if you like, but the defaults are fine.

3. You know the drill by now. NextFinish, and you’ll then find your Dropbox folder automatically topped up whenever you take a new screenshot.

That’s not all you can do with the iOS Photos channel – it can also register when you’ve taken a selfie or added snaps to an album, and adjust accordingly.

Social Networking

Support for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, and tons more means IFTTT can also automate your social networking life. The most basic recipe that you can configure enables cross-posting between Facebook and Twitter. To set it up, use the following triggers and actions:


There are plenty of actions for Twitter users to choose from

1. Create a new applet, and simply set the following trigger in the Facebook channel: New status message by you.

2. Then complete the recipe with this ingredient from the Twitter channel: Post a tweet. The tweet text should just contain the ingredient “Message.”

3. Close the applet maker, and posting to Facebook will now automatically write an identical message to Twitter.

You can also use IFTTT to keep your profile pictures in sync between the two social networks: just set a Facebook trigger to “Your profile changes” and complete the statement with the Twitter action, “Update profile picture.” It’s as easy as that.

Read It Later

IFTTT supports the three big Read it Later services out there – Instapaper, Pocket, and Readability – and countless options let users take control of their online reading list. This example shows how you can favorite a tweet to automatically save a linked article to read later.


Never worry about forgetting about a link again

1. Create a new applet, hit +this and choose Twitter. Specify New tweet liked by you as the trigger.

2. Choose your preferred Read it Later app as the service, and pick the Read later action.

3. Finish the applet, and now if somebody posts something interesting to Twitter, you can like it to ensure the link won’t be forgotten.

Smart home / Alexa

If you have any smart gadgets like a Fitbit activity tracker, Nest thermostat, or Philips Hue lights, you bet those can be linked up with IFTTT. The obvious way to operate these things would be through Siri, but Apple hasn’t opened up Siri to IFTTT properly yet. Our favorite combination so far is to use the Amazon Echo’s voice assistant, called Alexa, instead. Here’s how to start a cool light show with just your voice!


You can say anything you want, so long as it starts with “Alexa, trigger…”

1. In a new applet, define Alexa as your service and then choose Say a specific phrase. On the next screen you get to choose the phrase – type whatever you like! We’ve gone for “party time” as per Alexa’s advice.

2. For the action, select Philips Hue and choose Set to color loop.

3. Once activated, this applet will cause your lights to perform a cool color show if you speak the phrase “Alexa, trigger party time” to your Amazon Echo.

Discover more applets

Creating powerful applets is simple with IFTTT, and easy for those without prior knowledge of automation to organize aspects of their life for maximum efficiency. However, even easier than making your own applets is utilizing the huge of pre-configured recipes.

The Discover tab of the main app features staff favorites and editorial listings of popular applets. To activate one, simply tap it and then press Turn on – you’ll be prompted if you need to link any services or configure any variables to get it up and running. It’s a great place to find useful ideas you may not have even thought of otherwise!

Likewise, if you want to find existing applets based around a particular app, just type the app’s name into the Search tab and the app will throw up all kinds of inspirational ideas.

If what you’re looking for hasn’t yet been created yet, remember: making recipes using the service really is as simple as “if this, then that.”

You can download IFTTT in the App Store for free – and there are no ads or subscription fees.

Price: Free
Version: 3.1.6
Size: 55.4 MB
Platform: iPhone, iPad & Apple Watch
Developer: IFTTT

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