How does IFTTT (If This Then That) work?

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The idea behind IFTTT (pronounced ift, like ‘gift’ without the ‘g’) is the hyper-connected, recipe-based tool that allows you to fire an action, based on a predetermined trigger.  That trigger can be something that you have IFTTT watch for (an IF recipe), or when you tell it to do go ahead and run it (a DO recipe).  The construct is super simple and is based on the if statement structure.

For those of you who have written IF statements in spreadsheets, the principle is very similar – IF(logical_expression, value_if_true, value_if_false) – so check to see IF this is true, if so do THIS, if not do something else.  The change here is that we remove the ‘else’ (so it’s simply IF this is true, do THIS).  This trigger/action-based system is remarkably simple to set up, and you can be up and running in just a few minutes.

From the website or app (see below for Android and iOS options), you can create your own recipes (applets), or browse the creations of others that have been commonly used.  There is much inspiration to be had from what others have created, that’s for sure – but don’t be afraid to flex your creative muscles and have a go yourself.

What can IFTTT do?

To give you an idea of what IFTTT is capable of (a small fraction of what’s capable of), here’s a few examples of what I have IFTTT doing for me –

Send an email when my battery gets low

Trigger: When phone battery is reduced to 15%
Action: Send email with a message

I spend a lot of my time travelling, so my phone is a vital piece of equipment – if anyone needs to reach me, it’s likely to be through my phone in some way.  If that device is going to be unavailable (because of power availability), it’s helpful to let my team know, so they know what’s going on, and don’t worry that someone I’m meeting, has killed me (well, I could still have been killed – but at least they’ll know that my phone died with me).

Set phone to silent when I’m at work

Trigger: When connecting/disconnecting from a specific WiFi point
Action: Change notifications volume

In an office environment, it can be appropriate to have the notifications turned off – so you don’t disturb others around you.  I have a recipe that when my phone connects to the WiFi at work, it automatically turns my notifications off (silent).  Another recipe returns the ringer to full volume when I leave the WiFi area (i.e. leave the office, so I don’t miss anything on my way home).

Let someone know that you’re on your way home

Trigger: When entering a defined area using the phone’s GPS
Action: Send SMS to a number with a message

This can be extremely useful when you’re wanting to send a message to your loved one to say you’re on your way, but you want to stay on the right side of the law/safety – have IFTTT send that text for you!  You can customise the message, so your partner will get a text if your normal style (“Yo, I iz on my wayz. lol”…..or however you like to communicate with others – I’m not judging)

Record phone calls made, received and missed in your Google Calendar

Trigger: When any call is missed, placed or answered
Action: add an event to Google Calendar

Your phone keeps this record for you, but I’m a search fiend – information is power, and if I can quickly search for something on my laptop, it’s easier for me.  I have all calls logged into my Google Calendar – super helpful for those of us who perhaps aren’t as organised.

These are just examples of stuff I’ve set up, there is countless other things that it can do – as of right now, there’s more than 300 channels (things it can connect to), with everything from social media channels, to your thermostat at home, your CRM, to your email – the endless wonders of triggering channels awaits you.

Imagine being able to update your Facebook profile picture, and your Twitter profile was automatically updated for you.  What about every time you check in on Swarm, it adds that you were at a location in your Google Calendar?  Share your Instagram photos to Flickr, change your phone’s wallpaper to be Nasa’s image of the day, get a notification if it’s going to rain tomorrow, backup all your text messages to a spreadsheet, track how much time your spend at a client’s location…..and so much more.

Those who have shared Instagram pictures to Twitter will know that the systems don’t play well together.  Instead of getting that image displayed on Twitter, you instead get a link – IFTTT can grab that Instagram post and port it over to Twitter making the image a native post while it does so. Awesome.

Whether it’s using the existing recipes, or go off-piste and creating your own – there’s something for everyone over of the IFTTT site.  Additionally, it’s free to register an account and get cracking straight away, so if you haven’t already got one – get started right here…


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