There is a rule in computer programming called DRY, “Don’t repeat yourself”.  Why should you do anything a computer can do easily?  To avoid doing repetitive tasks on the internet you can use the free online automation service If This Then That (IFTTT) to make technology start pulling more of the weight.

What is IFTTT?

In an age where new web companies need pronunciation guides, If This Then That’s name is refreshingly useful.  IFTTT lets you take things on the internet and say “If this trigger happens, then I want you to do that action”.
A trigger is an event on one of your services across the web.  Triggers could be a new email arriving in your Gmail or you making a new tweet as a favorite on Twitter.  You can tell IFTTT to have an action after each trigger. Some actions are make a new note in Evernote or add a new line to a Google spreadsheet.  When you match a trigger with an action you’ve created what IFTTT calls a recipe, and your saved for you to turn them on and off (if you want set up recipes for summer vacation for instance). Each recipe may have a chance for you to customize ingredients, or specific elements. For example, if you are sending a message to everyone who follows you on twitter, you could include that person’s twitter handle in your message by placing that ingredient in the space of the message.  It say’s something like: “Thanks for following me, {{UserName}}.”

Curb your enthusiasm

Excited???  Not to be a Debbier Downer, but the automation is not going to do everything.  IFTTT will only take one trigger and map it to one new action, so you can’t easily chain together a bunch of things.  It can’t save something to Evernote and send a Gmail at the same, you’ll need to chain to recipes to do that.   Once you set it up it will only do it when that trigger fires in the future, so if you want all your tweets saved to Evernote, you will have to move your old tweets over yourself (which you can do with the EN webclipper).

Get started

1. Create an account and activate channels. Go to IFTTT and make an account, then go to ‘Channels’ and activate the services you want to connect. Twitter, Gmail, WordPress, and Evernote are a good set of starters.

2. Get a recipe.  Once things are activated, you can search through existing recipes for ideas, or make your own.  In each recipe you may want to scroll down and see if you can make any changes.  If you are saving to Evernote, you can customize which notebook it goes to, and add information into the text of the note itself.

3. Turn it on and relax!

Make it work for you

There are literally dozens of articles about recipes so you can get ideas.  IFTTT keeps adding new services, like is automating tasks on iphones/ipads and android devices, so you may want to follow them on the IFTTT blog.


If you end up using this for teaching or anything please share it in the comments.


P.S.  If you like IFTTT you may like Zapier, but I don’t know enough about it yet to comment on it, but it seems to allow only a limited amount of usage before having to buy one of 3 paid plans.