What the heck is… IFTTT?

By Alex Wood 24 October 2016

Explaining the buzzwords of the moment: What's IFTTT and what can it do?

Your smartphone is bursting with apps and services but you’re struggling to manage all of them. Add some smart home devices to the mix and living in the digital world starts to get pretty overwhelming.

Have you ever wished all these services could talk to each other and save you the trouble?

IFTTT is the saviour you have been waiting for.

The free service’s name is short for “If This Then That” and connects everything you do on the web together. In other words, it’s like a virtual rosetta stone.

Alexa, Amazon’s superstar personal assistant will soon support IFTTT, meaning you will be able to control services from across the web using only your voice.

So before you turn your home into a Minority Report style vision of the future, let’s learn more about IFTTT and what it can do for you.

What can it do?

The possibilities are literally endless. Some are brilliantly simple, some are silly and almost all of them will save you valuable time.

Here are some of our favourite uses:

When the sun sets at night, turn on the hallway lights.

When nobody is at home, turn the heating off in the house.

When my boss sends me an email, text me.

How do I use IFTTT?

First you’ll need to open a free account.

At the heart of IFTTT lie “recipes”, a catch-all term for a set of instructions and triggers. Every recipe you create is made from a trigger (the if this) and an action (the then that).

You won’t need any programming knowledge at all and you can start making recipes in a matter of minutes.

Let’s walk through a simple example to create a simple recipe which updates your profile picture across different social networks on your behalf:

Make your first recipe

First you need to start by creating a new recipe and tell IFTTT which trigger you need by clicking “this”.

Select the service

You can choose from hundreds of services. In this example we’ll pick Facebook. You’re now presented with a list of Facebook triggers.

We’ll choose “Your profile changes”:

Choose the trigger

Now we need to let IFTTT know which profile change will force the trigger.

In the drop down menu we’ll select “Profile Picture”. If this is the first time you have used IFTTT, you will be asked to connect your account by signing into Facebook and giving your permission.

Define what happens next

Congratulations, you have setup your first trigger. Now you need to decide what happens now by clicking on “that”.

Select the action service

For this example we’ll select Twitter. Then select “Update profile picture”.

Finish your first recipe

IFTTT automatically knows you want to take the picture from your Facebook profile. You also have the option to send a tweet and tell the world about your sassy new profile picture.

Simply click “Create Recipe” and you’re good to go.

Pro tip: If you want to know each time the recipe runs, install the IFTTT app on your smartphone, then tick the “receive notifications” box when you build your recipe.

Unsure if you got it right? Try changing your Facebook profile picture and see if your Twitter profile picture changes automatically. Check our example here for further guidance.

What else?

There are thousands of pre-made recipes available to use on IFTTT for free. You won’t need to create a trigger and action as all the hard work has been done for you.

If you have a few spare minutes, get creative with these examples:

Wake up to the colours of Valentine’s Day (Requires Philips Hue lighting)

Log how much time you spend at the office (Requires the IFTTT app on your smartphone)

Every time you make a new contact on your phone, mark it on your calendar (Great for remembering when you met someone).

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