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How to Automate Your Favorite Apps with IFTTT

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If This Then That (IFTTT) is an online service that can connect all sorts of different products and services together, so you can automate just about anything your heart desires. Whenever someone tags you on Facebook, send that photo to Dropbox. Get an email when a new item appears on Craigslist matching your search terms. You can do almost anything.

An IFTTT recipe consists of a trigger and an action. The trigger is something that happens that will then produce the action. To use the above example: a new Facebook photo getting tagged with my name is a trigger. The action is uploading the resulting photo to Dropbox.

That’s just one small example out of the literally thousands and thousands of recipes that you could create. Here’s how to get started with IFTTT creating your own recipes.

Signing Up for an IFTTT Account

The first thing you’ll want to do is sign up for an account with IFTTT if you don’t already have one. So navigate to the IFTTT website and click “Sign Up” in the upper-right corner.

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Enter in your email address and create a password for your IFTTT account. Then click “Create account”.

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You’ll then be introduced to the service and be given a brief tutorial on how the service works, but eventually you’ll be taken to the home page.

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Creating a Recipe

Now it’s time to create your first recipe. You may already have one in mind, but for this how-to, we’ll use the example mentioned above and create a recipe that will automatically upload any new Facebook photo that I’m tagged in to my Dropbox folder.

From the home page, click on “My Recipes” toward the upper-right corner of the screen.

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Next, click on “Create a Recipe”.

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Click on “this” highlighted in blue.

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Type “Facebook” in the search box or find it in the grid of products and services below that. Click on it when you find it.

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Next, you’ll need to connect your Facebook account to IFTTT so that they can communicate with each other, so click “Connect”.

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A pop-up will appear asking permission for IFTTT to access your Facebook account. Click “Okay”.

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You’ll also be asked permission for IFTTT to post to your Facebook account. Some recipes call for this, so you can click “Okay” if you want, but we won’t need it for this recipe, so click “Not Now”.

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Click “Done”.

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Click “Continue to the next step”.

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Next, you’ll choose the trigger. In this case, the trigger is when we’re tagged in any new Facebook photo, so click on “You are tagged in a photo”.

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Click “Create Trigger”.

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After that, it’s time to create the action that will occur when the trigger is fired. Click on “that” highlighted in blue.

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Find the “Dropbox” channel and click on it. You’ll need to connect it to your IFTTT account just like you did with your Facebook account earlier.

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After you do that, select “Add file from URL”.

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You can leave all of the text fields as is, but if you want you can give the folder that your photos will be uploaded to a custom name under “Dropbox folder path”. When you’re done, click “Create Action”.

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The last step is to confirm the recipe and give it a custom name if you choose. When you’re ready, click on “Create Recipe” and your recipe will begin to run. Whenever you’re tagged in a photo on Facebook, that photo will automatically be uploaded to your Dropbox folder in a separate custom folder.

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This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to IFTTT, and there’s so much you can do with the service. Take time to familiarize yourself even more with IFTTT and experiment with different recipes. You’ll quickly come to find that it’s a service that you’ll have a hard time living without.

You can also get IFTTT on your iPhone or Android device from the iTunes App Store and Google Play, respectively.

Craig Lloyd is TIME Magazine's 2006 Person of the Year, as well as a mediocre gamer, aviation geek, baseball fan, and an introvert to the max. He began his career as a young, naive teenager tinkering around with the family computer and has since blossomed into the beautiful geek that he is today.

  • Published 09/12/11

Comments (9)

  1. Anonymous

    i use it in conjunction with tropo.com to give me sms and IM alerts, pretty cool stuff!

  2. Brian Phillips

    As if this site weren’t awesome enough, look at the URL for their little getting started tutorial (http://ifttt.com/wtf). I love it!

  3. JamesR404

    Interesting! I think it has a lot of potential. Think this is one of those services you have to play with a lot before you realize how much you can really do ^^

  4. Discodecepticon

    no google+? bummer

  5. Neil

    The discussion on their blog suggests G+ will come once Google provides a stable API. Seems to be a recurring theme around autopost sites and G+.

  6. go

    thank you Brian Phillips for that link, because after reading this I still have no clue what IfTTT is or how or why i’d use it.

  7. A

    Lots of potential but no SSL when you log in and if your going to allow all those nice Channels to access you data it’s good to know that: “”we may be forced to disclose personal information to the government or third parties under certain circumstances or third parties may unlawfully intercept or access transmissions or private communications. “

  8. Blair Slavin

    I read the instructions twice and it all seems pretty geeky / program language knowledge needed to use it. So it’s not very non-geek friendly. Me so sad I am to much of a ‘regular dumb person’ to use it.

  9. Blair Slavin

    I read the instructions twice and it all seems pretty geeky / program language knowledge needed to use it. So it’s not very non-geek friendly. Me so sad I am too much of a ‘regular dumb person’ to use it.

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