Want a free year on Tuts+ (worth $180)? Start an InMotion Hosting plan for $3.49/mo.
IFTTT is a great tool for automating all sorts of tasks, but with over 100 apps that work with it, trying to put all of that power into practice can be overwhelming. We've already taken a detailed look at what makes an IFTTT recipe in our IFTTT automation tutorial, but it can still be difficult to think of practical ways it can help simplify your life.
There's so many great ways to use IFTTT, we've put together six of the more unique ways you can use it that'll help you in practical ways. I’ll walk through how to create each recipe from scratch, but you can grab the shared version of each recipe at the end of the tutorial. Then, perhaps, you'll be inspired to go make your own recipes for anything you need to do!
1. Receive an SMS Weather Report Every Morning
I like waking up to a weather report so that I know if I should wear shorts or a parka and whether I need to keep an umbrella handy. I don’t watch local news in the morning, though, and will forget to check any of the weather apps on my phone until it’s too late. That’s why an SMS delivered five minutes after I wake up is perfect.
Click Create at the top and then This in the “if this then that” statement. Select the Weather trigger channel, and choose Today’s Weather Report.
Tip: There are several other weather triggers, including alerts for severe weather. Create additional recipes to get an SMS, an email, or even a phone call when the weather changes for the worse.
Set the time of day you’d like to receive the SMS. I get the weather at 7:00 AM, but if you’re planning ahead, you can get tomorrow’s weather just before bed.
Choose the SMS action channel, and use the action’s ingredients to customize the SMS. You’re the only person who’s going to get this message, so feel free to tell yourself good morning or encourage yourself to get up and moving.
Save the recipe and expect a text tomorrow morning.
2. Find Your Lost Phone
When I misplace my phone, I ask a friend to give me a call and then follow the sound of my ringer. Those times when I’m alone, though, I just end up wandering around the house, digging through the couch cushions. IFTTT can save all of that trouble. This recipe will work by calling your phone when you send an email to IFTTT containing the tag #lostphone.
Begin by selecting the Email trigger channel and choosing the Send IFTTT an Email Tagged.
Tip: The recipe fires when you email IFTTT at email@example.com, so go ahead and add it to your contacts. You’ll be all set to trigger the recipe if you ever do lose your phone.
Set the tag IFTTT will look for in your email. Make it specific to the situation, like #lostphone or #callme.
Select the action channel Phone Call and choose Call My Phone. IFTTT can also speak a message to you. It can be anything, but “You lost your phone,” is an obvious choice.
Go ahead and activate your new recipe. Test it by emailing your tag to firstname.lastname@example.org, and just wait for your phone to ring.
3. Get a Push Notification When You Receive an Email from Someone Important
Constant notifications for every email that hits your inbox can slow your workflow, especially when the email isn’t something you need to deal with right now. You may hesitate to turn off email notifications, though, because you still want to know when something important arrives. That’s where this recipe comes in, allowing you to turn off your email notifications but still know when something important comes through.
Because IFTTT doesn’t currently support other email services, this recipe only works with Gmail. A lot people use Gmail, though, so this recipe should still be useful to many.
Select the Gmail trigger channel and choose the New Email From trigger. Set the email address for which IFTTT will look. This can be your boss, your mom, or anyone else important.
Tip: If you want notifications about email from different people, you’ll need to create additional recipes to look out for those email addresses.
There are a few push applications you can use to carry out the notification action. I’m using Pushbullet, but you can use your favorite.
Choose the Push a Note action and complete the action fields. Use action ingredients to customize the pushed note.
Save the recipe, and don’t forget to turn off email notifications on your phone or computer to get the most benefit.
4. Build a "Done" List of Your Achievements
A “done” list can be as important to productivity as a to do list. Looking at a list of accomplishments will help motivate you to tackle those tasks not yet completed.
Select the iOS Reminders trigger channel. If you haven’t already, you will need to activate the iOS Reminders channel on your iPhone. Look at my previous IFTTT automation tutorial to learn how. Or, if you use another todo list app that integrates with IFTTT, you can add it instead.
You can create your accomplishment list two ways; IFTTT can log all completed reminders or only the completed reminders in a specific list. Designating a list here prevents IFTTT from logging everything in Reminders when it's checked off, including your grocery list.
Next, choose the action channel. This is where IFTTT logs the completed tasks. I’m using Evernote, but OneNote is a good option, too.
Select the Append to Note action. All new completed tasks will be added to the note until it reaches 2MB.
Tell IFTTT how the note should look in the action fields. Add or remove ingredients to get an accomplishment list that works for you.
Save the recipe. It will be triggered next time you complete a task in Reminders that meets the recipe’s criteria.
5. Bookmark Buffer posts in Delicious
I’m terrible at keeping up with all of my social networks, but I have important contacts across them all. I use Buffer to post to several sites at once, but Buffer has its limits, and my Delicious bookmarks are pretty neglected. IFTTT paired with Buffer can easily update Delicious for me, though.
Select the Buffer trigger channel to get started. Because Buffer can access multiple social media accounts, let IFTTT know which Buffer profile to watch.
There are two available triggers, but for this tutorial, select Any New Post in Buffer and then Create Trigger.
Next, choose the action channel, in this case, Delicious.
There are two actions available, Add a Public Bookmark and Add a Private Bookmark, and either will work. I’m selecting the public option, because I want my Delicious bookmarks to be immediately accessible to my followers. It’s no problem to set your new bookmarks to private with IFTTT, though, and you can always change a bookmark's visibility by editing it in Delicious.
Customize the action by adding tags and a description. Use IFTTT ingredients to automatically grab the bookmark’s URL and create a description from the text of the Buffer post.
Review the IFTTT recipe and activate it. Next time you use Buffer to post to your social network account, a link will be created in Delicious.
6. Use Pocket as Your Feed Reader
I never really got over the loss of Google Reader, and I still haven’t fully switched to a new feed reader. Turns out I don’t need a dedicated app, though, because IFTTT makes it simple to send new RSS posts straight to Pocket.
Select the Feed trigger channel. IFTTT can grab all feed items or just those posts that meet certain criteria.
Next, enter the feed URL. As you likely know, this isn’t just the site’s URL; look out for a link to the site’s RSS feed.
Select the Pocket action channel and the Save for Later trigger. Add tags to organize your feed items. I added the Feed Title as a tag so that I can quickly sort out all of the posts for a particular site.
Save the recipe and wait for a new RSS post to appear in your Pocket list.
Here is a list of the recipes in this tutorial. Use these recipes to improve your workflow or take them as examples for how to create your own recipes.
- Receive the Weather Report Every Morning
- Find Your Lost Phone
- Get a Push Notification When You Receive an Email from Someone Important
- Build a "Done" List of Your Achievements
- Bookmark Buffer posts in Delicious
- Use Pocket as Your Feed Reader
Though it’s a powerful tool, IFTTT’s many options can be intimidating. These recipes should help you get started using it, and will hopefully give you ideas for new ways to use IFTTT on your own. If you've got any great new IFTTT recipes you love, please share them in the comments below—we'd love to seem them as well!