Have you ever sat for hours sifting through emails, Facebook messages or Tweets, looking for a specific piece of information, only to be disappointed? There are several ways to search for information like this, but one of the best ways is to assign tasks, so that they automatically appear in your email, Dropbox, or anywhere else you need the information to be stored.

If This, Then That

IFTTT (If This, Then That) is an incredibly easy-to-use website that allows you set up or copy recipes for automating just about anything. IFTTT creates a digital link between channels. In essence, it works with sixty nine different channels, including the major social media channels, and aids the process of filling out simple online forms, as well as, getting channels to “talk” to each other. It is not as complicated as it sounds.

How It Works

Each recipe has three parts: the channel, the trigger, and the action.

  • Channels are the programs you use: Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Evernote, and any other program listed on IFTTT (currently there are 90 channels).
  • Triggers are the “this” part of a Recipe. Some example Triggers are “I’m tagged in a photo on Facebook” or “I check in on Foursquare.” Personal recipes are a combination of a Trigger and an Action from your active Channels.
  • Actions are the “that” part of a recipe. For example “send me a text message” or “create a status message on Facebook.”

So the recipe would read something like this: if any new photo is added to your Instagram account, then add the file URL to Dropbox. See the IFTTT part of the recipe? There are over 10,000 shared recipes on IFTTT, so you can imagine the possibilities are endless.

What an IFTTT recipe looks like

Pre-Existing Automation Recipes

There are a wide array of pre-existing recipes for you to use, which can automate a wide variety of tasks. One of my favorites allows you to add followers who have mentioned or retweeted you to a private list by collecting the tweeter’s data from your Gmail account. You no longer need to comb through your emails searching for followers’ usernames and then copy them over to your Twitter account manually. Just plugin the IFTTT recipe and it will do all the work for you.

New IFTTT iPad App

Now, you can automate a few things on the iPad with the newly launched IFTTT iPad app. The iPad version joins the already existing IFTTT iPhone app launched last year, and brings some new features: new recipe collections, location triggers for iOS photos, and support for push notifications. Push notifications mean you can leverage recipes to, say, alert you (via Notification Center) if there’s rain in the forecast for tomorrow. Or find out when a paid app goes free. There is even a recipe to automate “selfies.” Any time you take a picture with the forward-facing camera, you can automatically send the image to your best friend (or anyone else for that matter).

While recipe collections have been available on the Web for some time, bringing them to the iPad was just a small step in the right direction. It should immediately peak interest, as it helps the user see task-specific recipes curated all in one place, for example, recipes for travel, photos, emails, etc. The IFTTT team has also added location triggers to the iOS Photos channel, which lets you perform an action only when you shoot images in a proscribed area. This is good for creating location-aware albums, or only posting images when you’re on vacation.The curated collections of recipes will be rotated every week, so keep checking to see if your personal interests appear.

Sidenote: there are plans for IFTTT to support Android users, according to the IFTTT blog, so keep an eye on the web site.

Featured photo credit: iPad/3rdworldman/Morguefile via mrg.bz

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