Workflow Automation with IFTTT: A Revisit | CORPORATE ETHOS

Workflow Automation with IFTTT: A Revisit

By: | March 5, 2018
IFTTT

Those with some programming experience must be familiar with the ‘if-then do this–else that’ concept. The IFTTT, a web application powered by this core programming concept, has become one of the fastest growing applications on the Net.

The Net is flooded with different types of apps- social networking apps (like Twitter, Facebook, etc), email services (Gmail, Yahoo and the like), online storage services (like Dropbox, Google drive etc.) and so on. These services have become deeply ingrained in our everyday lives and have certainly made our life quite comfortable and more productive. Nonetheless, if we can make these services talk to one another the synergistic effect of it on our productivity would be awesome. This is exactly what the IFTTT  service does.

muralicolThe application IFTTT (stands for If This Then That) lets you start automating different tasks by connecting multiple devices and applications. The application communicates with almost all popular online services and lets us selectively use them by applying the ‘if-then-do-that logic’. If this happens, then we want that to happen. The application allows us to take the results or things that happened in one application and cause an action to happen on another application.

To put it in more concrete terms:  If you perform a certain task (say, clicking your smartphone camera), then do that (say, ‘send the camera output to your FB account’). And this whole if-then-that condition is known as a recipe. The advantage of IFTTT is that it lets you do a task when a specified condition arrives.

The IFTTT service helps us combine different apps together and connect them so that the apps work in ways that they otherwise would not. IFTTT combines these services by making us use applets (or recipes) to connect our digital tools together.

Getting started with IFTTT is a breeze- just access the site, create an account and log-in. Once logged-in, navigate to the ‘Services’ option (under your account’s tab in the top-right part of the screen). In the sign-up page, you will find a massive list of popular applications/services supported by the service. You can either search for a recipe or just tap on the ‘all services’ button. You can adopt any of these recipes by simply clicking on it and enabling the turn on button.

The applet categories include Dropbox, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Assistant, SMS, RSS feeds and so on. With each application, you will find a bunch of IFTTT applets. This means if your interest is on Facebook simply click on the Facebook icon. Now you will find a set of applets that work with the Facebook service. Each of these applets (recipes) is made for a specific task and contains things called triggers and responses. If a trigger appears in an application, then ‘that’ response happens in the same application or an entirely different application. To configure a recipe, simply select the one you like, then turn it on and give the app all the necessary permissions when prompted.

Let us see how we can create an IFTTT service using one of the Dropbox applets. Access the Dropbox applets section, where you can find several IFTTT recipes that work with the Dropbox service. Here, you will find an applet that lets you save Gmail attachments from a specific sender automatically to your Dropbox account. To setup (this recipe), choose and enable it (by turning it on). Once the application is turned on, it will display a configuration screen in which you need to set up the sender’s email id (the trigger). Note: To enlist the app pertaining to a service (e.g.: Dropbox), you need to connect your account with that service with IFTTT.

Once the app is set-up with the required trigger data, whenever you get an attachment from the sender specified in the trigger, that attachment will get saved to your Dropbox account. The recipe will respond to the trigger and do the task assigned to it. Of course, when you get an email from your favourite sender you can upload it to your Dropbox manually. But this is a multi-step process that requires your intervention each time you get an attachment. On the other hand, IFTTT compresses it into a one-step process and does the job automatically.

The applet mentioned above is just the tip of the IFTTT applet iceberg. Tons of such applets that can boost your productivity are available on IFTTT’s site. In addition to online applications, IFTTT can also be integrated with your smartphone and IoT devices. Some of the IFTTT smartphone recipes: Automatically log calls you receive (to your Android phone) to the Google spreadsheet, store text messages to the Google spreadsheet, turn off your phone’s Wi-Fi when the battery is low and so on.

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Apart from offering us a huge collection of applets, the folks at IFTTT has taken the service one step further and now they let us create our own custom recipes. Let us see how we can create a recipe from scratch. For this, click on the ‘New applet’ button, which will take you to the basic ‘IF this then that’ page (screenshot below).

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Those familiar with programming will realise that this is similar to the ‘if-then’ statement we generally see in different programming languages. Through this statement IFTTT allows you to programme the digital world.

Initially, you need to assign the trigger (that will cause the required event to happen in another app) for the ‘IF’ part; for this click on the ‘+’ button and select the trigger you want from the listed triggers (of course, you need an account with many of these services if you wish to use them). Once the trigger (e.g.: Dropbox) for your ‘If’ condition is configured, you need to specify the required action in the “Then’ part.  For this, tap on the ‘+’ after the ‘then’ part (screenshot below), choose the action service and complete the recipe.

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The ability to create our own customised recipes offers lots of possibilities for the users. You can combine many applications in multiple ways. For instance, if you want tweets or SMS messages to go regularly for a specific time of the day or week or month, you can use the ‘date time’ service on the trigger part and the Twitter service in the then part. If you wish to know more about how to create your own applets, take a look at this video from IFTTT on this topic: