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tech background

Have you ever wanted to automate activities you perform on the Internet such as saving a photo you post to Facebook in a Dropbox folder? Or maybe you want to backup your iPhone contacts to a Google spreadsheet. These actions and many more are possible with a web service called If This Then That (aka IFTTT). Anyone who has done any programming or knows anything about programming will recognize this phrase but don’t worry, you don’t have to know how to program to use this service. It’s as easy as point and click and the service walks you through setting up your activity which they call recipes. works by integrating various other online services and letting you perform certain actions when certain events called triggers take place. The services, such as DropBox or Facebook, IFTTT refers to as channels. You don’t have to create your own recipes; IFTTT comes with hundred of recipes others have created. you can use them and modify them to fit your needs.

Let’s set up an example to show you what it looks like. This assumes you’ve already registered for a free account. You also have to add channels which in essence gives IFTTT permission to use whichever web service you want. You can revoke this access at anytime.

Step 1

Clicking on “Create” at the top of the page gives this.

If This Then That first step

Clicking on “this” gives you the option to select your “Trigger Channel” This is the service that starts you activity; i.e. the one IFTTT monitors to see when an activity has occurred.

This brings up a page of 84 channels (as of this writing; more are added all the time). Keep in mind, you’ll have to have an account already set up on this channel.

Step 2 Choose a Trigger Channel

chose trigger channel

For this example, lets choose “Facebook”. This then brings up a list of triggers. The triggers are limited but still incredibly useful.

Step 3 Choose a Trigger

choose trigger

You can see in this example we have triggers for a variety of activities you can perform on Facebook. Anytime you do one of actions, it will trigger IFTTT to run this recipe. These triggers will change depending on which channel you have chosen. Let’s select “New photo post by you”. This leads us to step 4

Step 4 Set Up You Trigger

Here you complete any information required for the trigger. In this case, there isn’t any additional information you need to provide so just click “Create Trigger”.

chose trigger fields

Step 5 Setting up “That”. Choosing your action channel

Clicking on “that” gives you the option to set up what you want to do when this action (you posting a photo on Facebook).

set up That

Clicking on “that” brings up a list of channels again. This time you choose the action channel. I like to think of this as the destination as it’s where your information ends up.

choose action channel

In this case let’s send the Facebook photo to Dropbox.

Step 6 Choose an action

Clicking on “Dropbox” brings up a choice of actions to perform. Again, the actions shown depend on which distention channel you have chosen. In our case, we want to add file from URL.

choose actionClicking “Add file from URL” lets use tell IFTTT where we want to store the information.

Step 7 Complete Action Fields

complete action fields


You can click on the plus sign on the right to see the options for each field. In our case the file URL in ImageSource and we want the file name to be whatever caption we enter in Facebook. You can specify whatever folder path you want but the default in this case works well. If the folders don’t exist, IFTTT will create them for you.

Step 8 Finalize the recipe

The last step is to review and finalize the recipe and give it a meaningful name. It will look like this.

IFTTT final step


You have the option to be notified when this recipe runs so turn that on if you wish. If you’ve made a mistake you can use the back button to back up and changing whichever step is wrong. Once you click “Create Recipe” it will be created and you can see it on your dashboard.

IFTTT new recipe


That’s all there is to it. You can choose to share your recipe so others can use it or just keep it private. There are tons of recipes other IFTTT user have created and shared and your can search those or browser the recipes by channel to find ones that are of use to you. The possibilities are almost limitless to do whatever you want. Here are just some examples of recipes I use.

  • Articles saved for later in Feedly get saved for later in Pocket too
  • If I publish a new post on my WordPress site then also post it on Google Plus
  • If I post a photo to Instagram also post that to Facebook
  • Save links favourited with Twitter for later reading in Pocket
  • Save tweets sent by Buffer to an Evernote notebook
  • Have the iPhone app of the week by Gizmodo sent to myself in email
  • Generally: If some site (with RSS feed) posts something particular then send me an email
  • Autopost new WordPress post to tumblr blog
  • Email updates from IFTTT

I personally have 43 of the 84 channels activated within IFTTT and am using 30 recipes. This web service has truly changed how I interact with the Internet and has saved me tons of time not having to repetitively do task. I just create recipes and let IFTTT take care of the rest.

I’d be interested in how you use IFTTT or if you’d like to see if certain activities could be automated using IFTTT.


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One Response to Automating the Internet using If This Then That

  1. john says:

    Thanks for sharing info about IFTTT , Yep from your review i can understand their uses.

    Kind Regards

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