If there’s one major problem with web apps, it’s that it’s incredibly hard to get them to work together. For the most part, they don’t. Microsoft Word and iWork Pages work with Dropbox automatically if they’re all installed on the same computer. Now try getting Google Docs and Dropbox working together without relying on your computer’s operating system to handle download a file from Dropbox and then uploading it to Google Docs. Odds are, you won’t get it to work.
There are some web apps that work together. Instapaper and Pinboard are great examples of web apps that have built in options to pull in and push data to and from other apps. But most web apps exist in their own island, and being able to run different apps in different browser tabs is about the closest we get to web app multitasking.
ifttt is a new web app that aims to change this. Similar to Yahoo Pipes, but much simpler to use, ifttt lets you tie your favorite web apps together in unique ways. Whether you want to get a txt message when your best friend posts a new blog post, or save your Instagram pictures to Dropbox, or post your Tweets to Google+, ifttt’s got what you need, and more. In this article, we’ll look at how you can put ifttt to use quickly, and we’ve got more tutorials planned to show more ways you can put this powerful tool to use.
If Only … Wait, ifttt!
If you’d think for a moment, you’d likely think of some action you’d like to automate with your favorite web apps. When I first got a smartphone, a clunky HTC Excalibur Windows Mobile 6 phone, I wanted a way to read full-length articles on the go from my favorite sites. Nowadays, I just sync my Instapaper queue on my iPod Touch, but it wasn’t so easy back in 2006. So, I searched for a web app that could email me RSS feed updates. I managed to find one that worked decent, but then weeks later, it started working sporadically, and soon was shut down. Good grief.
If I’d had ifttt available then, that and many other tasks wouldn’t be a problem at all. ifttt lets you tie together email, RSS, txt messages, and dozens of apps you rely on, so you can create your own powerful services that bring your favorite apps together. RSS feeds in Email, or Facebook pictures in Dropbox, or Dropbox updates via Twitter? No problem.
ifttt is fully free, and the only thing you’ll really need is your account info for any accounts you’ll want to tie together. Just signup for an ifttt account, and you’ll be on your way.
Get Started Quickly With Recipes
Now, creating a new task from scratch in ifttt isn’t very difficult at all. Essentially, you’re scripting a custom web app for your needs, but it’s so easy, it’s more like putting legos together. But even that might be a bit confusing just to setup a simple tasks that others likely have already wanted to use ifttt for. That’s where the Recipes come in. There’s nearly 5,000 recipes as this article was written, and more are added all the time. Each of these let you quickly start using ifttt to tie two apps togehter in a way you’ll likely find useful, and there’s likely a Recipe here for everyone.
Once you find a recipe you’d like to use, just click the blue arrow to get started. You’ll see an overview of the ifttt task, along with a link and social network buttons to share this task with others if you’d like. Or, if you want to start using it yourself, you’ll see any missing accounts you’ll need to add first. Good thing is, you can go ahead and activate your other needed accounts right there without leaving the page.
So, once you’ve added the accounts you need for that recipe, just scroll on down to see exactly what the task will do. We can see that this task will search for new tweets from @ifttt that include the phrase “new channel”. Once it finds matching tweets, it will send you an email, with your user name and the tweet text as the subject, and a link to the tweet and when it was created in the body. If you want to change anything, just click in the text boxes and type away to make this recipe your own. Once you’re done, click Create task, and ifttt will get to work for you.
Bringing Your Apps Together
Best of all, you can run as many tasks as you want, and you don’t have to rely on pre-made recipes. Click the Channels tab to explore all of the apps ans services that ifttt can integrate into your tasks. You can have ifttt check Craigslist, grab Boxcar notifications, check the weather, use Google Talk, and more, all just by activating the services you want and tying them together.
You can select a service to activate it, or see what more you can do with it. You’ll see Triggers that you can turn into tasks, with their respective fields and addins. Just one trigger can easily turn into a dozen different uses. Further down, you’ll see actions you can doo with the Channel, which would go at the end of a command when you’ve activated another trigger. For example, you could start a task with a Pinboard trigger that finds a new specific public bookmark, or you could end a task with a Pinboard action that would save a bookmark when it finds a tweet with a specific word.
Conclusion … for now
If ifttt only had the recipes that are already in the app, it’d be a pretty powerful tool! But it’s way more than that. In a few minutes, you can tie together dozens of apps and services to make the web work the way you want. Most of these things are things that will really save you time, boost your productivity, and help you stay focused on the things that can’t be automated. Our computers and the cloud should be working for us, not the other way around, and ifttt makes this a reality.
We’re very excited about ifttt’s potential, and can’t wait to use it more. Go give it a try, and stay tuned for more tutorials here at Web.AppStorm as we find new exciting ways to put ifttt to use. Finally, the web got an Automator!