Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tech Column: What Is IFTTT and Why You Should Use It

by Bill Adler

IFTTT is, in a nutshell, a way of getting your data from here to there.

Let's say you have important emails that you want to save in Evernote. IFTTT, which stands for If This, Then That, will do that for you. Or maybe you want to save all Facebook photos in in Google Drive or Dropbox. IFTTT, www.ifttt.com, to the rescue. Or sync your data between Skydrive and Dropbox -- IFTTT will do that, too.

IFTTT is more than just a syncing service. It's a smart assistant that copies data from one place to another based on your wishes. That's why it's called If This, Then That.

For example: If you star an email in Gmail, that email can be copied to Evernote. If you're tagged in a photo in Facebook that photo will be copied to Google Drive. Songs you love on Last.fm can be automatically posted in your Facebook timeline. You can archive your Foursquare check-ins in Evernote, and you can get a text whenever there's a severe weather alert.

IFTTT calls these connections "recipes."  Recipes are triggered by certain events you can specify, such as a mention on Twitter or a photo that you've uploaded to Flickr. There are pre-written recipes to connect a wide range of services in smart and useful ways, including Bit.ly, Blogger, Instapaper, Box, Dropbox, ESPN, Evernote, Email, Facebook, Skydrive, Google Calendar, Vimeo and many others. You can modify these recipes and create your own recipes, too.

One recipe I've found useful automatically saves Google Calendar events in Evernote if I label those events "diary." Anoher that I often use lets me dictate a note on my iPhone with Siri and have it saved -- transcribed -- in Evernote.

To start using IFTTT, create an account at www.ifttt.com. Then experiment with recipes. You can turn them on and off at will. You'll need to authorize IFTTT to access any account you want it to connect with, and that takes just a click or two.

Once you start using IFTTT you'll discover how versatile it is and wonder how you lasted this long without it.


Bill Adler is the co-publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv, www.cleveland-park.com. He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys: Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets," http://amzn.to/rspOft. He tweets at @billadler.

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