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For a while there, a bunch of MUO writers went on an IFTTT binge. Tim gave a pretty good overview of how to create IFTTT recipes to get the latest information from your favorite sites or RSS feeds. Other writers have been much more specific, using IFTTT for things like integrating social networks, integrating your favorite sites with Google Calendar, and even using IFTTT to save or make money!
One thing that’s clear from all of this is that IFTTT makes it easy to integrate all of your online activities, and automating them in ways that you probably never dreamed possible. The sources of information or “triggers” and the available possibilities of the “output” like Google Calendar, Facebook, Twitter, SMS and more, make IFTTT one of the most powerful online services on the Internet today. That’s why you’ve seen so many authors pick up on it.
Fools like me will spend hours trying to automate things like Google Analytics reports or automating Android apps in some fairly complicated ways. Meanwhile you’ve got the folks at IFTTT who make this kind of automation look like childs play. It’s quite impressive.
So, I decided to finally start digging through IFTTT to see if I could come up with a few more creative ways to mix and match services in unique ways. I spotted some really cool trigger sources like weather, Foursquare checkins, email and SMS integration, and lots of other services that give you the ability to make this a very powerful automation resource. In this article, I’m going to offer you 5 creative ways to build IFTTT recipes that you’re going to find so useful, you’ll keep using them every day.
Using Weather to Trigger Emails
The moment I saw that weather is one of the “This” sources as a trigger, I knew that it would be possible to do some pretty cool stuff with just that alone. I mean, wouldn’t it be cool to trigger an event — like an email invite to your friends to go on a hike — only if the weather turns out to be good, without the need to go to your computer and click “send”? Heck yeah, that’s the kind of automation that can make your life a lot easier.
The weather trigger has a very large assortment of trigger events — it’s shocking. You can trigger automation based on things like a temperature drop or rise beyond a limit you set; whether the weather conditions change to rain, snow, cloudy or clear; whether tomorrow’s predicted low or high temps go beyond a limit, and much more.
In my example, I want to issue an email if the forecast for tomorrow is clear.
In the next step, you define the address that you want to send the email to. You can only send the email to a single address, so if you want to send it to a group of friends, you can just send it to your own email address, and then create a filter that watches for an email with this subject line, and auto-forwards it to your group of friends.
There you have it — you now have an automated way to trigger an email alert to yourself only when tomorrow’s weather is clear. You can customize the Body section of the email to invite your friends on a hike, and then set up a filter to auto-forward any email with “weather.com” in the body to all of your friends. Yes, this will invite your friends on a hike every single time there’s clear weather, but if you’re an avid hiker — that’s not a bad idea!
Speaking of weather automation, how about setting up a daily weather report trigger for the next day that forewarns you automatically via email every night?
Wouldn’t that be sweet? Well, it’s all yours if you set it up as an IFTTT trigger in your account. In a few ridiculously easy steps, you can have this set up and running.
Using a Foursquare Check-in to Log a Google Calendar Event
If you have a Foursquare account, then you know how fun it is to check-in at popular hot-spots. Guess what, you can also check in at wilderness locations like hiking trails or other fun places you’ve visited. Maybe you’re on a trip and you’d like to keep an automated itinerary of where you’ve been and what you’ve seen so that you can write about it later? Well guess what, IFTTT has you covered. You can use the service to trigger a log of your travels automatically using the Foursquare trigger and the Google Calendar output.
Choose the Foursquare “Any new check-in” option, and for the “Then” step, choose Google Calendar.
Now you do a “Quick add event” into your Google Calendar with the embedded details from your Foursquare check-in. Keep in mind that all of this is preconfigured, so you don’t have to figure out how to embed these things yourself. You can just accept the embedded values as is, click “Create Action”, and you’re good to go.
IFTTT will now automatically post the details of your Foursquare check-in directly into your Calendar, as a useful itinerary log or history that you can look back at any time you like.
Automatically Tweet Your Favorite Blog Updates
RSS notifications are a common use of IFTTT. In fact, Nancy used this IFTTT feature to get notifications when her Dropbox files change using IFTTT and the Dropbox Enhanced RSS URLs feature.
Well, you can further use IFTTT’s RSS notification tools to do countless other things, like immediately publish a link to an RSS update on your blog, post it on Facebook, or automatically Tweet about the blog update on your Twitter account. For example, I subscribe to RSS feeds on the CIA and FBI news pages, and creating a direct RSS to Twitter automation means I’ll always be the first to report on the latest Intelligence news.
You do this by going into IFTTT and selecting the RSS input trigger, and then choosing the “New feed item” from the selection of Trigger choices.
On the next screen, you’ll have the opportunity to paste the RSS feed that you want IFTTT to monitor for you.
Once you create the trigger, you’ll need to choose Twitter as the output option in IFTTT. You can leave the default setup if you want, which is just the feed entry title and URL, or you can customize the Tweet update to make it apply specifically to this feed. Customizing will also make the Tweet appear less automated.
Get an SMS Alert on Craigslist Search Results
Maybe you’re always on the lookout for something you collect. Maybe you’re looking for a new apartment and you want to be the first to jump on any newly posted rents available. Whatever your need to monitor Craigslist, IFTTT has you covered. All you have to do is perform a search on Craigslist and copy the URL of the results page. Then, choose Craigslist as a Trigger source in IFTTT, and then paste the URL of the search results in the field.
Click Create Trigger, and you’re done with your trigger. Now, you can create any output for when new items are found. Some people like to issue emails, but with some things that are especially urgent — like being the first to jump on a new apartment — an email may be too much of a delay. For this reason, I usually opt for the SMS output on IFTTT. If it’s your first time using SMS on IFTTT, you’ll need to go through the PIN verification process, which really only takes a minute or two to activate.
Once you’re done that, you can customize the SMS message, which will include the new Craigslist post title and the URL to the update. You’ll never miss out again.
Automatically Add Important Emails to Your Calendar
If you’re like me, you probably have a steady stream of emails landing in your inbox every day, and it’s getting harder and harder to keep track of the ones that you need to get back to later. Even if you star an email as important, you need to remember to go back and look at those again. Well, the point of automation is to remove the need to “remember” things. Here’s one of those solutions — use IFTTT to automatically insert a Calendar Event in Google Calendar whenever you star an email in Gmail.
To do this, you choose Gmail as a trigger source, and then choose “New starred email” as a trigger.
Then, you choose Google Calendar as an output, and the email details will get inserted into your calendar automatically. Later, as you’re reviewing your calendar for the week, you’ll be reminded of that important email, and you can apply it to your task list at that time. You’ll never overlook an important email again!
Also, it should be noted that with all the IFTTT outputs above with default fields in the output text, you can also click the big “+” at the upper right corner of the text entry field and choose from any other fields that you want to use instead. For example, in this case you can include the email body, the date you received the email, and other data.
It’s worth playing around with what fields are available from the source, because you may realize that you can get some pretty cool data out of RSS feeds, emails, Craigslist updates, or other triggers that you never thought possible.
As you can see, IFTTT is extremely flexible, powerful, and it makes all of our past, complex efforts to automate our online lives seem overly complicated and completely unnecessary now. The things you can accomplish with it are limited by your own imagination. What sort of interesting IFTTT recipes have you come up with? Can you surprise us with any quirky or unusual ones? Share you own recipes in the comments section below!