IFTTT explained

The internet is a wonderful thing chock-full of fun and useful experiences, but it can also complicate our lives.

With so many websites and apps in the world, you probably have difficulty managing them or even completing basic tasks. Luckily for you, there's a single tool available that acts an ultimate automation service for all your internet-connected services. It's called IFTTT.

IFTTT is actually really easy to use and figure out...once you get past all the clunky lingo it uses like "triggers", "channels", "actions", and "recipes", to name a few. Pocket-lint has therefore broken everything down and detailed exactly what those words mean and how you can use IFTTT to streamline your online tasks.

Read on to learn more.


What does IFTTT stand for?

You pronounce IFTTT like "gift" but without the "g". The acronym stands for If This, Then That.

What is IFTTT?

IFTTT is both a website and a mobile app that launched in 2010 and has the slogan "Put the Internet to work for you". The idea is that you use IFTTT to automate everything from your favourite apps and websites to app-enabled accessories and smart devices.

If you own the Philips Hue smart lighting system, for instance, you could use IFTTT to automatically turn on a light every time you're tagged in a Facebook photo. In another example, you could use IFTTT to automatically email readers when they comment on your WordPress blog. There are numerous combinations (also called "recipes") on IFTTT that can make your life easier.

IFTTT currently supports more than 110 services (also called "channels") including Android devices and Apple iOS apps like Reminders and Photos, as well as websites like Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Etsy, Feedly, Foursquare, LinkedIn, SoundCloud, WordPress, YouTube, and more.

How does IFTTT work?


Sign up for an account on the IFTTT website. It's a one-step process that only requires an email, username, and password. Once finished, you will see that IFTTT has automatically created a recipe for you (this recipe will send a recommended recipe to your email inbox every day). From here, IFTTT should show your dashboard.


On the dashboard, there is a brief explanation of how IFTTT and recipes work. The "This" in "If This, Then That" stands for a trigger, while the "That" stands for an action. These two linked events create an IFTTT recipe. Thus, referencing the Philips Hue example we mentioned earlier, the trigger could be a Facebook photo tag and the action would be the Philips Hue light turning on.


Also on the dashboard, you will see links to create custom recipes or browse (and then use) recipes already created by other IFTTT users. You can also share recipes and save recipes to a favourite section on your dashboard. If you've added a recipe to your dashboard, you will have options to turn off, delete, and edit that recipe.

How do you create an IFTTT recipe?

You can use IFTTT to automate your web services and smart devices, but we're going to outline a basic recipe for automatically posting your new Instagram photos to Twitter.

Although Instagram has a default feature that lets you post Instagram photos on Twitter, that feature includes your photo caption and friend tags. It won't let you customise details before it publishes your Instagram photo Twitter. That's where IFTTT can help.

You can create a custom recipe that will not only post your Instagram photo to Twitter but also change what the final tweet will include. In other words, you can have your tweet include the Instagram photo and maybe a URL, timestamp, or whatever other "ingredient" you may want to add. And the best part is: the recipe will work for every Instagram photo you post on Twitter in the future, so long as you keep the recipe toggled on.

Step-by-step example

1. From the dashboard, select the "Create a new recipe" link. You will then need to click the "this" word on the following page to select your first channel (also called trigger channel). You can scroll down the page to find and then activate Instagram, or you can enter "Instagram" into the search bar.

2. Once you've selected Instagram, you will need to choose one of a few pre-programmed triggers. For the purposes of this example, select "Any new photo by you". Keep in mind you will need to connect your Instagram account to your IFTTT account. Don't worry, everything is supposed to be safe and secure.

3. Now you need to choose your second channel (also called action channel). Start by clicking the "that" word on the page that pops up next. From there, scroll down to find and then activate Twitter, or you can enter "Twitter" into the search bar.

4. Upon selecting Twitter, you will need to choose one of a few pre-programmed actions. For the purposes of this example, select "Post a tweet". Again, you will need to connect your Twitter account to your IFTTT account.

5. And finally, complete your action fields by inserting ingredients. You can click the "+" symbol to insert any of the pre-programmed ingredients such as the caption, URL, timestamp, or even embed code. All of these recipe ingredients pertain to your Instagram photo, and they will automatically publish to Twitter in a tweet alongside your photo.

6. Make sure you hit the "Create recipe" link at the bottom of the ingredients page when you're finished customising your recipe. At that point, IFTTT will bring you back to your dashboard. You should see your new recipe, with options for editing it.

And that's it.

You're now a beginner IFTTT user and recipe creator so go have fun exploring the countless ways to automate and simplify your life. It's only a matter of time before you become an expert.