Using ifttt For Productivity And More


I’m busy exploring a useful way of feeding information from one application to another at the moment. It’s called “If This Then That” (ifttt) , is based on a simple idea and is really straightforward to use.

You set up a trigger from one web application (eg A Google News search for “libraries”), so that it triggers an action in another web application any time this happens (eg Creates a blog post from any newspaper articles it finds and links to the full news article). Each trigger/action you set up is called a task.

Put into “If This Then That” terminology the above would be…

IF A Google News search finds any news articles containing the word “libraries”

THEN create a blog post in Posterous using details of that news article.”

Visually this would be set up like this.

ifttt - Task Shot 1

ifttt - Task shot 2

1.) Shows the full “task” indicating that the “If” part is pulling in an RSS feed and the “Then” part is creating the blog post.

2.) A plain English description of the task. If you add a hashtag keyword to a description you can also search on this. eg. #LibraryNews #Productivity

3.) Shows how I set up the “If” task – I just pasted in an RSS feed.

4.) Shows how I created the “Then” action. The text in {{ }} brackets indicates that these are fields in the RSS feed containing data. I can tell ifttt which part of the blog post this data should be put into eg Title, Description, Tags.

The screen shot below shows how it appears in the blog post.

{{Entry Title}} = “Uncertainty over library funding – Croydon Advertiser.

{{EntryPublished}} = October 04, 2011 at 08:44AM.

{{EntryContent}} = Title again and summary of article.

{{EntryURL}} = Link to full article on the Croydon Advertiser website.

ifttt - Task shot 3

In some cases you can indicate which piece of information triggers the response and you can indicate which information is passed to the response eg. If you were pulling through Twitter information and posting it to Evernote, you could say that you only want to see the Twitter user name & tweet, but you don’t need to see the date the tweet was sent.

There are a number of resources you can use as a trigger and/or a response to that trigger: RSS feeds; Twitter; Tumblr; Youtube; Evernote; Google calendar; Posterous; Tumblr; Clock; Weather monitor; Flickr and others too.

I’ve been playing around with it for a couple of weeks now and I’m finding it really useful for when I’m:

(1) Performing the same/similar tasks in a variety of locations

(2) Performing the same tasks in the same place on a regular basis

(3) Wanting to re-use information in different places, without the need to do it manually.

Once created, the tasks can be edited and deleted. They can also be turned on/off depending if you want them to run all the time or only when you decide to run them.

So how have I been using it?

  • Keeping a record of what I need to do, by:
    • Feeding information from emails containing the words “To Do” or “Blog This” in the subject heading into a specific folder in Evernote.
    • Feeding bookmarks in with the tag “readlater” into the same folder in Evernote. I use this tag for large reports/articles I can’t whizz through in 30 minutes.
  • Keeping a record of what I’ve done, by:
    • Feeding bookmarks in with the tag “finishedreading” into Google calendar. These tend to be the same bookmarks as above, once I’ve read them.
    • Feeding details of blog posts I’ve written from any of my blogs into the same Google calendar.

I’m doing this (1) as a way of pulling together reminders of the things I’m supposed to be doing and (2) sometimes I feel as if I’ve not done much, so I want somewhere I can go to that will give me a positive boost and show me that I have actually achieved things.

I’m also using it for:

  • Collating library news quickly, by setting up searches on a number of sites and feeding the search results into the same blog. The purpose of this is to avoid having to do the same search over and over again in the same places, generally so I can find and Tweet news articles/blog posts for Voices For The Library more easily.
  • Feeding “likes” on various resources eg Youtube; to a blog post on my Tumblr blog. I use this blog as a place to post upbeat and creative things I like.

I know some services, such as WordPress, allow you to feed information directly to other services without using ifttt, but the good thing about ifttt, is that you can do this all in one place for a wide range of popular services, using the same method.

I’ve found it really useful so far, but as it’s still in its infancy I’ve also been thinking about how ifttt could be developed too. Here are some ideas about how I think it could be developed to help me achieve more productivity:

(1) Being able to make a copy of a task. I’m setting up a series of tasks that are only slightly different, but I have to create each one from scratch. It would be great if I could copy a task and then edit the parts that need changing.

(2) Being able to create an RSS output  for the “That” part of a task?

(3) Being able to create an Evernote input for the “This” part of a task?

(4) It would be great if I could take one input specified in “This” and feed it/branch off to multiple outputs via “That”, rather than having to set up a number of separate tasks.

(5) The ability to combine a chain of ifttt tasks in future, so that a single input can trigger a series of actions and can possibly branch off as mentioned in (4) above.

(6) A channel input/output to Google docs, specifically spreadsheets. I’m thinking that a data feed in/out of a spreadsheet would be really useful.

Even if they aren’t able to implement any of the above ideas I know ifttt is going to prove useful for me just as it is, expanding on the ideas I’ve already put into practice. It really is a useful tool and so simple to use too.


7 thoughts on “Using ifttt For Productivity And More

  1. I know this post is way old, but I’m searching for a way to pull info from a spreadsheet to create emails. Have you found a way to do this with IFTTT?

    • Hi Kelly
      If you create a Google spreadsheet and publish it as an atom feed, you can send that feed to either the gmail or email channels. You can only send the feed to a single email account per feed though.

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