[HOW TO] Understand and use If This Then That


If This Then That may be one of the most useful apps you’ll ever download for your smartphone… but getting to grips with it can be a little daunting at first as it requires a bit of an understanding of what are, essentially, programming principles.

To help you around that, here is a bit of a grounding in what If This Then That is, how it works and what sort of things it can do for you.

The app, abbreviated IFTTT and pronounced “gift” without the G, can be found on both Google Play and the iTunes store. It gives people a way to trigger actions on their phones automatically that cause other things to happen.

If the phone detects the trigger action, which can be as straightforward as arriving at a certain location, someone tagging you in a photo on Facebook or your phone joining a specific WiFi network, it immediately performs the task you’ve set to launch once that condition has been met.

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For instance, do you like to save money on your cell bill by using your phone’s data connection as little as possible, but you hate having to manually disable and re-enable data as you move between WiFi networks? IFTTT can help with that. It lets you specify that as soon as you’re in range of WiFi network X (it must be one you have permission to join, of course), data gets disabled, and only re-enabled once you’re out of range.

And if you’re a bit of a shutterbug and you’d like the pictures you snap to be uploaded to Dropbox or OneDrive or Google Drive as soon as you’re in range of your home WiFi network, IFTTT can help. Or you’d like to receive an email when you miss a call from a certain number. Same.

The recipe channel?

IFTTT uses what it refers to as “recipes” to accomplish this. You can create your own, or download recipes created by other IFTTT users, and there are literally thousands to choose from. Chances are, if you can think of a sequence of events you’d like to automate, someone else has already created a recipe for it.

To make it easy to create your own recipes from scratch, IFTTT works with what its developers refer to as “Channels”. Channels are groups of internet services, and recipes are created by using actions from within those channels to trigger events that make use of services and functions within other channels.

What makes IFTTT so useful is that once you’ve set your rules up, you can forget about them. The actions you’ve automated just become part of how your phone works, and your life, in theory, gets a little easier. 

So how about a How To?

Sure thing. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create your own recipe. We’ll automate camera photos being uploaded to your Dropbox account after they’re taken on an Android phone.

Get and install IFTTT for your phone from your app store.

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Create an account and sign in.

IFTTT - Demo 3

Go through IFTTT’s brief intro slides, then press on the mortar and pestle seen in the top right corner of the app.

IFTTT - Demo 1

Now press the Plus symbol; this takes you to a screen where you can browse through the user-created recipes, or start your own.

IFTTT - Browse

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Press the round blue and white Plus at the bottom right of the screen, then on the square blue and white plus.

This is where you choose the “trigger” event. For our purposes, navigate to Android Device, choose Camera, then press the plus next to Any new photo.

IFTTT - Create 2

Now press on the big red plus for the Then service. Find and press on the Dropbox icon.

IFTTT - Channel

Before channels can be used, they must be activated. Press on Continue to activate the Dropbox channel.

IFTTT - Create Almost Done

Once that has happened, you will be given the option to be notified every time the recipe runs. We recommend setting that to no – it gets annoying otherwise.

IFTTT - Recipe Created

Now, every time you take a picture, the photo will be uploaded to a folder in your Dropbox.

To make more, go exploring, do Google searches on which ones work best, and go wild.

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