Amazon's Alexa voice assistant works really well on its own, but you can greatly expand the assistant's capabilities by connecting it with the "If This Then That" (IFTTT) protocol. You'll be able to tell Alexa to perform a variety of tasks, ranging from the silly to the superbly useful, including everything from getting a notification when an astronaut reaches space to finding your lost phone. To get started, all you need is a smartphone, the IFTTT app and an Alexa device. Read on for our Top Alexa/IFTTT recipes.
How to Get IFTTT to work with Alexa
Connecting IFTTT with Alexa is not difficult, but it takes some patience. First, you may have to download apps and create accounts for Alexa, IFTTT, and whatever product or service you're going to be controlling, such as the Philips Hue lights. Then, go to the services page on IFTTT and click on Alexa. Once you do, you'll see a ton of Alexa-specific applets. To get them to work, you'll have to link to your account info on those services. For example, there are lots of applets that require Google accounts, like Calendar and Google Drive. Just make a quick pass through the All Services page on IFTTT and activate the ones you think you're interested in. You'll need to "trigger" a good many of the Alexa applets by giving a specific command to your device. It's spelled out quite clearly on IFTTT or through the app.
Find My Phone
This is one of the simplest applets, but it's extremely helpful and by far the most popular of all of the IFTTT/Alexa combos. All you need to do is give IFTTT permission, and then activate the applet with Alexa by saying, "Alexa, trigger Find My Phone." That's it. When you lose your phone, just tell Alexa to find the device, and Alexa will call your phone. Just follow the sound of the ring.
Email your shopping list
Alexa's shopping list function is handy: no pens, no paper and no forgetting the eggs. Now, thanks to IFTTT, you can get your shopping list emailed to you while you drive to the grocery store. To activate the applet in the IFTTT app, just ask Alexa, "What's on my shopping list?" and you'll get a handy list sent right to your Gmail account within seconds.
Trigger activities with your Harmony TV Remote
When Harmony introduced smart TV remotes, millions of sports-watching, PlayStation-playing and audio-component-stacking people celebrated. I was one of them, because these remotes allowed me to bundle different activities, such as turning on the TV, receiver and PS4, into a single button command. Harmony and Alexa have combined to skip the button and activate the activity with your voice. For example, say, "Alexa, trigger Watch TV," and your TV, receiver and cable box will turn on. Just give the necessary permissions in the IFTTT app, and you'll never have to put down that oversize burrito to watch the game again. Mind blown.
Set your Nest thermostat temperature
Nest brought the world the "learning" thermostat, trying to help families save money, the planet save energy and give remote control of the gadget. Now, with Alexa you can use your voice to preheat your home as you drive back to your igloo after flying home from the Caribbean. You can set this feature up in less time than it takes a plane to taxi to the gate; turn on the applet in IFTTT, give the appropriate permissions to Nest and tell Alexa to trigger it. The default command is, "Alexa, trigger nest to 72" (degrees Fahrenheit), but you can set the thermostat to an exact temperature by creating your own phrase.
Sync your to-do list with Google Calendar
This applet is still a bit raw, but if your head's too full of stuff to remember, then give the Google calendar applet a shot. Follow me here: Activate the applet in the IFTTT app on your smartphone, give the necessary permissions for Gmail, and then create a to-do list on Alexa. Each time you add something to that list, Alexa will send a Quick Add Event to your Google Calendar. The key here is Quick Add, which means the applet won't set a date or time for the to-do; it will instead create an event right now, and you'll then have to go in and edit the specifics later. It's not perfect, but at least you get some kind of event in your calendar before you forget.
Trigger a Hue party-light loop
It may not cure sickness or make you more efficient at your job, but this clever little applet is fun. If the Saturday night book club you host spontaneously turns into a fiesta, just turn on this applet and say, "Alexa, trigger party time." Your Philips Hue colored lights will automatically go into a color loop. What happens after the party lights go on is up to you.
Lock down for the Night
This applet is certainly a preview of many multilayer recipes on the horizon. Just say, "Alexa, trigger lockdown," and she'll get your home safe and secure for the night. The command simultaneously mutes your android phone, turns off all your Hue lights and makes sure Garageio closes your garage door, making this a three-in-one applet for the home. Garageio, incidentally, is not a garage door company; it's a smart home system you can install to control your existing door remotely.
Domino's, the pizza-delivery giant, has created an applet that lets you order a fresh pie. First, you'll need Twitter and Domino's accounts. Go to your Domino's pizza profile page, tick the box that says, "Sign up for Tweet ordering and then link it to your Twitter account. You'll then need to create a pizza order and click "Save as easy order." Now find the IFTTT applet "Alexa trigger order pizza" and turn it on. Once you give that command, Alexa will send #easyorder to Domino's for you, and in short order, you'll have a DM from the pizza chain to confirm your order.
Visual timer alert
It's happened to everyone: You set a timer for the oven while cranking tunes, only to burn the meat loaf because the sounds of your home stereo have drowned out the soft bells of Alexa's timer alert. This applet solves the problem by telling your Hue lights to blink on and off when Alexa's timer hits zero. Activate the applet in the IFTTT app, and every time you tell your Alexa to start the timer, this blinking-light function will be imbedded into the command.
Create a spreadsheet of songs
Ever let Prime Music play a recommended playlist for you? Ever been driving and hear a couple of songs on the playlist that you love, and then poof … they're gone? No need to take your eyes off the road with this applet that creates a Google Docs spreadsheet of every new song Alexa plays. She will document every song, band and album, the perfect length for tweeting out your new favorite songs to all of your adoring followers and for sending full playlists to your besties on Facebook.
Add songs to Spotify playlist
Tired of your disco-heavy music library? This applet sends new songs that Alexa plays to a Spotify playlist of your choosing. Just follow instructions for connecting Spotify and Alexa to IFTTT, then configure the appropriate permissions for both, including choosing (or creating) a playlist in Spotify where Alexa will send the new tunes.
Set Up ToDoist reminders
Can't seem to remember trash day? Tell Alexa to have the schedule automatically emailed to you with this applet. You'll need to set up a ToDoist account, activate the service in IFTTT and enter some basic info about your list items. Once you do, you can say, "Alexa, add to my to-do list." You'll get an email reminding you to walk the dog, take out the trash — or whatever else. Plus, the item will be added to you ToDoist list an app.
Find when your favorite team plays — and if they won
Sports fans want to know when their teams play next. Alexa already does this for you, but with this applet, the assistant will also send the information to your Google Calendar, so you know when to plant your rear on the couch. Just ask Alexa, and not only will the assistant say the answer, but you'll also get an entry in your Google Calendar. Secondly, go to the ESPN applet and choose your team (you can set up as many teams as you like) and turn it on. When the game is over, you'll get the final score via push notification. Pretty handy.
Voice-control smart home devices
Here's a great applet that instantly makes the concept of a smart home accessible to anyone: For around $25, you can pick up the WeMo smart switch, which allows you to control certain electrical appliances remotely. Well, how about turning on or off those lights or fans with a voice prompt to Alexa? Now, you've got voice- and remote-controlled home automation for little money. Just choose a phrase to trigger your lighting, in the pattern of "Alexa, trigger + your phrase," and your smart plug will turn on or off that appliance.
Water your lawn
Does one section of your lawn constantly need more watering than another area? Just activate with this great applet. The catch? You need to own a Skydrop smart sprinkler system. You'll have to designate certain zones for watering in your Skydrop system, including the one where your neighbor goes flower shopping. Once you do, follow the instructions for creating a trigger phrase with Alexa, and you'll be able to quickly protect your prize roses with a refreshing cold water shower.
Make your own Alexa applet
Creating applets isn't rocket science, but you'll need to find services that can work with Alexa's abilities. From IFTTT's site or app, press the button for New Applet. Next, select the "+ IF" and then the Amazon Alexa button. After that, create the trigger, which will initiate the applet. Finally, choose what will happen when you activate that trigger, from the list of available services. There are hundreds to choose from, so enjoy experimenting!