If This, Then That
IFTTT, which is short for If This Then That, is a free Web service that lets you create an "applet," a simple program that triggers an action if something else occurs. Following its name, IFTTT simply allows you to fill in the "If/Then" blanks. For example, "If the Atlanta Falcons score a touchdown, Then change my Philips Hue lights to red."
IFTTT works with a wide range of devices and services, from Alexa and Google Home to the Nest thermostat. Connecting gadgets and services is not difficult, but it takes some patience. First, you'll have to create a free IFTTT account, as well as one for whatever product or service you're going to be controlling, such as the Philips Hue lights. Once you do, activating an applet is as simple as a virtual toggle switch on the IFTTT app or website.
Back up your tagged Facebook photos in an iOS album
Now here's a clever way of admiring everysingle photo you've ever been tagged in by your Facebook friends (and enemies, I suppose). Turn on the applet using permissions from the social network and the ability to add photos to an iOS album. Voila! You'll never again miss another photo of you practicing your red-carpet pose, or eating massive amounts of wasabi.
Get the “bail out” phone call
Great for internet dating and dodgy craigslist buying expeditions, this applet creates a strawman emergency situation by calling your phone at the perfect time. Just send a text to a dedicated IFTTT number with the hashtag #help and you’ll get a call to your mobile lickity-split. Now you’ll always have the excuse, “Sorry, I have to go, my dog is sick” the next time your date looks nothing like his or her profile photo.
Get reminders to reach your Fitbit goals
You wear a Fitbit for an obvious reason, right? Well, why not get a little daily "inspiration?" This applet works with any Android or iOS-enabled device, and works very simply: If you haven't reached your daily Fitbit goals by a certain time (of your choosing), you'll get a push notification politely reminding you to get moving and make your goals.
Photo: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide
Turn on your lights at dusk
If you've got Philips Hue lights in your home, you can use this applet to turn on the lights in your home at sunset every day, thanks to data from Weather Underground. After configuring the applet in the IFTTT app, your lights will automatically turn on each day as the sun begins to set. Insert God-complex joke about "letting there be light" here.
Set your thermostat
Quick temperature adjusts are just what internet-connected thermostats such as the Nest and the Ecobee were designed for. Now, you don't even need to pull out your phone to get it done. The next time you feel cold, say, "OK, Google, set thermostat to 74 degrees," and you'll be toasty in minutes. (It works with Alexa, too.) Keep in mind that this applet is set to Fahrenheit, not Celsius.
Find your Android phone with Google Assistant
Misplaced your phone again? Have an Android device with the Google Assistant (aka OK Google) widget installed? Well, instead of suffering moments of terror as you retrace your steps, just say, "OK, Google, find my phone," and Google Assistant initiates a call to your phone. When you answer, you'll hear a recording say, "Hooray! You found your phone." Of course, this is only useful if your phone is on and not silenced. In which case....
Get POTUS new laws in your iOS reading list
How times have changed. There was once a time when only people who watched C-SPAN daily cared when the president signed a bill into law. Now, it's mandatory watercooler fodder. Why not be prepared for President Trump by having the official text of each of his new laws loaded right into your iOS reading list, thanks to ProPublica?
Email your shopping list with Amazon Alexa
Alexa's shopping list capability is a handy function—no pens, no paper, and no forgetting the aforementioned sunblock. Now, thanks to IFTTT, you can get an email of your shopping list sent to you while you drive to the grocery store. Once activating 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 within seconds.
Get a wake-up weather call
Talk about multitasking! It would be cool enough to get a hotel-style wakeup call every day. But how about getting a personalized wakeup call with the weather forecast for that day? Mind blown. When activating the applet, insert your name, location and wake-up time. Then, like clockwork, you'll be awakened from your slumber with the day's forecast from Weather Underground, addressed to none other than you.
Send a text message to your partner when you leave work
Geolocation apps are either the coolest thing since screen doors, or the end of privacy as we know it. Either way, this applet solves the issue of letting your honey know when you'll be home for dinner. You'll need to configure the applet in the IFTTT app with a few bits of information, including the general location of your workplace. Then, activate the applet to send a text to a specific phone number whenever you leave that location. Sure, you might get caught going out for tacos on Tuesdays with your work buddies, but it's worth not having to fumble with your headset in the car every day at quittin' time.
Create iPhone reminders for starred Gmails
Just when you thought clicking that little star next to an email in Gmail was useless, this little applet comes along and sets the universe right again. That's right, this applet automatically sends a reminder to your iPhone for every mail you star. The applet uses iOS reminders native to all iPhones to make the magic happen.
See your Instagrams in full color on Twitter
Are you tired of having your greatest Instagram photographic achievements reduced to a mere link in your Twitter feed? With this applet, all of your Instagram photos will be shared as native photos (read: full color images, no links) in your Twitter.
Write the next great American novel
Are you on the verge of crafting the next best-selling memoir, but you just can't get yourself to sit down and start writing? Use this applet to automatically open a journal entry every day at the same time in your Day One. Just pick a time, activate the applet and then all you need to do is flip open your laptop and start writing—the entry is created for you. Just make sure it's auto-saved -- you can't let this treasure get lost.
Automatically create a receipt spreadsheet
This crafty applet searches your incoming email for anything with the words “receipt” and “order” in the messages and automatically adds it to a Google spreadsheet. Certainly helpful for one-person businesses -- and those who want to track their “as-seen-on-TV” junk purchases.
Create Trello cards for recurring tasks
The title gives it away, but here are the particulars: For the millions who use Trello cards as a visual collaboration tool for work, this applet is a big help for recurring daily or weekly tasks. Just pick a day and time, activate the applet, and a Trello card for that task will be created automatically at the same time on the schedule you choose.
Track your work hours in Google Drive
This applet is particularly helpful for those of us who work freelance, or who have a side gig after-hours or on weekends. Whether you're getting paid hourly or not, it's always important to know how much time you're spending on a given project. This ingenious applet creates a button widget on the home screen of your smartphone. When you start work, click the button. When you're done, click again, and your hours will be added to a Google spreadsheet.
Use NASA's latest space photos as Android wallpaper
Anyone who's had the brilliant idea of using personal photos as their Android wallpaper knows you need really dark or monochrome photos to see your icons. Well, NASA has inadvertently solved this dilemma because deep space is, well, dark. And beautiful. Just enable the applet through the IFTTT app and you'll get a stunning new space photo daily, automatically loaded into your wallpaper settings.
Tell your lost Android phone to turn up the volume to 100 percent
For those of us Android smartphone users who keep our ringers on vibrate, this applet is simply magic. A vibrating ringer is convenient, but becomes a problem when your phone gets lost, because calling it will do no good. This applet texts your phone a command to turn up the volume all the way so you can hear it ringing.
Get an email when a craigslist post matches your search
The benefits to this applet are endless, whether you want to be first to email about a killer apartment in New York City, or you simply don't want to create a new search every day for a Nikon D810 Camera. All that's needed is the URL from a previous craigslist search, which you then paste into the configuration page on the IFTTT app. After, you'll immediately start getting emails every time a new listing matches your search terms.
Put on our sunscreen!
Don't laugh...if all it takes is an electronic reminder to prevent a wicked sunburn (or worse), this applet will be your best friend when beach weather rolls around. Activate the applet, and whenever Weather Underground predicts a high UV forecast, you'll get a push notification on your Android or iOS-enabled mobile device. Now, if you only had an applet to remind you to buy the sunscreen. Oh, wait….
Make your own applet
Creating applets isn't rocket science, but you'll need some patience and creativity. From IFTTT's site or app, press the button for New Applet. Next, select the "+ IF" and then choose a gadget or service. After, create the trigger that 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!