The "If This Then That" service just got three new Android and iOS apps that expand its current functionality so you can automate even more actions and increase productivity while using your mobile device.
If you’re unfamiliar with the service, IFTTT stands for “If This Then That.” It’s a free and infinitely useful cloud service that lets you choose from among tons of premade “recipes” — simple macros that link two otherwise unconnected apps or services — to cause a desired result. Want to automatically save Instapaper articles you favorite to Evernote? There’s an IFTTT recipe for that.
Of course, you can also can create your own recipes to connect services and create new, automated actions.
The IFTTT Android and iOS apps have been around for a while, but they were recently renamed “IF.” The company’s “Do” apps are new, and there are a few of them: Do Button, Do Camera, and Do Note. What’s the difference between the IF and Do apps? With IFTTT and IF, you use recipes that run in the background and trigger automatically. With the three Do apps, you take a specific action — usually just push a button — to initiate a task.
Do Button is the most convenient of the three new apps, because it is the only one that currently offers widgets for Android and iOS. The widgets make it simple to quickly access your three recipes.
For example, I suspect many people will love the Do Button recipe called “Get yourself out of an awkward situation.” With a quick tap on the Android or iOS widget, IFTTT automatically calls your phone and plays a message long enough for you to pretend it’s an actual call — so you can excuse yourself from a tedious meeting or unfortunate encounter.
Other Do Button recipe examples include, “Create a note logging a map image of your location,” which automatically creates an Evernote note that maps your location — something I plan to use to remember where I parked in unfamiliar areas; “On the way home? Let someone know,” which sends a Gmail message to your honey, letting him or her know you’re heading home and where you are; and “Block off the next hour as ‘Do Not Disturb,'” which should be self-explanatory.
Do Camera, as the name implies, uses your mobile device’s camera to automate actions. The three I chose to start with are “Save Receipts to Evernote,” which is cool because Evernote automatically puts the receipt text through the optical character recognition (OCR) process, so you can keyword-search it later; “Remember this business card,” another Evernote hack for quickly scanning business cards; and “Save in Dropbox,” which automatically saves your photos to a Dropbox account.
Do Note lets you quickly save notes and to-do lists to Evernote, post tweets and Facebook status updates, create Google Calendar events with natural-language input, such as “Meet with John from 5-7 Monday,” and track your work hours in a Google Drive spreadsheet, among other recipes.
Unfortunately, the Do apps only let you create or use up to three automation recipes — one of those “initial limitations” I mentioned. I’d also like to see widgets for the Do Camera and Do Note apps. Not surprisingly, the IF app and IFTTT website also give you access to far more recipes.
Overall, these are minor issues, and with these new, easy-to-use apps, IFTTT nerds and newbies alike will be geeking out with their gadgets — and getting more efficient in the process.
James A. Martin is a seasoned tech journalist and blogger based in San Francisco and winner of the 2014 ASBPE National Gold award for his CIO.com blog. He writes CIO.com's Living the Tech Life blog and is also a content marketing consultant.