How to use IFTTT to automate your online life

These are a dozen of the tastiest IFTTT recipes on the Web, and each shows just how handy-dandy the service can be when you take the time to craft some truly useful triggers and actions.

If you click the "Use Recipe" link on a given recipe's page, it will be added to your collection and automatically activated. Yum. Even if you don't want to use third-party recipes, seeing how other people set up their triggers and actions can serve as inspiration when you're creating your own. (Note: the "captions" below link to the described recipe's page.)

Have IFTTT send you a text message with today's weather forecast every day at 8:00 A.M.

Change your Twitter profile picture when you change your Facebook profile picture.

Save all photos that you post to Instagram to Dropbox.

Dear diary: Create a Google Calendar event whenever you check in to a location on Foursquare.

If someone tags you in a Facebook picture, save that picture to Dropbox (or to SkyDrive).

The escape plan: Have IFTTT send you a diversionary call when you text the service. (Alternatively, have IFTTT call you when you send it a message via Google Talk.)

Have IFTTT text you if the Center for Disease Control reports a zombie outbreak.

Back up your Dropbox files in Google Drive.

Receive a daily wake-up call.

Automatically track online purchase receipts received via Gmail on a Google Drive spreadsheet.

Dictate a voice message to IFTTT and receive a transcription in your inbox.

You can even go super-niche and do stuff like scrape specific job feeds in specific markets and send the results to a specific Evernote notebook.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. You can search through all of IFTTT's shared recipes via the "Browse" link at the top of the website, or through the most popular recipes here.

Editing a recipe

So, you've got a full plate of homemade and cribbed recipes. What if some of them don't taste quite right? That's where IFTTT's editing options come in.

The quick option icons for a recipe are to the right of the task itself on your My Recipes page.

If you head to your My Recipes page, you'll find a list of all your concoctions. Next to each one, you'll see a line of icons to quickly deactivate, delete, or share your recipes—each does exactly what you'd expect. Deactivated tasks appear grayed-out.

The expanded option interface; the Trigger and Action fields lie below the fold on the IFTTT site.

Clicking on the recipe itself or on the sideways triangle next to the share icon brings up a complete list of options for that particular IFTTT recipe. Here, you'll find a few new icons. One shows the activity for the recipe, detailing exactly when the recipe's trigger has been tripped and acted upon; the other button, "Check," lets you see if the recipe is still working to ensure that it hasn't broken in some way.

Scrolling down, you'll find the Trigger and Action fields for the recipe, which let you tinker with the fine details. You can't, however, change higher-level triggers or actions through the options interface. If, say, you want your Instagram pictures to start saving to SkyDrive instead of Dropbox, you'll have to create a whole new recipe.

A universe of possibilities

Now, young IFTTT padawan, you have all the knowledge necessary to become a true IFTTT Jedi. Sure, the service may be a bit simple, but its easy-to-use interface is still capable of pulling off impressive feats of power—especially if you start mashing the service together with some custom Yahoo Pipes or the cornucopia of Dropbox, Google Drive, and Evernote extensions out there.

How do you use IFTTT? Share your suggestions—or, better yet, your recipes—in the comments below.

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