A lot of Web services promise to make your life easier, but IFTTT—which stands for “If This, Then That”—is one of the few that actually does. It works by connecting various online and mobile services with triggers and reactions. When one thing happens (you receive an email with an attachment, you label a message), another thing will automatically happen (that attachment gets saved somewhere). These combinations of triggers and reactions are called Recipes, and they’re freely available on IFTTT’s Website.
Gmail is one of the Web services I use the most often, and I both love it and hate it. It’s a great email tool, but too often my inbox is overloaded with important tasks, documents, and stuff I just really need to remember. I found several IFTTT recipes that promise to make using Gmail just a tad bit better. Here are a few of my favorites.
Find a lost phone
I lose my phone. A lot. And I don’t have a landline to call it from, so tracking it down can be a challenge…or at least it was, until I found this IFTTT recipe, Help me find my lost phone. It sends a call to your lost phone when you use Gmail to send a message that includes #lostphone. To activate it, you’ll need to connect IFTTT’s call channel and connect IFTTT to your Gmail account. The phone call doesn’t arrive instantly—there was a lag of just about a minute in my tests. And if your ringer is off, you may be out of luck, depending on just how lost your phone is. But if you’re looking for a simple way to find a lost phone, this recipe is for you.
Save emails for later
I’ve never been a huge fan of using labels in Gmail, but IFTTT is going a long way toward convincing me that I may have been wrong.
The default label suggested is “Evernote” but you can change it if you’d like. It automatically creates a notebook in Evernote—with the slightly unwieldy name of “Emails labeled Evernote”—and places the messages in there. The format would best be described as basic, and you certainly wouldn’t call it beautiful, but the messages are readable and easy to access.
Reminders when you need them
I get a lot of emails containing info about tasks I need to follow up on, things I need to do, and just general stuff I need to remember. Sometimes, it’s all too easy to forget about these things as soon as I close Gmail. That’s why I was intrigued by this Recipe that promised to add reminders in iOS about emails I simply star in Gmail. Unfortunately, that Recipe never worked correctly for me—using it was not as simple as I’d hoped.
So, I set my sights on a Recipe that promised to add reminders in iOS about emails I labeled. To use the Recipe, you’ll need to install the free IF app on your iPhone—and you’ll need to go into its settings and connect the iOS reminders channel, a step that wasn’t apparent to me. That minor issue aside, the recipe worked well: Any email I labeled “To-do” (or any other label that I designated in IFTTT) showed up in my iOS Reminders App within seconds. The entries there only show the sender and subject line of the email, so you’ll have to do a little digging to remember exactly why you flagged this email, but it’s a lot simpler than digging through Gmail to find it again.
Weather forecasts for you
This is, hands down, one of my very favorite IFTTT Recipes, because it’s both super simple and super useful. It promises to send an email if tomorrow’s forecast calls for rain. If you don’t have time to watch the weather, it’s incredibly handy, and even if you do catch the forecast, it’s a great reminder.
To use it, you simply activate the Weather Channel in IFTTT, and tell it which email addresses should receive the reminder. It will send it to as many as five emails, which don’t have to be Gmail accounts.
You do need Gmail, though, because the email with the weather forecast will come from that address. And you don’t have to send out gloomy forecasts only: You can choose to be alerted if the forecast is for rain, snow, clouds, or clear weather. Unfortunately, though, you have to pick one type of weather, as the Recipe will not allow you to choose multiple options.
Attachments, saved automatically
I get plenty of attachments sent to you in Gmail, and I hate trying to find them again if they’re stashed in my email inbox somewhere. These two Recipes will help you organize your attachments, by saving them to Google Drive and/or Dropbox automatically.
To use them, you’ll need to activate IFTTT’s Google and/or Dropbox channels – and that’s about it. You can designate a folder in which the attachments will be stored. The default option for both is in a folder called “IFTTT” that will be created if you don’t already have one. Both recipes create a subfolder called “Gmail Attachments” and store the files in there.
Liane Cassavoy is a veteran technology and business journalist. She contributes regularly to PCWorld and has written about business issues and products for Entrepreneur Magazine and other publications. She is the author of two business start-up guides published by Entrepreneur Press.