Seven amazing Web automation tricks

IfThisThenThat is an amazing site that lets you automate your digital life. You can autotweet, send pics to Dropbox, and do so much more without a single click once you've got it set up.

I'm a sucker for automation. I'm the perfect storm of impatience, laziness, and sausage fingers, so anything that can save me a step or two qualifies as a must. In fact, there are plenty of things I'd never do if they weren't taken care of in the background (like posting links to my blog entries on FB). IfThisThenThat, which recently opened its doors to the world, wants to streamline our online lives and make it easier to integrate multiple services. In a way, it's like very simple programming using the easy-to-remember format "if this some kind of online event, then that some other kind of online event."

Play

I covered the basics  of the site a while back, but since opening up, the site has started a Recipes page to which users can post their favorites. Here are some of the great tricks people have posted since the site went live: 

  • The most popular by far is a tool that automatically downloads all Facebook photos in which you are tagged to a Dropbox folder. Given the way IfThisThenThat works, this should only download newly tagged photos, but if you're heading to a big party or convention, this is a great way to conveniently review the evidence later. 
    Send tagged Facebook photos to Dropbox.
    Send tagged Facebook photos to Dropbox.
  • Google Reader is great for scanning through items quickly, but it's not everyone's first choice for leisurely reading. This clever IfThisThenThat recipe automatically sends any Reader item you star to Instapaper. (This one might not be a time-saver, unless you have terrific willpower.) 

  • Most use Google Calendar to look forward, but some of us also use it to look backward. This cool tool lets you set up a new GCal item every time you check in on Foursquare, so it's much easier to keep track of where you've been and when you were there. For some, this can make life much easier. 
    Create GCal item from Foursquare checkin.
    Create GCal item from Foursquare checkin.

  • Services like this have been around as long as mobile phones, but this is extra-sneaky: Just send a text to IfThisThenThat and get an automated call in return that you can then use to beg off of that dull party, date, job interview, or midterm. 

  • I love Google Reader, and share quite a few (maybe too many) items with friends and followers. I don't tweet much, but this neat trick is likely to get me back in the game. Every shared Google Reader item then gets its own tweet, followed by your comment, if any. 
    Send shared Google Reader item to Twitter.
    Send shared Google Reader item to Twitter.

  • We're still in the early stages of social networking; even the few we've got feel like a few too many. Anything that makes it easy to cross-post is welcome, and this recipe does just that. If you write a tweet using the hash tag #fb, it'll be posted to Facebook minus the hash tag. 

  • Finally, you can attach any file to an e-mail and send it to Dropbox. I wrote up a somewhat more complex method to do just that a while back, but this is so sleek and simple it's impossible to avoid. 
    E-mail attachment to Dropbox.
    E-mail attachment to Dropbox.

There are hundreds more recipes available (here's something similar to the one I crafted to port blog links to Facebook). Check them out and you're sure to find a few that suit you--but remember that you're still limited to 10  actions for the time being!

About the author

    Rob Lightner is a tech and gaming writer based in Seattle. He has reviewed games, gadgets, and technical manuals, written copy for space travel gear, and composed horoscopes for cats.

     

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