Office for iPad sucks at exporting PDFs, so use IFTTT to make it better

Route your PDFs to the cloud service of your choice using this recipe for success.

Rick Broida Senior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Rick Broida
3 min read

Photo by Rick Broida/CNET

Late last month, Microsoft rolled out a batch of Office for iPad updates, including the welcome option of exporting Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files to PDF.

Just one problem: it's very limited. For one thing, it's hard to find. Instead of adding it to the File menu like you'd expect, Microsoft shoved the feature into the Share menu (which itself is a nondescript icon rather than a labeled menu).

That's less mysterious when you realize that you have only one export-to-PDF option, and that's turning it into an email attachment. If you want to save the file locally or upload it to a cloud store (including Microsoft's own OneDrive), tough luck.

Fortunately, you can leverage the invaluable IFTTT to add a bit more versatility to this option -- namely, routing those attached PDFs to the cloud service of your choice. That's still not quite as simple as a local-storage option, but it should definitely make life easier.

For anyone already familiar with IFTTT, here's the high-level overview of the process:

  1. Activate the Email Channel.
  2. Activate the channel for your preferred cloud service: Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, etc.
  3. Create a recipe that routes email attachments to that service.

And here's a more detailed tutorial:

Step one: Sign into your IFTTT account (or create one if necessary), then activate the Email Channel. This allows the service to recognize messages sent from your email account -- and act on them depending on whatever recipe you create. You'll need to agree to an activation verification via email.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step two: Decide which cloud service should be on the receiving end of your PDFs, then activate that channel. You'll need to perform a one-time authorization to allow IFTTT access to your cloud account.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step three: Click My Recipes, then Create a Recipe, then the big blue "this" link. Scroll down to (or search for) Email and click that to make it your trigger.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step four: Click "Send IFTTT an email tagged," then choose a hashtag that's easy to remember. The obvious choice is #PDFs, but you could also make it something business-specific like #Widgets. Click Create Trigger, then the big blue "that" link.

Step five: Now find your desired cloud service and click it. Next, click "Add file from URL."

Step six: Review the action fields for this recipe. By default, the file name for your newly created PDF will be whatever you use for the email's subject line -- so long as you include the aforementioned hashtag. If you're sending, say, a sales report, your subject line would read "Sales Report #PDFs." The uploaded PDF will end up with the file name "sales report.pdf."

The finished product. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

Step seven: Finally, if you want, modify the destination folder for your PDFs. If not, click Create Action. Review all the details (perhaps deselecting "Receive notifications when this Recipe runs," which can get intrusive in a hurry), and then click Create Recipe.

Now, whenever you export a PDF from Office for iPad, direct the email to trigger@ifttt.com (making sure it comes from the email address you linked in step one). Add your selected hashtag to the subject line, tap Send, and you're done. Within a minute or so, your PDF should arrive in your cloud account (in the designated folder), where you can easily access and share it.