If you've always wanted a personal assistant to make your life easier, you need to check out IFTTT. The folks who brought you Buffer are determined to make your life easier. They developed IFTTT, a free site that simplifies your life by letting you program the Internet to help you out. No coding required!

What Is IFTTT?

IFTTT – an acronym for If This Then That – helps you stay on top of social media sites, important events, stock prices, the weather and, well, life. IFTTT lets you use programs to make things happen. These programs are called "Recipes" and by mixing together the right ingredients, you can put the Internet to work for you. If you're a programmer, you could write code to achieve this result. But you don't have to be a programmer -- IFTTT makes it easy.

A Recipe is "if this, then that." Plain and simple.

Sample IFTTT Recipes

To give you an idea of how IFTTT works, here are some examples of IFTTT Recipes:

The IFTTT Simple Formula

Channel + Trigger + Action = Recipe

Trust me, it's easy.

Channels

IFTTT works with channels, including social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and others) , weather events, stock prices, etc. To work with a channel, you need to give IFTTT permission to access your account. IFTTT is connected with 47 different channels, but you only need to give permission for the channels you'll be using with IFTTT.

Triggers

A trigger is the This part of the Recipe, such as if:

  • XYZ stock price reaches $XX
  • I am tagged in a Facebook photo

Actions

The action is the Then part of the recipe, such as …

  • Email me
  • Save to my Dropbox

Getting Started with IFTTT

To get started with IFTTT, go to its website and sign up for an account. You don't need to download any software, you use Recipes right on their website. You can either create your own Recipes or use ones that others have created to make it even easier.

Using Others' Recipes

The easiest way of using IFTTT is finding a Recipe that has already been created by someone else. You can browse IFTTT to see what Recipes are available and tweak them to fit your needs. Tens of thousands of Recipes have already been created, so you may not need to create your own.

To find Recipes, go to Browse and choose from Popular, Hot and What's New. You can also search for terms to find all Recipes that use a certain channel, trigger or action. For example, you could search "Facebook" to find all IFTTT Recipes that use the Facebook Channel.

Searching through others' Recipes will also give you ideas. You may find a Recipe such as Add my Foursquare check ins to my Google calendar, to help you keep a diary of places you've been. Or you may want to automatically Convert and send books and documents from my Dropbox to my Kindle.

Creating Your Own IFTTT Recipes

If you can't find a Recipe you want or you like the idea of creating your own, you can make your own Recipes very easily. Go to IFTTT Create.

1. First choose an IFTTT Channel.

2. Next choose a Trigger. After you choose a Channel, IFTTT will show you the Trigger options for that Channel.

3. Finally choose an Action that you want to happen when the Trigger occurs.

IFTTT guides you through the process so it's easy to follow each step of the way.

Using IFTTT with Twitter

IFTTT works with Twitter, so you can use Recipes that send tweets thanking people for mentioning you or for following you on Twitter. But Twitter doesn't allow the use of "@" with a username when using IFTTT. For example, you can't create a Recipe that will send out a tweet thanking someone with "@username" in the tweet. If you're not using their user name to thank them, you would have to say something like, "Thank you #username for the follow!" The chances that your new follower will see your thank you tweet are pretty slim.

The solution is to use [or you could link to philly.com Buffer article here instead or in addition to the first paragraph] Buffer in your Recipe, not Twitter, if you want to include an @username in the text of your tweets. In the previous example thanking someone for following you on Twitter, you can use Buffer in your Recipe for tweets that say "Thank you @username for the follow!"

Note that free Buffer accounts have a limit of 10 tweets in your buffer so you can fill up your buffer very quickly if you get a lot of new followers. But you can save a lot of time and show a lot of appreciation by using IFTTT with Buffer.

Sample Fun IFTTT Recipes

You can have IFTTT send you an email on the first of each month reminding you to clean up your social media permissions. Here is the Recipe: Email reminder to clean up your permissions.

For example, would you like to save Pinterest pins? Use this Recipe to Back up your Pinterest pins to your Dropbox.

If you're in a bind and need a call to rescue you from a meeting, bad date or awkward situation, check out this Recipe:

Want to make a quick Twitter list for a topic? Check out this Recipe: Create a Twitter list from hashtags.

You can use IFTTT as an alarm clock to wake you up in the morning or as an event reminder when you add an appointment to your Google calendar.

Bottom Line

Free tech that makes your life easier may sound too good to be true. But IFTTT is a fun, free and easy way to simplify your life.

Dropbox news

In case you didn't catch it earlier this week, here's an update about Dropbox: It has doubled the amount of storage available to its paying customers. Customers who pay for Dropbox now get:

• 100 GB for $10/month or $99/year, increased from 50 GB

• 200 GB for $20/month or $200/year, increased from 100 GB

An option will also be offered for 500 GB, though pricing has not yet be announced.

Free Dropbox accounts will have the same amount of storage as before, beginning at 2 GB.