Connecting everything: How to get the most out of Alexa with IFTTT

Alexa is a powerful voice assistant with tons of actions, skills and compatible devices. However, it cannot do everything on its own, especially if you use non-Amazon services. To set reminders, send emails, or take notes by tapping your Echo, and you don’t want to do it all in the Alexa app, you have to reach outside of Amazon. That’s true If This Then That (IFTTT) comes in.

IFTTT is a powerful tool that connects various voice assistants, device platforms and online services. It actually does exactly what it says: if you start something with one thing (like Amazon Alexa), then you make something else happen (like sending an email through Gmail).

Here’s how to create your own Alexa-powered IFTTT applets (integrations) to do the things Alexa can’t easily do on its own. And if you want some simple tools that you don’t have to make yourself, we’ve included some of our favorite ready-made IFTTT applets further down the page.


How to Make Your Own IFTTT Applets for Alexa

Here we outline the steps for creating your own IFTTT applets. While it may seem like a lot of work, it’s surprisingly easy once you get the hang of it.

1. Create an IFTTT account and link your services

Setting up IFTTT to work with Alexa is easy. Go to the IFTTT site and create an account. Search for Alexa if it doesn’t appear on the front page, then click Connect. Follow the prompts to link your Amazon account to your IFTTT account. After that, you may want to link other accounts like Apple for iOS integrations, Google for Google Calendar, Docs or Sheets and any compatible smart home platforms you use to control those devices with IFTTT applets. It’s the same process for everyone.

IFTTT

You need to link all the services you want to use, starting with your Amazon account for Alexa.

Keep in mind that a free IFTTT account can use up to five applets at a time. You can increase that limit to 20 with an IFTTT Pro account for $3 per month or $24 per year.

With your account set up and all your different services linked, you can start adding ready-made applets. Click Create. This will take you to the very basic page for creating an applet.

IFTTT

Each applet has two parts, a trigger and an outcome.

2. Choose your Alexa trigger

IFTTT applets consist of two parts: “If This” is one part, “Then That” is the other. In this case, the “If This” section is all you want to tell Alexa to do.

IFTTT

IFTTT supports triggers across dozens of services. Scroll down to find Alexa.

Click the Add button next to Like This and scroll down to Amazon Alexa. Select it and then check out the different triggers you can use. There are over a dozen possible Alexa triggers, but here are the basics:

IFTTT

You can choose from different triggers. Half is related to your shopping list.

“Say a specific sentence” is just that. You create your own voice command that you activate by saying “Alexa, trigger (voice command)” which is simple and direct.

IFTTT

To use a trigger phrase, type what you want to say here.

Alexa can also trigger more roundabout IFTTT triggers, including when you add an item to your grocery or to-do list, play a new song, or ask for a sports score. At the time of writing, these are all the triggers Alexa has available to trigger IFTTT applets.

3. Choose your result

This is where IFTTT really opens up and lets you do things Alexa can’t do alone. Click Add next to Then That and see the list of devices, platforms, and services IFTTT can work with. It can communicate with communication services such as Discord, Gmail and Slack; cloud storage services such as Box, Dropbox and Google Drive; list services such as Evernote and OneNote; and dozens of different smart home platforms. It can even send text messages easily. Keep in mind that you need to link every service and platform you want to use with your IFTTT account to get anything set up.

IFTTT

The outcome service list is different from the trigger service list.

Of course, once you’ve chosen which service or device you want IFTTT to communicate with, you’ll need to explain exactly how it should communicate. The next page after you select the platform offers several results, all of which depend on the platform itself. This is where it can get complicated.

For smart home devices, the results can be as simple as turning the lights on or off or locking or unlocking the door. Anything text related might need a little more. You must fill in the fields in the outcome you select and optionally include IFTTT ingredients in the mix for details.

IFTTT

As with triggers, each service has different outcomes that you can select.

For example, for Gmail, you’ll need to set where the email will go (probably to yourself, which is why there’s a special outcome for that), along with what the subject and body will say. Unfortunately, for a simple trigger phrase, you can’t really send anything detailed except the time you said it (the TriggeredAt ingredient) or a pre-written message. However, if you ask Alexa for your shopping list, you can send the entire list to your email (the EntireList Ingredient). IFTTT automatically fills fields with relevant ingredients, or offers them as clickable buttons so you don’t have to keep track of and type them out.

4. Save and start using your applet

With the trigger and outcome configured and called the applet, all you need to do is click Continue, then choose whether you want the IFTTT app to notify you when it fires and click Finish. After that, your applet is ready to work with Alexa.

IFTTT

When your applet is set up, it should look like this.

As you can imagine, you can get very involved with these applets if you’re willing to play around with all the different variables. If you want to experiment, you should consider a IFTTT Pro Account(Opens in a new window)† It adds advanced features including queries and filters for further customizing triggers and results. However, for basic actions, a basic account and simple choices are probably best.

Recommended by our editors


The Best IFTTT Applets for Alexa

Still making your own applets too daunting? Fortunately, there are already plenty of good ready-to-use applets to choose from. These are some of our favorites.

1. Mute your phone

Have you settled down for a nice, quiet night and left your phone on the other side of the room? Want to keep your night nice and quiet without hearing any sudden calls or messages? With this applet you can mute your phone remotely(Opens in a new window)so you don’t get caught off guard by a ringtone.

2. Sync Alexa to-do lists with Apple and Google

IFTTT

Alexa allows you to create to-do lists and easily check them with the Alexa app on your phone, but that just means the Alexa app becomes yet another service for checking for reminders. If you are already using one google(Opens in a new window) or iOS(Opens in a new window) calendar, you probably want to stick to it. These two applets automatically sync your Alexa to-do lists with your respective calendar, giving you one less thing to check.

3. Get your shopping list in a text

You can view your shopping list in the Alexa app if you use your Echo to add items to it, but you don’t have to go that far. This applet will automatically send your list to you as sms(Opens in a new window) if you ask Alexa what it says.

4. Get notified (or flash Hue Lights) when Alexa timers go off

IFTTT

Setting a timer on your Echo speaker is helpful if you’re always around, but stepping out may make you forget it’s even set. These applets let you know when your Alexa timers go off, both by send your phone a notification (Opens in a new window)and with flashing Philips Hue bulbs(Opens in a new window)† You can also set your own applet to flash another one smart bulbs supported by IFTTT if you’re not using Hue bulbs.

5. Keep a spreadsheet of songs you listen to on Alexa

Do you leave your Echo speaker playing music in the background while you work? Have you ever heard a song you didn’t recognize and Alexa didn’t ask what it was in time? this applet creates a google spreadsheet(Opens in a new window) of all the songs Alexa plays for you.


Amazon Echo Dot with Speech Bubble

(Illustration: Bob Al-Greene)

10 Cool Amazon Echo Features You Must Try

You already use Amazon Alexa to play music, set alarms, and get the news, and now you know how to use IFTTT applets. Here, we highlight some lesser known features to help you get more out of your Echo device.

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