IFTTT’s Do Note is a notepad for the service’s rich collection of recipes, enabling you to trigger automations between channels with just a line of text.
For years, IFTTT was based on recipes that would be activated when certain conditions were met. You could – and you still can – backup any new Instagram picture to your Dropbox account, or append tweets to a note in Evernote. The “if” part of IFTTT’s premise was entirely automated as it was based on passively checking specific conditions in the background.
The Do apps, and particularly Do Note, make the “If” about you and the text your type. Do Note lets you enter text that will be sent to a connected service to do something with it. Once configured (with up to three recipes), the app launches to a blank text field where you can start typing immediately; enter some text, tap the recipe’s button, and your text will be saved elsewhere.
Do Note’s impressive simplicity opens up amazing possibilities for web automation with native iOS input. You can create tasks in Todoist and new events in Google Calendar just by typing; you can change the color of your Hue lights by typing the color’s name; you can even use Do Note as a quick scratchpad to append notes to Dropbox or Evernote.
IFTTT has long needed an easier way to trigger recipes from an iOS device, and Do Note is a great debut, packed with features thanks to IFTTT’s existing recipe catalogue, but still easy to use and fast. The app is also available on iPad and Apple Watch, where it uses dictation for input.
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Apple Press Releases and YouTube Videos to Pushover
I need to stay on top of Apple news, and IFTTT greatly helps when it comes to turning new items from RSS feeds into notifications. For that, I use high-priority alerts with Pushover: this excellent app can be connected to a variety of services, including IFTTT, and it can send notifications with associated URLs. Whenever Apple publishes a new press release or YouTube video, I get a notification with a special sound that opens a link to the press release/video in my default browser.
YouTube has a native Watch Later feature, but I prefer to keep everything together in Pocket. With this simple but effective recipe, every time I tap on Watch Later in YouTube, the video gets automatically added to my Pocket queue.
With a set of two recipes (which I explained earlier this week), I can turn email pitches I receive into Todoist tasks in a team project; then, I can broadcast new tasks to a Slack channel so my teammates know they exist. It sounds a bit fiddly, and it probably is, but it works well with Gmail and the Todoist integration is top notch.
My most used recipe of the new Do apps by IFTTT, this allows me to create a new task in my Todoist inbox quickly. Because Do Note doesn’t support natural language parsing with Todoist, I have edited the recipe to always create a task that is due on the current day. This lets me type a task and forget about it, knowing that it’ll be saved to the Today view of Todoist.
Similar to the Todoist recipe, this one lets me create a new event in Google Calendar just by typing in Do Note. Unlike Todoist, Google’s quick add syntax is supported, which makes the process even faster and perfect for the short interaction on an iPhone.
My WeMo switch is connected to my espresso machine, and of course I want to turn it on and off from the comfort of my couch or when I’m driving home. A good espresso is key to a productive day; an associated IFTTT recipe is just as important. With Do Button, I can do this in two taps and also from Notification Center with a widget.
While Philips’ Hue app for iOS has a convenient widget that you can configure to show specific scenes for your lights, I like the remote, system-wide on/off toggle of Do Button. If I want all my lights to be turned off, I can just open the app, tap, and I’m done.
Each night when I go to sleep, I need to send the current time to my girlfriend (who will see when I stopped working/reading in the morning). This is extremely simple with Do Button: I created a recipe that uses Gmail to send a message to a contact with the current time, and I can run that with one tap by tapping a button in the Do widget.
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Relax, it's the Weekend!
It's the weekend (or almost is) so Federico and Graham recommend something they enjoyed watching, playing, reading, or listening.
Federico: The third track from Giorgio Moroder’s upcoming studio album is Déjà Vu, a collaboration with Australian singer Sia that sees Moroder return to a disco-pop, Chic-inspired tune that is catchy and fun to dance to. If you’re familiar with Daft Punk’s R.A.M. (where Moroder was featured in the fantastic Giorgio by Moroder), you’ll find striking similarities between Nile Rodgers’s work on Give Life Back to Music & Get Lucky and the underlying tone of Déjà Vu, harking back to an era of minimalist disco sounds. A good single, and further confirmation that Moroder’s still got it.
Graham: Orphan Black is a Canadian sci-fi series that is critically acclaimed by a number of TV critics. The show features some incredible acting from Tatiana Maslany who plays as several of the main characters. No, that wasn't a typo, because the show is centered around the story of human clones. You would think it would be jarring to notice that one actor plays all the clones, but in fact Tatiana and the rest of the show's creative team have done an incredible job of giving each clone their own distinct personality. So well crafted are the clones, that I frequently forget that Tatiana is playing them all. Events in the Orphan Black universe have ramped up significantly since the show started and it has just begun airing its third season, where things are bound to get even more interesting.
This week we asked people to tweet questions with #AskMSWeekly, here are some answers.
Question: Since you used Picturelife and moved to iCloud Photos Library, How did you move all your photos and handle duplicates?
Federico: As I wrote last year, I took a very primitive and slow approach. I put all my photos together after downloading backups from various sources, I manually double-checked all of them, then I transferred them in small batches to Stash for iOS via USB with iTunes. From there, I saved them all to the iOS Photos app, which then took a few days to upload everything to iCloud Photo Library.
Question: What's the best email client supporting extensions from standard share sheet in iOS?!
Federico: Unfortunately, the situation is pretty grim here. The only good email client with iOS 8 share sheet integration that I know of is Dispatch, but it’s only on the iPhone. CloudMagic has some sharing services built in, (such as Todoist and Evernote) but they’re custom integrations that don’t use the system share sheet. If there’s any other client with support for share sheets on iOS, I’d love to know about it.
Question: How do you guys jot down quick notes? Do you use an app or do you go old school with pen and paper?
Federico: I don’t use pen and paper. If a quick note is meant to be just that – text that isn’t going anywhere and I just need for future reference – I use Drafts. If a quick note is going to become a task or a calendar event – which is often the case – I’ve been using IFTTT’s Do Note a lot. Its experience is slimmed down to the basics, but text is turned into something else.
Question: How long does one fairly-sized (5000 words) article take for you?
Federico: It depends. Some articles (usually app reviews) come together relatively quickly for me because I’ve been testing an app for a long time and I already have the article’s overall tone and structure in mind. Other articles within the same range – such as my 6 Plus story – can take weeks because I start having doubts and tweaking and double-checking everything. Sometimes I sit on an article for six months because I’m not sure whether the story is too personal to be shared.
My writing process would probably be considered messy by traditional journalistic standards. I don’t write many drafts, and I let ideas simmer for weeks before I turn them into words. I don’t like the constraints of a written draft as I prefer the free exploration of thoughts and connections between ideas in the brain. This allows me to ponder an article’s structure before I let the convenience of a written draft fool me into thinking what I have is good enough.
I don’t have a full answer for you, Zaid. App reviews take less time to write but they require weeks of testing and regular usage. Other articles don’t involve testing software but can still take me several weeks. What I know is that I never rush an article or consider the word count a definitive metric of quality. I just want to be thorough and balanced in what I write.
Tips with Ticci
Tips and tricks to master your apps, by Federico.
I often share links in the same Slack channel (the #general one we use for MacStories), and I recently wondered if I could make the process a bit faster. I came up with a simple workflow using, well, Workflow that takes a URL and posts it to a Slack channel without any additional confirmation steps.
I want to be able to share the webpage I’m viewing in the browser or a link I’ve copied in the clipboard to a pre-defined Slack channel. Workflow has native Slack integration, which allows you to pass any type of content and post it to a channel. My workflow, set up as an action extension, first tries to find a URL passed by the extension in apps like Safari, Chrome, RSS readers, or Twitter clients; alternatively, it attempts to get a link from the iOS clipboard. Once it has a link, if pushes it natively to Slack, and that’s it.
The benefit of this workflow is that it’s fast and always works with the same Slack channel – effectively, Workflow lets you create your own custom Slack extensions. There’s no need to pick channels manually and it can be conveniently launched from apps like Launcher or Drafts for easier access. I’m using it every day.
My most used iPhone apps are the four in the dock.
I've embraced non-Apple apps for mail, calendar, and weather. I've been using Mailbox for a while because I like its quick triage features, though I'm intrigued by Inbox.
I find my wife and daughter often with Find My Friends. And while I keep meaning to test drive other (probably better) shared grocery list apps, for now Grocery IQ remains the common way for my wife and I to collaborate on a shopping list.
I keep my Apple device Home screens, including my iPhone Home screen, as close to default as possible. I install beta software, I reset, and I switch devices often enough that it’s the only real way for me to know, predictably, where things are going to be. If Apple let iCloud sync and restore Home screen layouts, I’d probably set up something custom. Absent that, it’s too much work for something that gets blitzed too often.