Productivity Tools for Field, Lab, and Academic Life: @IFTTT

This semester our lab meeting will be partially dedicated to people sharing tools they use in the field, doing analyses, in lab, in life….whatever. These can be to increase efficiency, make fieldwork simpler, tame their email, etc.  We’ll try to post the summary each week; here is the one for Slack, which we are starting to use for internal lab communication.

This week was IFTTT (If This Then That), which I have been using for ages but none of the students in the lab use (?!). IFTTT can be a bit tough to explain, but in is basically a way to automate processes. To do so you set up “recipes” that trigger an action when a condition is met.  For instance, “If it is going to rain tomorrow, send me a message tonight reminding me to put my umbrella in the car”. That’s where the acronym comes from: IF This: it is raining tomorrow Then That: send me a reminder. The power of IFTTT is that it is linked with services and web platforms ranging from Facebook to Google docs to Dropbox to Evernote….you name it.

There are lots of lists to streamline and organize daily life (e.g., “if it is 430 pm on Wednesday, text me that I have to leave and take my kid to Tae Kwon Do”). Here we are collecting recipes we think are particularly useful for lab work, field work, teaching, or other aspects of grad school/prof life:


When someone emails me photos, name, save, and organize in my Dropbox: great to automate the backup and organization of photos taken in the field or lab (leaves with herbivory, animals sighted, pictures of ground cover, etc.  Because they get emailed and sent to Dropbox they are automatically backed up in 2 locations.

Save attachments sent to a gmail account to a Dropbox folder: Another great way to backup files, e.g. data sheets, pdfs, etc. I also use it for teaching: I set up a unique email for a class, and then have students email assignments to that email address. The assignments go straight to Dropbox, which means they don’t get lost in email and I my coinstructor and I don’t have to email them to each other (less email = good).

Send reminders: There are loads of these. You can automate sending reminders that field work is cancelled because it rained, to remind people you go to the field tomorrow and the car leaves at 6, that lab meeting is tomorrow….

Upload photos to flickr: great for citizen science, archiving photos, etc.

Track hours at work: record field assistant hours, time observations…

Save all the users of a hashtag to a new twitter list: great for conferences where people live-tweet.

Speaking of conferences: Get out of an awkward situation by receiving a phone call will make it easy to get away from that creepy dude who won’t leave you alone.

Send a message with your current position: recording coordinates, getting help if in trouble.


You can see there are tons, and we haven’t even gone through this list of the best 110 IFTTT recipes.  Have you got any to add? Let us know in the comments!

So what do you think?

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