Although Microsoft's Cortana is a rather powerful personal assistant, it can do even more than what you thought. One way to augment Cortana's powers is to link it up to the amazingly fun service IFTTT, and you can now do that with a universal app for Windows 10.
Don't know what IFTTT is? Let's tackle that one first.
What is IFTTT?
IFTTT stands for 'If This Then That', and if you are a programmer you are very familiar with the term. IFTTT is a free service that other services plug into like Hue lights, Nest, SmartThings, Dropbox, OneDrive, and more. Users create 'recipes' that you can use to automate tasks. For instance, I just set my living room lights to turn automatically on at sunset based on my location and the day. There are many recipes to choose from that are created by the community; here are a few examples:
- Save science stories from Time to read later on Pocket
- Any new post on Tumblr goes to Twitter
- Flash Hue lights with every in-game ESPN update for your favorite team
- If I lose my phone, call it with a long press of my WeMo Light Switch
All you need to do is create an account and just start browsing. Once you find a recipe, you can add it, connect up your services and voila it's done. If you thought Wikipedia could be a hole to waste your time just wait until you dig around the thousands of IFTTT recipes. It's all web-based and a lot of fun to use.
It should be noted that most people use IFTTT to trigger their home automation. So having Hue lights, SmartThings, Nest, Dropcam, WeMo and more result in the most fun.
IFTTT Maker for Cortana
IFTTT Maker for Cortana is a new app from "coder()" for Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile. The app is free to use with ads and some limitations such as the number of commands one can create and a window pop-up when Cortana executes IFTTT actions. The paid version has no ads, no limitations, and the original Cortana experience. The purchase price is $4.99, which while not cheap is well worth it if you make use of it.
What IFTTT Maker for Cortana does it lets you create IFTTT recipes that are triggered by your Cortana commands. All commands are started by saying 'Trigger (command)' for example:
- "Trigger, make it warm" (Sets my Nest thermostat to 66 F degrees)
- "Trigger, turn on my camera" (Turns on my AC power outlet, which controls my Dropcam)
- "Trigger, turn on my office lights" (Turns on my Hue lights)
What I like about IFTTT Maker for Cortana is how it walks you through all the steps in linking Maker (the 'If this') to your various services (the 'Then that'). This help includes generating the web link trigger code and creating the recipes.
Once you have your Triggers set up, you can just use Cortana's voice commands to activate them remotely. Although it can take some time to create your Triggers, once done it is a very powerful system.
You can even create multiple 'tags' for a Cortana command. As an example, to turn on my heat I can say:
- "Trigger, turn on the heat"
- "Trigger, make it toasty"
- "Trigger, make it warm"
You have the ability to create up to six different ways of saying a single command, which makes using IFTTT Maker for Cortana much easier. You can even specify unique and funny responses from Cortana e.g. "There goes the heating bill."
- How to back up all of your Instagram photos automagically using IFTTT and OneDrive
- How to automatically post your Instagram photos as Twitter photos using IFTTT
Overall, IFTTT Maker for Cortana works very well, but there are few quirks. For some reason, I cannot get past a step on my PC version, but it works fine on the phone. This bug, however, seems limited to my setup and not others. There are also limitations with some of the services, which is not the fault of IFTTT Maker for Cortana. For instance, Hue does not have groups for your lights, meaning you can only trigger a bulb and not groups of them. Adding to that things do not always go right with triggers and automation so you may run into odd hiccups with IFTTT (for some reason my Nest thermostat does not like to receive commands).
Still, IFTTT Maker for Cortana is a very neat app with a ton of potential. If you like automation, using IFTTT, and creating recipes you could make your PC and phone a very powerful tool to just make things happen.
Give the trial a spin and if you like it purchase the app for $4.99 and leave the developer a review.
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Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.