Zapier vs IFTTT: Which Is Best for Workplace Automation?

Joseph Gildred
By Joseph Gildred
— Last Updated: 2018-06-22T05:42:53+00:00

When it comes to creating automated relationships between web-based apps, two services most often come to mind: Zapier and IFTTT. Both make workflow management simple with easy-to-use interfaces and excellent application support.

Although there’s much overlap in terms of what each can do, there are significant differences between them that may make the difference when choosing the best task automation tool for your needs. To help you make that choice, we’ve put together this head-to-head review analyzing the integrations, user experience and costs of each service.

It’s time for Zapier vs IFTTT.

What is Workplace Automation?

The goal of workflow automation is to reduce the number of manual, routine tasks you need to perform, saving time, money and, perhaps, reducing the chance of error and oversight in day-to-day tasks.

The shift of the modern-day workplace toward the cloud, using tools such as cloud storage to collaborate on files, accounting apps to manage finances, virtual team apps like Slack and Trello to empower remote workforces and social media tools to spread brand awareness, has made life easier for everyone.

Workplace automation tools of the Zapier and IFTTT variety seek to continue that trend. They do so by linking apps together through cause-and-effect, or trigger-and-action, relationships. Meaning, something that happens on one app causes an event to occur automatically on another. In simple terms: if A, then B.

An example of a routine task you could automate would be logging newly created Trello cards in a Google Sheets spreadsheet. Another might be creating a note in Evernote (read our Evernote review) whenever a new tweet is generated.

While Zapier and IFTTT rank as the two big names in the industry, there are others out there like Integromat and Stringify. In fact, like the multi-cloud management industry, task automation between cloud apps is expected to see major growth in the coming years, with an impressive compound annual growth rate of 23.56 percent between now and 2023, when it will approach $20 billion.

Zapier vs IFTTT: The Automation Battle

Zapier and IFTTT have a lot of similarities in what they’re able to do and support many of the same applications. However, there are enough differences that choosing one over the other could be a mistake for your particular needs.

While we think Zapier makes more sense as a business tool and IFTTT is better for home use, both characterizations overgeneralize. As with most web-based application comparisons we’ve put together, whether Dropbox vs Google Drive or Hostgator vs Bluehost, the bottom line in this contest is one that’s personal and specific to your own needs.

To help you make that decision, we’re going to break our comparison into three rounds: integration, workflow creation and cost. After each round, we’ll summarize our findings and declare a winner. Then, at the end of the piece, we’ll pick an overall champ. Let’s get to it.

Round One: Supported Apps

Up first, we’ll dive into one of the most important factors in choosing between Zapier and IFTTT: supported apps. We’ll examine app categories, specific apps and total number of apps before picking a round winner.

Zapier Supported Apps

You can view the full slate of apps supported by Zapier on the company website. Unfortunately, there’s no direct count of how many there are and we don’t like to count past five (for example, top five cloud storage services for free storage).

Zapier claims over 1,000 connections, which is impressive. The count two years ago was around 650 when the company passed one million users. Behind that success lies the fact that Zapier puts much of the app development in the hands of its users, whether individual contributors or the app developers.

Consequently, multiple app categories are represented. There’s no cloud storage category, so we had to do some investigating to find out what’s supported. Among our findings were Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, Egnyte Connect, Box and SugarSync. Missing from the selection were popular favorites like iCloud, MEGA and pCloud.

Top note-taking apps Evernote and OneNote are both included, as is Zoho Notebook and all of Zoho’s other web-based applications. Our top picks for best accounting software are there, too, in Quickbooks and FreshBooks.

Web-based project management tools make up one of the more competitive cloud markets today, and Zapier supports dozens of them. Some of our favorites are Trello, Asana, JIRA, Podio, Wrike and Basecamp.

Critically, you’ll also discover the big to-do list services supported like Todoist, Wunderlist, Toodledo and newcomer Google Tasks. Missing, however, is a big one in

Bookmark apps are another fun category to automate. Zapier supported five stand-alone bookmarkers at the time of this writing: Pinterest, Pocket, Instapaper, Pinboard and Vookmark.

Social media services are among the most common included in automated workflow relationships, so it’s good to see the big ones integrated into Zapier: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Linkedin.

Those are some of the main categories and apps the everyday user will find appealing. Zapier is big on workplace apps, meaning you’ll find many more niche tools for people such as social media marketeers (Facebook Lead Ads, MailChimp, ClickFunnels) and software developers (GitHub, Bitbucket, Visual Studios).

IFTTT Supported Apps

IFTTT, as far as we can tell, supports around two-thirds of the total number of apps Zapier does. According to the IFTTT website, the count stands at a little more than 600. IFTTT takes a more in-house approach to adding apps than Zapier, which, no doubt, is why the count is so much lower.

The selection will likely be enough for home and small business consumers, but many of the workplace apps included with Zapier aren’t there.

Where IFTTT outshines Zapier is appliance support, which makes it perfect for in-home automation. Central to this advantage is support for smart hubs like SmartThings, iHome Control, Z-Ware and about 50 others. Home assistants Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are also supported.

There’s an entire “appliances” category to browse on the IFTTT website. You’ll find IoT appliances like dishwashers, refrigerators, ovens, washers, dryers and coffee makers.

Proof that the future is now: with IFTTT, you can tell your WeMo Coffeemaker to start brewing once your FitBit wristband registers you as awake. Or, you can tell Alexa to tell your Smarter kettle to boil water. Or, you can automatically record your washer and dryer history in a Google Sheet, which is great for making sure your kids are keeping up with their chores while you vacation in Belize.

As difficult it is moving on from appliances, IFTTT does support a decent range of cloud categories, even if it isn’t as impressive as what you’d get with Zapier.

For example, while Egnyte Connect isn’t supported, Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, Box and Amazon Drive are available. There are also a few personal cloud storage options for those with their own setups at home, including QNAP, Seagate Personal Cloud and WD My Cloud, none of which get Zapier support.

Work productivity offerings include to-do list managers like Todoist and Toodledo, but not Wunderlist. Project management apps Trello and Asana are both supported, though not Wrike or Basecamp. Among the best note-taking apps are Evernote and OneNote, but not Zoho Notebook or even Google Keep.

Social media support, at least, isn’t marred by any significant holes: Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and Twitch are all supported.

We also like the inclusion of music players, which contributes to IFTTT’s positioning as the neural network for a self-built smarthome. Spotify, SoundCloud, Muzik, Musixmatch, Songkick and many more are represented, while Zapier only has Spotify and SoundCloud.

Round One Thoughts

Whether you use Zapier or IFTTT will depend primarily on whether the apps you use are supported. Generally speaking, Zapier seems more geared toward business and software development, while IFTTT makes more sense for home use, especially for its smart appliance support.

Ignoring use cases, we have to give round one to Zapier. It supports more apps and allows any user to add apps to the lineup, so long as that app has an API that’s REST or XML-RPC based.

Round One Winner: Zapier

Round Two: Workflow Creation

Up next, we’re going to get into creating workflows with Zapier and IFTTT. With Zapier, an automated relationship between two apps is called a “zap,” while IFTTT goes with the more traditional designation of “applet” (the company used to call them recipes).

Zapier: How to Create Zaps

Sometimes you have a specific idea of what tasks you want to automate. Others, you just know there must be a way to work faster and smarter. For the latter case, Zapier provides a searchable interface to explore zaps for all of your apps.

To access this interface, log into your Zapier account and click on the “integrations” tab.

You can enter the app name you want to include in a zap or pick it from the list. Once you pick an app, further down the page you’ll see what zaps are available to you without building them yourself.

You can also enter apps simultaneously if you want to see more specific workflow relationships. For example, if you select “Egnyte” and “Slack,” you’ll be shown possible zaps involving those two apps.

Zapier provides a wizard to walk you through the process of creating a zap, which requires defining a trigger and an action. No special development knowledge is required for this, unlike adding a new app.

In the left-side margin, you can name your zap and review and edit steps as you complete them. The central pane of the interface contains the current step, starting with choosing a trigger app.

You can choose a third-party app or one of several Zapier apps. Options include a scheduler, which will help you trigger a specific action in an app, such as making a simultaneous Facebook and Twitter post or kicking off a MailChimp email campaign.

Once you make your choice, you’ll be shown a list of possible triggers for that app. For example, choose Evernote and you’ll see three common triggers listed:

  • New note: triggers when a new note is created
  • New tag added: triggers when a tag is added to a note
  • New reminder: triggers when a dated reminder is added to a notebook

Pick one and you’ll be asked to give Zapier permission to access the app. Many apps use OAuth, which means Zapier won’t store your password. You can also set how long Zapier will have permission to access it.

Zapier will then walk you through steps specific to the app and trigger you had in mind. With our Evernote zap, we had to choose a specific tag and indicate which notebooks we wanted the zap to apply to.

Once you’ve done all that, Zapier will attempt a test. You’ll need to have a recent trigger event for it to find (with Evernote, we needed a note recently tagged as “book idea”).

Next, you’ll need to pick your action app. This is the app on which an action will occur should your trigger be triggered. Generally, actions kick off about five minutes after a trigger for subscribers or 15 minutes after for free users (see round three, pricing).

You’ll be able to search Zapier for a list of supported apps to pick from. After you do, a list of popular actions will be presented. You can also view less popular actions by clicking “show less common options.”

We picked Slack as our action app and chose a trigger to send a new direct message whenever our “book idea” tag gets added to a note. Doing so opens up several customization options, such as making the DM appear as though it came from us as opposed to a Zapier bot, crafting a specific message and picking a bot icon.

Once you’ve made your selections, you’ll be able to review the action.

Click “continue” and Zapier will test the action to make sure it works. Once done, you can add another step or click “finish.”

Zaps can be turned off or on as you like. The easiest way to do this is with the Zapier dashboard, where you can also rename and edit zaps.

The dashboard also has tabs to review fired zaps (task history) and app authorizations (connected accounts). The task history tab lets you sort zaps by date and zap statuses like “success,” “stopped/errored” and “waiting/scheduled.”

From the connect accounts tab, you can add new accounts or disable any you no longer use. This makes it easy to clean up unwanted authorizations.

Overall, Zapier is easy to use. We didn’t touch on a lot of the more technical things you can do, which involve a bigger learning curve, but most users won’t find it necessary to dive that far into the tool’s mechanics.

IFTTT: How to Create Applets

Applets, by definition, are small programs designed to perform utility functions. For IFTTT, applets refer to the trigger-and-action relationships you create between programs. As with zaps, most commonly used applets are already created and all you need to do is select your apps to see what’s possible.

The IFTTT website has both a “discover” tab and a “search” tab to find applets. The discover tab is designed for suggesting automation ideas you might not have thought of otherwise.

On most occasions,you’ll want to use the search tab, which lets you search for specific apps and browse by category. Once you select the app you want to build around, IFTTT will return a list of pre-made applets.

For example, enter “Google Sheets,” and IFTTT will bring back recommendations for things like saving tweets to a spreadsheet and automatically tracking work hours in Google Drive.

Click on any of the recommendations to turn it on.

Prior to implementing an applet, you’ll need to authorize a connection between any involved app and IFTTT, of course.

If you’re not finding a pre-built applet that matches the function you had in mind, you can create your own by clicking the “new applet” button on the top-right side of the interface. You’ll be redirected to a new page with the phrase “if this then that” in big text across the screen.

Click on “then” to add a trigger. You’ll be redirected to a page with a list of supported apps. Browse the list or use the search bar to find the app you intend to use.

After you’ve authorized app access, if you haven’t already, you’ll be presented with a list of possible triggers for the app you picked.

Some triggers have sub-trigger definitions, too. For example, if you choose to trigger an event every time you post a tweet, you can then choose whether to include retweets and @replies.

Once you’re ready, click “create trigger.” You’ll be returned to the primary applet creation screen, where you can now click on “then” to add an action.

Again, you can choose from a list of apps, each having a range of possible actions. Google Sheets, for example, lets you add a row to a spreadsheet or update a spreadsheet cell.

Depending on what app you choose, you’ll be given options to further define that action. Using Google Sheets and the “update cell” action, we were able to indicate a folder path, spreadsheet name, cell location and attach values to tweets (we used Twitter as a test trigger).

Once that’s done, you can review your applet and click “finish,” if satisfied.

Going forward, you can use the “applets” tab in the “my applets” area to view any you’ve made. To turn them on or off, just click on the desired applet and use the switch button.

You can also view and disconnect services authorized for IFTTT access by clicking on the “services” tab to the right of the applets tab.

You’ll need to click on the app, click settings on the app page, click disconnect on the settings page and then confirm you know what you’re doing. In short: IFTTT doesn’t make it as easy to manage connected apps as Zapier, with which it can be done from a single page.

While you can view a history of activity using the IFTTT interface, the options for auditing applets and events aren’t as well-constructed or informative as they are on Zapier.

Round Two Thoughts

Both services are easy to use, though beginners might find IFTTT more accessible. Zapier provides more options for building application relationships and a better dashboard for overseeing everything than IFTTT. We’re siding with Zapier, again.

Round Two Winner: Zapier

Round Three: Pricing

Having a better idea of what each tool can do, it’s quite possible you’ve already made your pick between Zapier and IFTTT based on which has the capabilities that best match your needs.

There’s enough overlap between the two that the decision isn’t obvious for some people. You may find your decision rests on other considerations, such as cost, the subject of our final round.

Zapier Price Plans

Zapier has a nice range of subscription options, beginning with a free plan that will be enough for some users. Zapier Free lets you maintain five active zaps at a time and caps you at 100 tasks per month (a task is a completed zap).

With the free version, you can’t include premium apps in zaps. Some examples of premium apps include Salesforce, Shopify, PayPal and Quickbooks Online (read our Quickbooks review).

Other restrictions with Zapier Free are that you’re not allowed to create multi-step zaps or auto-replay tasks. Autoreplay means if a task fails due to something like a temporarily down service, Zapier will try again so you don’t have to manually.

If those restrictions don’t work for you, you’ve got four levels of subscriptions to choose from. The issue is that these subscriptions aren’t cheap.

Plans:Free:Starter:Professional:Professional Plus:
Monthly Cost (Billed Annually)Free$20$50$125
Monthly Cost (Billed Monthly)Free$25$62.50$156.25
Zaps5 at a time20 at a time50 at a time125 at a time
Tasks per Month1001000300010000
Premium AppsNoYesYesYes
Autoreplay TasksNoNoYesYes

The lowest tier, Zapier Starter, will set you back $20 per month — and only if you pay for a year in advance. Go month-to-month, and it will cost you 20 percent more.

For most home and small business users, the Starter plan will hopefully be enough since the cost more than doubles if you need to upgrade to Zapier Professional. Professional Plus, meanwhile, is downright expensive at $125 per month, if you pay a year in advance (that’s $1500 upfront).

Zapier has a money-back policy if you’re unhappy, which includes refunds for those who forgot to cancel their service or were just unhappy after using it for a couple of months.

IFTTT Price Plans

IFTTT is free without restrictions of any kind. There are no subscription options at all, which is surprising given that the competition is sparse in the application automation market.

If you’re wondering how FTTT stays in business, the company mostly relies on investors. According to Crunchbase, it has received over $60 million in funding.

Round Three Thoughts

Round three without question falls in favor of IFTTT. While there have been rumors of IFTTT rolling out subscription services, none have come to fruition. Putting the cost on investors won’t last forever, of course, since they like to see a returns.

For now, there’s no reason not to choose IFTTT over Zapier if it has the apps you use unless Zapier Free meets your needs.

Round Three Winner: IFTTT

The Verdict

At two rounds to one, we have no problem saying Zapier is the more impressive automation service. That may not mean it’s the better service for you, though.

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For those looking to automate home appliance use, Zapier won’t be any help. Most home and small business users will find all of the apps they need under IFTTT’s umbrella. Since IFTTT is free and Zapier can get pricey, those users will want to give IFTTT a go first. If IFTTT doesn’t meet your needs, then, Zapier (see what we did there?).

Final Winner: Zapier

Which of the two is your automation tool of choice? Share your thoughts below, and thanks for reading.