Automators 10: Using Zapier Web Automation

The multi-steps automations I’ve setup with Zapier are one of the keys that allowed me to start my Apple training & consulting business while still having a day job and being present for my two young children.

The other half is coming from the CRM I chose: Podio, which offers built-in automation workflows hard to replicate with Zapier.

Nowadays, all those web automations allow me to delay the hiring of my first assistant, the same way that @MacSparky has been able to offload his assistant.

If you’re curious, I explain some of the zaps and workflow I’ve setup in episode 14 of the Macpreneur podcast.

PS: Thanks @RosemaryOrchard for the PDF with the overview of the zaps created for the Automators podcast. Would you mind elaborating about the Get and Post actions in the forum or a future episode of Automators.


The GET action is written to just trigger a script on my server (it should be POST, but I was in a hurry and haven’t got around to fixing it yet - it turns out it’s a useful differentiator, though you can rename actions in Zapier). POST uses Discourse’s API - nothing special!


Great show and I am REALLY looking forward to the show on Airtable! I have just started diving deep into Airtable. It is fantastic!


In the show @RosemaryOrchard mentioned using Pushbullet for notifications. How does this service compare to Pushover?

I wanted to try myself, but you have to sign in via Google or Facebook, which is a showstopper for me…

Currently I use IFTTT, but I might be interested in Zapier as well.

In IFTTT I have several “applets” that each trigger on a certain (different) keyword in a certain RSS feed (they trigger an action to add a “next action” in Remember the Milk, which is my trusted GTD system). Unfortunately I cannot tell IFTTT to only look at the title when looking for a match, resulting in “false positives”.

How flexible is Zapier in this aspect?

(first look did not look good: Zapier’s RSS trigger seems even less sophisticated: it can only trigger whenever there is any new item in the feed, no matter what the content/title contains?)

EDIT: maybe Paths are meant for that? (Unfortunately a Pro feature; I find $20/month a bit much for my purpose)

EDIT 2: Oh, it seems to be possible via an additional “Filter” step (which requires Pro as well, since the zap will now contain 3 steps).

I think Pushbullet’s API is free vs Pushover’s costing money - the scripts on my server the zaps trigger also notify me when things happen through this API. Depending on your needs Pushover might be the right solution of course!

I setup my own slack channel to send the Zapier notifications to, as well as my Hazel notifications. It allows for the notifications to received on any device.


That’s a great solution too, you could also write your own slack bot to trigger other automations…! Uh oh, I think I just found a rabbit hole!

Is there a cheaper alternative to Zapier? I’ve looked into it and it sounds amazing, but the free tier is also extremely limiting. It being able to only do two actions (if and then) to me looks like it provides nothing over IFTTT which has been my go-to. I don’t mind paying for things, but $240/year is just a bit excessive for the level of use I’m hoping for.


We did mention Microsoft Flow which is mostly free - but it has less services in my experience. However you can do multiple steps easily.

(It doesn’t have direct Toggl integration for example - but you can do HTTP requests so you can connect via the API.)

As I said on Twitter, Zapier isn’t putting its best foot forward if the free tier disables more complicated zaps. (Correct me if I’m wrong but it would be no better than IFTTT in that regard.)

A $5 tier that has the same “volume” restrictions but not the same functional ones would be something I’d go for.

I have avoided Zapier in the past because I understood it didn’t support key iOS functions like locations - is that still true?
I use IFTTT to update a Google Sheet triggered by certain geo-fences, all using the iOS Location ability in IFTTT. Does anyone know a way to do this in Zapier?

During the episode (around the 4:30 mark), @MacSparky mentions that IFTTT only allows you to “do a couple of things” in the context of what you can action from a trigger. That’s not wholly true.

If you just sign up for IFTTT and get going, that is all you’ll get, but to do more they have something called their maker platform. I signed up for it for free when it first came out (mid-2017), so it has been around a while.

I’m not sure how easy or hard it is to get access now as the sign-up suggests a waiting list for a new “lite” plan; though they do have priced tiers for more technical access and features that are available now. I suspect the lite plan may parallel but undercut Zapier. Relative worth vs. Zapier’s cataloged of services and features would be a consideration.

This tiering, along with some charging of inclusion fees to companies (not sure which, but think of it like companies pay to have actions on the platform that integrate with their ecosystem) I think is how they are working to create a profit over and above the private investment they’ve had.

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Question: Why not just use IFTTT’s built in notifications (triggered via a maker hook) rather than using pushover/pushbullet?

As this is Zapier, it doesn’t have those :wink:

Personally I also use IFTTT notifications for “low urgency” and PushBullet for “high priority” - the former get delivered quietly on iOS which is nice.

Also: My scripts can’t make use of IFTTT’s notifications (without the maker hook, which has never worked for me unfortunately), but they can make use of PushBullet!

  1. Trigger: Zapier integration > Action: Zapier webhook calls an IFTTT Maker hook
  2. Trigger: IFTTT maker hook > Action: IFTTT notification

But yes, IFTTT notifications are pretty basic :blush:

[tl;dr: Do Hazel actions that move folders from one synced Dropbox folder to another resolve sync loops automatically, if left to wait?]

In this episode@MacSparky mentioned using a workaround to move a folder from Dropbox to iCloud Drive using Hazel. I’ve done similar things in the past with single files to help manage space on my MacBook (see below), but have found that trying to sync a large folder results in sync loops. I’m wondering if these resolve themselves over time, as the data in the folder finishes syncing to the device that’s running Hazel.

Does anyone here know if that’s the case?

After hearing David talk about this, I think I’m going to test it with some dummy files this evening, time permitting. I didn’t want try it with mission critical data, so I manually uploaded the files to the intended destination upon closure of my last investigation.

File / Space Management Using Hazel and Dropbox

  • I drop the file into the Actions Folder on the MacBook.
  • The file syncs to my iMac, where Hazel is watching the Actions folder.
  • The file is automatically moved to the proper folder on the iMac (which is not synced to my MacBook), based on Hazel rule criteria.
  • Subsequently, the MacBook sees that the file is “gone” from the Actions folder and it is deleted from the folder.

Hi all,

Thanks for the nice episode about Zapier. You might want to take a look at Integromat. In direct comparison to Zapier, they offer more options like routers, filters and error handling. What I also like, are their templates that often help you to get started.

Pricing depends on your needs but in a lot of cases, there a a bit cheaper too. Their free tier offers 1.000 operations and might meet your needs for private stuff.

Greetings from Berlin,

Hi I just listened to Zapier episode and thought this would drop by and share some of the zaps I use. I’ve been using it for a long time… since the beginning. The software company I worked at was one of the first 80 or so integrations.

Since then I’ve automated over 8,000,000 minutes (Zapier has a cool productivity and manage around 500 zaps / 400,000 tasks a month.

In no particular order here are some of the cool things I use with zapier.

Create custom google slides presentations using their merge field {{fieldname}} system. You can use this in conjunction with a CRM or contact manager to heavily personalize the deck. Really cool if you use proposal like decks. You can even dynamically insert images from URLs.

One thing we do with this trick is generate letters using GSlides because you can format slides to be standard paper size. Then you can output that to google cloud print to automate printing of the letters on demand.

Another useful component is that Google slides actions provide the “export” links for pdf, pptx, etc file formats. You can even do PNGs for dynamically generated graphics.

I do a lot of stuff with airtable.

I created a podcast management base that keeps track of episodes, guests, and the assets for both. Social media images, audio bites, website links, etc.

With zapier you can do cool stuff like what @RosemaryOrchard triggered off of RSS.

Successful RSS trigger then finds the episode in airtable and grabs all the info from the table(s) and posts to Wordpress. From there the WP url is sent to social media outlets like FB containing content and urls etc. It can get wild.

I am currently experimenting with a web service called cloudinary to auto generate social media assets using templates, airtable, Rev for transcription and a whole bunch of other stuff.

Another cool thing is adding rows to google sheets to be used with Google Data Studio.

There are a bunch of signature document software that work with it. My favorites are PandaDoc and SignNow. This is super useful for generating contracts, documents, proposals and other stuff that requires signatures. PandaDoc is a little better because you can use Stripe and collect creditcards.

One pro tip for folks new to Zapier is to learn formatter. It will let you do all kinds of cool stuff in stream. This is most helpful when interacting between apps that format their data differently like dates, phone numbers, etc.

For power users that know python or JS, you can use the standard libraries to do all kinds of crazy stuff.

We also do a lot of eventbrite events, and zapier helps use keep track of our registrants.

Lastly one of my favorite tools to use with zapier is Twilio for SMS, fancy phone stuff etc. You can also use zapier in conjunction with Twilio Studio (A visual phone/sms related builder). So you can build SMS bots and have the information sent to zapier and from their anywhere you want.

I’ve also played around with Integromat, Zoho Flow, Microsoft Flow, and IFTTT. Zapier is by far my favorite.

I will also say that Zapier has excellent tools for troubleshooting, keeping track of problems, and auto replay of failed zaps.

I wouldn’t call it enterprise grade, but for small business it is the king of this stuff.