Add to-dos to Things with Alexa

Chris Messina
· 4 min read

We live in funny times. You can order a pizza with an emoji or find your ideal mate with an app and your DNA, but some of the simplest things are still hard or non-obvious — like adding a new to-do item to Things with Alexa (I know, I know, #zeroethworldproblems).

The makers of Things made a big deal of the direct integration between Things 3.2 and Siri last fall, but I was unable to find any instructions for how to set up Alexa to achieve the same thing because—turns out—there aren’t any. Cultured Code offers detailed tips & tricks on the Siri integration and instructions for Google Assistant users but… I guess they have something against Amazon. 🤷🏻‍♂️

Using Alexa, you won’t even need to say “in Things”

So, along with my pal Christopher Kitchens, we poked around and discovered that achieving an Alexa-Things integration is totally doable. And unlike the indirect approach taken by Marc Charbonneau in 2016, the new approach makes use of the relatively recent Mail to Things feature:

Email to-dos directly to your Things Inbox

Here’s how to do it

Prerequisites

Step 1: Create a new applet at IFTTT

(Click on +this)

Step 2: Choose Amazon Alexa as the service for +this:

Step 3: Choose the trigger “Item added to your To Do List”:

🎉 Congratulations! You’ve just configured IFTTT to watch for new items that get added to your Alexa To Do list!

The next steps will use your Gmail account to send an email to your Mail to Things address with the spoken text of the task that you dictated to Alexa.

Step 4: Set “that” to Gmail’s “Send an email” action

(Click on +that)

Search for Gmail:

Select “Send an email”:

Step 5: complete the action fields

You’ll need your Mail to Things email address.

On macOS
Launch Things, open Preferences, select Things Cloud (must be enabled), and select the Manage button under the Mail to Things:

Tap Copy Address:

On iOS
Open Things, tap Settings at the bottom of the Projects list, tap Things Cloud (which needs to be enabled), tap Mail to Things, and then tap Copy Address:

Set the To address to your Mail to Things email address:

Set the Subject to `{{AddedItem}}` and delete the contents of Body

Step 6: hit Create Action, edit the description and hit “Finish”

(I chose to disable notifications.)

Ta-da!

Now when you tell Alexa to add an item to your To Do list, it will automatically appear in your Things Inbox:

On the left is the list of commands I’ve issued to Alexa and on the right is my Things Inbox.

Unfortunately, completing a task in Things won’t sync to Alexa, so if you use your Alexa To Do list for anything other than populating Things, you might find this annoying.

If you come up with other ways to use Alexa to work with your Things data, let me know!


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Chris Messina

This can all be made better. Ready? Begin.

Chris Messina

Written by

Inventor of the hashtag. Ever-curious product designer and technologist. Previously: Google, Uber, Molly (YC W18).

Chris Messina

This can all be made better. Ready? Begin.

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