Automating with Gmail, Receipt Bank, IFTTT, and Dropbox

I’m sure there are many ways to automate the flow of invoices – this is the process I’m currently using for several clients using Receipt Bank.

I’ve experimented using a number of different ways in IFTTT to get invoices from my email (Gmail) to Receipt Bank. This process relies on having effective mail filters that process in realtime, as they do in Gmail.

An attempt to use Outlook for a client failed, because for the rules to work the computer had to be left switched on and Outlook open for the rules to be processed. Any change to the rules could mean the rules were run again over the inbox, resulting in hundreds of duplicate invoices being sent to Receipt Bank (which will bring a financial cost!).

Gmail filters do give an elegant solution. The key is to find a clear way to identify emails that contain invoices, create a filter to add a custom label to those emails, and then use IFTTT to get the invoices to Receipt Bank.

Services used:

Receipt Bank

Gmail

IFTTT

Dropbox

Label the emailed invoices in Gmail

For a client with high number of invoices, the best way was to create a specific email address for all invoices:

e.g. invoices@client.co.nz

and forward that address to a Gmail account. Then contact all suppliers to request they email invoices to that address.

(For the percentage of suppliers that can’t/won’t email their invoices, scanning the paper copies remains the only option.)

When the emails arrive in the Gmail inbox, use the “Filter messages like these” option to start creating filters. You will end up with many different filters, to accommodate all the different format of emails that suppliers send.

But you will only want to have 4-6 labels.

Labels in Gmail

Examples of Gmail labels could include:

  • Receipt Bank invoices (invoices that can go straight to Receipt Bank)
  • Receipt Bank multipage invoices (attachments with single files containing multiple invoices – will need to be uploaded manually to Receipt Bank using the Multipage invoice option)
  • Statements

These label names are going to be used in IFTTT, so don’t make them too long. Shortening Receipt Bank to RB is also a good idea.

You probably won’t want Statements to go to Receipt Bank, but filtering them means you can find them easily, or have them autoforwarded to an actual accounts person to be dealt with.

An important part of the filter is to ensure you have ticked “mark as read” for any invoices that get sent to Receipt Bank – this is so you know at a glance that read mail has been dealt with, while unread mail has not. There will always be a number of emails that may be impossible to filter automatically, and for those you need a real person to look at them. The inbox still needs to be monitored by a real person!

IFTTT.com

Then, create an IFTTT account. IFTTT (If this, then that) uses simple rules to create actions, between various channels that you activate in IFTTT (eg Gmail, Dropbox, etc)

For example:

If new email in inbox labelled Receipt Bank invoice, then send an email from clientinvoices@gmail.com to receiptbank@receiptbank.me

or;

If new email in inbox labelled /Client A/Dropbox to Receipt Bank, then add file from URL to Client’s Dropbox.

I started out using the first option – forwarding emails. At first I couldn’t see a way to use Dropbox, mainly because I use my own Dropbox for several client files – and Receipt Bank used User names to link to Dropbox. Because I had my own user name the same for each client, it would have meant I had four folders all with my own name, and I couldn’t tell at a glance which client each folder was for.

This was solved simply by creating a new “user” in Receipt Bank using the client name – e.g. “Clientname Receipt Bank”, so that unique folder names would be created in Dropbox, and I could clearly identify separate dropbox folders for each client.

So the format of the file location in your Dropbox will be:

/Dropbox/Apps/Receipt Bank/User name – Unique Receipt Bank Number/

And then several subfolders

/Invoices

/Receipts

You can enable the Dropbox option in Receipt Bank in the “Add Items’ section.

As an aside, using Dropbox in this way also made it easier for the paper invoices that had to be scanned – I customised my scanner software to automatically save scanned invoices to the correct Dropbox folder for each client, which removed the need for me to manually choose the files and upload them to Receipt Bank.

After creating your IFTTT account, you need to activate the relevant channels – Gmail, and Dropbox if you want to use that option.

When they are successfully activated, the next step is to create a recipe – the rule that will move the invoices from Gmail to Dropbox, or forward them from Gmail to Receipt Bank.

Create an IFTTT recipe

This:

  1. Choose the Gmail channel.
  2. New email in box labelled…
  3. Type the label – start with a forward slash /, and type the label exactly as you have created it in Gmail. If you have nested labels, separate them with a forward slash. e.g. /Clients/Client A/RB invoices
  4. Create Trigger

That:

If you want to forward emails to Receipt Bank:

  1. Choose the Gmail channel.
  2. Send an email…
  3. Enter the email address – this is the custom email address in the Add Items section of Receipt Bank.
  4. The important part here is the Attachment URL. Leave that in, but it is a good idea to delete all the preset text from the Body section – this will prevent any graphics in the signature line from getting to Receipt Bank. All you want is the attachment.
  5. Create Action.
  6. You can choose to receive notifications when this recipe runs (notifications can be switched off later if you don’t need them).
  7. Create Recipe

or,

If you want to send invoices to Dropbox for Receipt Bank to automatically upload:

That

  1. Choose the Dropbox channel.
  2. Add file from URL
  3. Leave the File URL and File name. Enter the Dropbox folder path according to the URL in Add Items > Dropbox section of Receipt Bank. It will look something like /Apps/Receipt Bank/User name – User number/. Make sure you’ve enabled this in Receipt Bank!
  4. Create Action.
  5. You can choose to receive notifications when this recipe runs (notifications can be switched off later if you don’t need them).
  6. Create Recipe.

Next you will want to test the recipe. In the “My Recipes” section of IFTTT, you can manually run a recipe, see when it was last run (if ever), and view a log of the actions taken.

If it doesn’t work, doublecheck the label you have created in Gmail – it must be exactly the same case, spaces, everything.

For all the automation, I still recommend someone monitors all parts of this process – I keep an eye on the “Not ready for Export” section of the Receipt Bank inbox, to identify errors. And if you identify invoices that are not getting to Receipt Bank, go back to Gmail and check how it is being identified with the filters and labels.

But it cuts out the really backbreaking work of getting a large number of invoices from email to Receipt Bank.

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