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Many actions you perform on your mobile phone are repetitive, such as taking a photo and sharing it, checking in at favourite places, looking up places we are visiting in Wikipedia and so on. There is a well known app called IFTTT (IF This Then That) that automates tasks on mobile phones. Less well known, but more powerful is Microsoft’s on{X}.

On{X} is an Android app and it is free from the Google Play Store. The first thing you must do is to download it and install it on your Android phone. I used a Samsung Galaxy S4, but it should work on anything with Android 2.3.3 and up. The app is just 2MB, so it doesn’t take up much space.

There is initially nothing to see in the app when it is run. It just tells you to go to the website (onx.ms). You must do this on your computer.

The simplest way to use the app is to browse the recipes on the website. These are ready-made triggers and actions that other people have created. This is very similar to IFTTT, which also lets people access a library of ready-made recipes.

Some recipes are customisable and ‘Notify me when I have less than 1 hour of battery left’ shows ‘1 hour’ highlighted. Click it and you can choose the time from 30 minutes to two hours. It depends on the recipe, so watch out for customisable options.

Click the add button, and after logging in with Facebook, the rule or recipe (the site can’t make its mind up what to call it), is sent to the phone automatically. You don’t have to touch the phone and it just works.

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The collection of ready-made recipes is not as large as IFTTT, but they do appear to be more powerful and can access functions of the phone that IFTTT cannot. There are more recipes in the kitchen section of the website.

Go to my cookbook on the website and you can create your own recipes to control your mobile phone from code. There is a whole programming language dedicated to watching for triggers and performing actions.

Before you click create a new recipe, go to the documentation section of the website. This describes how to write the code and the functions you can use.  It isn’t easy for a complete beginner, although it shouldn’t be too difficult for someone who has done a little bit of JavaScript on web pages, or even a bit of basic C programming.

After a quick look at the documentation, return to the recipes and click one to select it. Click the code button in the top right corner of the web page and the code for that recipe is displayed. Looking at other people’s code provides valuable insights into how the recipes are constructed and you can copy bits of code and use them in your own recipes.

On{X} is an interesting idea and it makes programming mobile phones fairly easy and straightforward, at least compared to writing apps. The app itself could be improved. Programming is obviously best done on the website on a computer, but it is hard to see why you cannot browse and install ready-made recipes from the phone.

On{X} is a beta and it looks like it, but it could be a great app one day.