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Jan 31, 2020 • Issue #17 by Aron Korenblit

Zapier, Integromat and Parabola, which is better, when?

In the spirit of making more of my private conversations public to contribute more (and frankly, in an easier way) to the community, I want to publicly answer the question I get the most:

Should I use Zapier, Integromat or Parabola for this automation?

Well, the answer is it depends—duh. Depends on what though?

In my head I follow a simple decision tree to find the right tool which I'll share here, but first let's introduce the contenders.

Zapier

Zapier is the OG automation tool. Zapier monitors thousands of apps for "triggers" (form submission, new lead on your website) and lets you automate what happens after that trigger (create a new row in Airtable, send lead information to Salesforce). It recently introduced logic (if/then) into its flow. It's expensive.

Integromat

Like Zapier, Integromat monitors thousands of applications for triggers but it can also import data from applications on scheduled runs (import all google sheet data every hour). Add in advanced logic and the ability to call APIs, Integromat can automate complex workflows. It is cheap.

Parabola

Instead of working on triggers (inputs) and actions (outputs), Parabola starts with the idea that you'll import tables. You can do operations on that table which you can either export raw (to Excel, Airtable or any other DB format) or export it via API (each row is an API call). Parabola's pricing is unclear :).

If you're curious, I've used all three extensively on my Automate All the Things Youtube channel.

So, when to use what?

The first thing I always recommend is to map out your automation on a tool like Whimsical. Only then you can decide on the right automation for your flow.

Although the tools feel similar, the first and most important distinction is whether you're using working with one input or multiple inputs. By one input I mean you can describe your automation with:

When X happens (trigger) I want Y and Z to happen (actions). When I receive a form submission, I want form responses to be recorded in Airtable.

[caption align="alignnone" width="980"]

The first decision is the type of automation you want to build[/caption]

You want this happening instantly. Without getting too technical, this means you'll be using Webhooks that are (currently) easier to manage in Zapier or Integromat. Zapier and Integromat will wait for triggers to occur and make it easy to send information to any other application.

Do my tools work with Integromat and/or Zapier?

If the tools in your automation are only compatible with Zapier OR Integromat, that makes it easy to pick between the two. If they integrate with both (which is often the case), you need to consider Zapier and Integromat's functionalities.

What if my tools integrate with both?

Integromat's main advantage over Zapier is advanced logic out of the box. That logic includes looping over certain parts of your automation or having complex if/then type steps. If you need that kind of logic, I recommend going with Integromat. Otherwise, I recommend Zapier (if you don't mind the price point) for its simplicity.

[caption align="alignnone" width="980"]

The Zapier vs Integromat decision tree[/caption]

Some things I don't consider in this decision tree (but you may care about):

  • Zapier integrates with more applications than Integromat (although sometimes, not as deeply)
  • Zapier provides better documentation
  • Zapier offers 24/7 support which Integromat doesn't
  • In my experience, Zapier's integrations are more stable than Integromat's

Working with tables

Now if your workflow requires you to import datasets such as:

Every X, I want to do Y. Every hour I want to update the number of pageviews in Webflow with data from Google Analytics. 

You can elimite Zapier. Only Integromat and Parabola can import tables. However, how they treat tables is very different.

Thinking in Parabola is more intuitive, so let's default to it

Integromat will treat your dataset as a bunch of single row inputs. It sees a Google Sheet as 50 "bundles" or rows, each with variables. On the other hand, Parabola lets you visualize the table you're importing which is much more intuitive. For instance, if you want to say add 10 to every cell in a column or delete a column, here's how you would think about that in Integromat vs Parabola

Parabola: "Import sheet, select column, add ten" or "Import sheet, select column, delete it"

Integromat: "Import sheet, loop over every 50 rows, select the variable, add ten" or "Import sheet, loop over every row, select variable, set value to empty (you'll still have an empty column though)".

Less integrations for Parabola

Being newer to the game, Parabola has fewer direct integration. Parabola offers a drag and drop experience for very few tools while Integromat has import functionality with many. Now, this isn't an important trade-off because most services have an easy to work with API which you can easily plug into Parabola (check out my Youtube channel for how to do exactly that). And their support is wicked good (thanks Sachi, Brian).

[caption align="alignnone" width="980"]

The Integromat vs Parabola decision tree.[/caption]

What's interesting to me is that Integromat covers more ground  than Zapier or Parabola individually so you'd expect me to use it more. However, I find myself recommending Zapier and Parabola much more because of the ease of use that comes from focusing on core use cases.

My old boss used to call me a jack of all trades to which I'd reply "master of none" as a joke. I'm no longer so enthused by that title.

Best

Aron


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