Earlier this week, Google Voice opened to everyone in the U.S.. The phone management app is great, but even cooler hacks exist just under the hood. Here are our favourite tricks every Google Voice user should know about.
AU: Obviously not available to Australians, but bookmark this page for when it eventually does launch down here - NB
If you're just signing up for Google Voice, and wondering, in general, what it's good for, we've previously offered our take on whether Google Voice makes sense for you, and how to ease your transition to your new number and system. Google Voice also offers the option to just use it for voicemail and keep your number, but you won't get use of much of the SMS features touted here. Now, onto Voice's lesser-known perks and features:
10. Manage Voicemail and Text Messages Through Email
It's not a "hidden" feature, per se, but it's not made apparent that you can have Google Voice send you an email when you get a new voicemail message or a text message—and that you can reply, from your email client, to those text messages. Because they come from a standard txt.voice.google.com, they're also easy to filter and set alerts for. If you're a Gmail user, you can also play messages back right in Gmail, and they'll be marked as listened to in your Voice account. (Original post)
9. Set as Your Skype Caller ID
Free internet calling service Skype is a really cheap way to make phone calls to a landline from your computer. One big downside, though, is those you're calling probably don't recognise the caller, and your number might change every time you call. Google Voice set up their servers, though, to allow setting your Google Voice number as a Skype caller ID. Commenter downdb explains the step-by-step process, which generally involves confirming a text message code and waiting for Skype to change your number.
8. Use Your Location to Determine Which Phones Ring
You can set up time-based rules for your phones in Google Voice—so, for example, your home phone doesn't ring from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.—but not everybody works a regular schedule. Chad Smith, a Wichita-based geek who loves him some Google Voice, set up a clever means of syncing Google Voice with your GPS location, using some PHP scripting and the Locale geo-location app. When you're away from home, you can have only your mobile phone ring. When you're at home, you can have a VoIP line and your home line ring. If you're not rocking your own PHP-friendly server space, there's a somewhat beta-level app in the Market, Google Voice Locations (scan-able QR link here) that accomplishes much the same kind of GPS-aware phone management.
7. Use "Do Not Disturb" to Get Work Done
If you've managed to make Google Voice your one number that rings all your phones, you can enact a cloak of silence when you really need to get things done by enabling "Do Not Disturb" for a certain amount of time. All your calls go straight to voicemail, and nothing buzzes or plays a ringtone. It would be even nicer if Google could delay your SMS for the same time—that's often just as deadly a distraction. (Original post)
6. Send Yourself Advanced Voice Memos
True, you could use a digital recorder, or just call your own voicemail, to leave yourself a voice memo about something you need to remember later. But using Google Voice, you can have that voice memo transcribed to text, sent to your Outlook inbox at work, backed up forever in Gmail, and smartly delivered just where you need it. Drew Vogel's setup sets up his system so that all his other phones don't ring when he calls himself from one of them, and also gets his note-to-selfs into his Outlook box. Mark Stout's method sets up a special greeting for when he calls ("Record note now"), then has that message sent first to Gmail, then forwarded to cloud-based memory service Evernote. Mix and match settings from the two, and you'll feel like you've got your own personal assistant that lives in the cloud and only wants to help you remember things. (Original posts: Stout, Vogel).
5. Upgrade Your mobile phone Voice Plan to Unlimited
Every major U.S. cellular carrier offers some kind of "pick a few numbers, talk with them for free" plan. You know what happens when you make your Google Voice number one of your "friends"? Yep—unlimited free calls on your cellphone. Since everyone gets a unique Google Voice number, it would be hard for AT&SprintRizon-Mobile to start universally blocking Google Voice from your picks. So, for the time being, enjoy living beyond your cellular talk time means through the magic of whatever business plan Google has for Voice.
4. Send Text Messages Through Your IM Client
Google Voice's web site is pretty fast and easy to grasp, and there are a few nifty desktop clients, like the Google Voice AIR app, that make it easy to send messages with a click or two. But you've already got an instant communication system set up—instant messaging, in fact—and you can receive, reply, and send SMS through it. GVXMPP hooks together your Google Voice text messaging, your email address, and your IM client, so that when a friend texts you, it shows up as a kind of IM, and when you reply, it goes back to their phone—no extra thought, web tab, or phone reach needed. (Original post)
3. Use Voice on an iPhone, Despite Apple's Block
Apple generated a good bit of criticism when it blocked the Google Voice app from its iPhone app store, but doesn't seem to be backing down any time soon. In the meantime, Google has created a pretty powerful webapp as a partial work-around (that also works on Palm WebOS phones). For even tighter iPhone integration with Google Voice, you can use GVMax. The free app can send Google Voice SMS messages to your IM client or email address, and then notify you through a push message that you've got a new message. (Original post)
2. Use Google Voice SMS and Call Shortcuts from Any Phone
Google Voice has crafted pretty neat mobile apps for Android and BlackBerry phones that integrate Google's free SMS messaging. If you're not on one of those platforms, or don't have any kind of data plan, you can still hide your "real" number behind Voice and benefit from its inbox. Gina explained how to do it with a standard phone. It unfortunately involves saving a kind of "alternate" number for each contact, but most modern phones make that fairly easy. Luckily, you can also use that alternate number to call your contact through Google Voice.
1. Make and Receive Free VoIP Calls with Your Google Voice Number
Google Voice once integrated nicely with the free, Skype-like Gizmo5 service. Then Google bought Gizmo5 and closed down new registrations. They might come back—heck, Google might offer its own desktop client someday. In the meantime, we've detailed how to make free computer calls to any phone with Google Voice, using the free Sipgate service, which gives you your own actual phone number that you can feed to Google Voice as just another phone you can have ring whenever you want.
We're pretty enchanted with Voice, as you can tell, but there have to be other clever set-ups, third-party tools, and quirky uses we haven't encountered or written about yet. Know of one? Tell us about it in the comments.