Google Voice: Beyond Gmail. Get voicemail and texts using any email client you want

Summary:Learn how you can receive transcribed voicemail messages and texts in any email client you want.

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This project: The Ultimate Google Voice How-to Guide (2014 Edition)

Welcome to the 2014 edition of the Ultimate Google Voice How-To Guide, presented by ZDNet's DIY-IT blog. In this article, and the baker's dozen that accompany it, you'll learn just about everything you need to know to get the most out of the Google Voice service. This guide contains a complete end-to-end update of our 2011 Google Voice guide, chock full of new ideas, completely new articles, and amazing tips.

You'll learn how to port your landline to Google Voice, how to set up phone handsets, how to integrate Google Voice into your iPhone and Android experience, how to set up a multi-line office, how to get the most out of using Google Voice and SMS, and even how to use Google Voice effectively and safely in your car, and lots more.

So brew up a cup of coffee or your favorite tea, grab a few snacks, and prepare to discover how plain 'ol phone calls are about to be transformed into something virtually indistinguishable from magic.

This article assumes you've already got a working Google Voice account and it's linked to your phone. If you don't, please read the earlier articles in this series. We are also aware of the rumors that Google may end-of-life Google Voice or migrate its functionality more fully into Hangouts and, if that happens, we'll update this series with all your best options.

In this article, we'll look at how you can receive transcribed voicemail messages and texts in any email client you wish.

The basics

Google Voice has two helpful options for getting your messages, beyond logging into the Google Voice Web interface. The system can (with some degree of amusing semi-accuracy) transcribe your voicemails and email them to you. It can also email you SMS messages (in addition to passing your SMS messages on to your phone).

Google Voice's normal behavior is to send these two types of messages to the Gmail interface associated with your Google Voice account. For example, if your Google Voice login is "googlevoiceseries," then your messages will be sent to (not a real email address).

To enable messaging, go to Settings and then the Voicemail & Text tab. Here you can record your outgoing voicemail message, set a voice mail PIN, and more to our purposes, turn on Voicemail Notifications, Text Forwarding, and Voicemail Transcripts.

Let's deal with the last one first, since it's the easiest. If you check "Transcribe Voicemails," Google Voice will attempt to (often with hilarious results) transcribe your voicemails into text.

I've noticed that this adds a small delay to how long it takes for you get your messages, but it's still worth it, not only because the transcription is often funny as heck, but for the practical reason that even a poorly transcribed voicemail can give you a pretty good idea of the message context.

Working our way up the interface, if you turn on Text Forwarding, by checking "Forward text messages to my email," you'll be able to get your text messages forwarded to your email — which will be your associated account. Later, we'll show how to make this go anywhere you wish.

Finally, the Voicemail Notifications section allows you to tell Google Voice where to email your voicemail messages.

While we're here, one hint: I keep forgetting to check the "Send a text (SMS) message to" box. If you want to actually get texts sent to your mobile phone, you'll need to check this box.

Here's a screenshot:

Beyond Gmail

More great project ideas

DIY-IT Project Guide

So, here's the thing: Google Voice likes to send your messages to a Gmail account. You can add additional accounts to the Voicemail Notifications section, but I've found that adding a non-Gmail account can have unpredictable results.

My primary email interface is not Gmail. Instead, my firm's account is hosted on Office 365 and I have gigs of historical messages in my Exchange account. So far, it hasn't been practical to consider moving all that to Gmail.

As a result, while I check my Exchange account using Microsoft Outlook (or my mobile phone) at least once every three minutes or so, I log into my various Gmail accounts quite rarely. I would rather get my Google Voice messages right in my Outlook interface.

Fortunately, there's an easy way to solve this problem, and create a universal method to get your Google Voice messages using any client you want. Here's how.

Next up: How to do it...

I'm doing more updates on Twitter and Facebook than ever before. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz and on Facebook at

Topics: Google, Cloud, Collaboration, Enterprise Software, Telcos


In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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