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

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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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 googlevoiceseries@gmail.com (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 @gmail.com 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

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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 Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz.

Topics: Google, Browser, Cloud, Collaboration, Telcos

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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Talkback

17 comments
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  • Counterintuitive?

    Forwarding GV messages to Outlook sort-of defeats the purpose of a cloud service. I would imagine you'd want to do the exact opposite.

    GV is great, can't live without it.
    ddevito@...
    • RE: Google Voice: beyond Gmail. Get voicemail and texts using any client you want

      @ddevito@... Not really. I think you're missing the marriage between Outlook and Exchange. Our Exchange server lives in the cloud and I access it from my phone, my Web browser, and from five or six physical machines, all running Outlook.

      The local copies of Outlook sync with Exchange, in a way very similar to how Steve Jobs announced iCloud will sync with Macs and iOS devices.

      Outlook has often been considered a client-only solution, but in the enterprise, it's far, far more. I like Gmail, but I've had a cloud-based Outlook/Exchange solution running since well before people started calling it the cloud.

      Frankly, I'm finding the marriage between Google Voice and our Exchange/Outlook implementation rather awesome, kind of like peanut butter and chocolate, or steak and more steak.
      David Gewirtz
  • Helpful info

    David

    I usually hit the back button as soon as I find I've clicked on one of your articles. I typically find them to be a rant of one sort or another and mostly useless.

    I'm enjoying the Google Voice posts and the upcoming posts look promising.

    Keep it up!!
    rewand
    • RE: Google Voice: beyond Gmail. Get voicemail and texts using any client you want

      @rewand Thanks, uh, I think. :)
      David Gewirtz
  • RE: Google Voice: beyond Gmail. Get voicemail and texts using any client you want

    I tried Google voice about 2 or 3 months ago, with my cell phone, but found it difficult. It couldn't transcribe most of the messages, and then it got to answering my calls before my phone even rang! Annoying to say the least. So, I've disabled it for now. I love Google and use a lot of their products, even some beta ones, but I think I need to wait a bit to try this one again.
    jacquie1951
  • RE: Google Voice: beyond Gmail. Get voicemail and texts using any client you want

    I have a Google Voice Number, but they now seem to be unavailable in all of Florida and in many other parts of the country that have any population. This situation has existed for many months and I understand is getting worse. They should never have taken it off the invite stage if they can't supply numbers to people.
    remmeler
    • RE: Google Voice: beyond Gmail. Get voicemail and texts using any client you want

      @remmeler When I make calls using my google voice it usually dials a Massachusetts number and I'm in Connecticut along the coast, a pretty populated area. Mostly using it for texting though as my job as turned off texting on our blackberry's. It works...kinda, locks up a lot, sends dupe texts, I have to usually yank my battery about once a day average because it'll get hung up on sending a message despite the fact that I'm on WiFi or have full signal. For a free app though you can't really complain as it gets the job done.
      BDower
      • RE: Google Voice: beyond Gmail. Get voicemail and texts using any client you want

        @BDower If you are in Connecticut and you are using a Massachusetts number, the people that call that number with a Massachusetts area code to get you are charged long distance even though they are also in Connecticut. I guess you are just using the SMS texting, which you could do from your phone without the lock ups.
        remmeler
  • I use Google voice to call my friend

    This is so great, I just slip on my headset and talk away. The voice quality is so good.
    I just love my Google voice!
    dale_may1999@...
  • RE: Google Voice: beyond Gmail. Get voicemail and texts using any client you want

    If I don't know an incoming number, I let it go to google voice and I check the transcript. It could not be easier. Gmail is my primary non-work email though. I use Mac mail to pull it by IMAP and it works well for me. I recently added the google two-factor authentication, and I like that as well. Very useful ...
    awilson77584
  • RE: Google Voice: beyond Gmail. Get voicemail and texts using any client you want

    Forgive me if these are repeats as I've not read the other articles but here are some things I've found.

    More tips:
    1. You can reply to a "text" email just like a normal email and it responds via text to the original sender.
    2. Using the Chrome or Firefox plugin, when you receive a text your computer will "ding" to let you know (if you happen to be at home.)
    3. Using the tip you mentioned above regarding labels and forwarding, you can set an "auto-response" for specific senders or all text messages. I actually used this once for a contest, and it worked amazingly well.
    4. There is an export and import function under contacts that, in conjunction with both AT&T and Verizon "my services" pages, you can easily transfer contacts back and forth. I had a business phone with one, and a personal phone with the other. Within 15 minutes I figured out how to have ALL contacts on ALL phones. Very handy!
    beckerist@...
  • RE: Google Voice: beyond Gmail. Get voicemail and texts using any client you want

    I've been using GV since receiving my first invite. It has worked great and I've never had a problem with it. The only flaw so far is the voice to text translation is flaky, but the text message is enough to let you know the gist of the message and whether to follow up on it or just delete it. I work for a big box retailer and they have their computers locked up tight, however I can still access both GV and GDocs, able to text from my desk and use GD's since we don't have access to email or MS office. Great work arounds.
    Harley130
  • Why has my Google Voice disapeared from Gmail?

    Hi, great all the things GV can be used for. I had it downloaded and installed quite a while ago, last year already, while i was living in Berlin, Germany.
    Never used it though. Than i moved to Oh Canada and since it says free calls to phones in Canada as well as the US i wanted to start test driving it - but, the "Call phone" menu link in my Gmail did no longer exist, all i still got was a "account settings" page for GV, with nothing o it that could get me to make a call. The Gmail help desk forum told me some story that Google simply and quietly removed all GoogleVoice installations from users not living in the US, kind of wild story to think of, but indeed, also my GF in Canada has lost hers - but than a friend in Singapore has just successfully downloaded and installed GV on his Mac - anyone in the knowing what is really going on in above regards - P.S. when i try to re-download the GV it just redirects me to my Gmail inbox!!!
    rmworldwide@...
    • RE: Google Voice: beyond Gmail. Get voicemail and texts using any client you want

      @rmworldwide@... GV is US only, that means as soon as your IP address is non-US the GV option in Gmail disappears. I know because of travelling between the US and the UK. If you travel out of the US GV is a waste of time as it disappears at the border.
      MrBeck
  • RE: Google Voice: beyond Gmail. Get voicemail and texts using any client you want

    Can GV be used to give the caller options before leaving the message? I want different messages for family and business callers - and when they choose which category is them, the message is recorded in the appropriate place. Perhaps this is a different way of saying what is in the article, or perhaps this feature is a different app. Please offer insight . Thank you very much!
    cathyver
  • Use as a personal voice memo

    I was just thinking about blogging on this same thing. Glad I googled it first, great info! I've been using it when in the car--I call myself with something I want to remember for later and get an email, fairly accurately transcribed for later. A real efficient person could probably set up a filter in gmail to forward and tag in evernote I suppose as well.
    @mrschwen
    mrschwen
  • RE: Google Voice: beyond Gmail. Get voicemail and texts using any client you want

    We've switched to Google Voice for the "house phone" and it works great. The only annoyance has been that Google Voice rarely picks up before voicemail on one of the cell phones kicks in. It would be nice to be able to adjust that timing.
    software@...