Texting – Part 1

This entry is part 2 of 20 in the series Gmail Master

gmail-sms-from-chatThis episode is sponsored by GotoAssist Express. Try it free for 30 days.

Google offers a number of ways to send and receive text messages for free without using a mobile phone. This is part 1 of a 3 part series on using text messages, or SMS, with Gmail and other Google applications.

Let’s begin with Gmail. Texting from Gmail chat is fairly easy. To do this you will need to enable the Labs feature “Text (SMS) in Chat”. You can find this in the Labs tab in the Settings page.

Once the labs feature is setup, begin by opening the chat window and signing in to chat. Type the name or phone number of the person you want to send a text message to in the “Search, add, or invite” box. If this person is not already in your contacts list, don’t worry. As you type, a window appears under your text with options “Mail, Invite to Chat, and SMS”. If you entered a phone number, only the SMS option will be displayed. Finish entering the text then choose the SMS option and a window appears. In the window, finish filling out the contact information. If you entered a name, provide the phone number, if you entered a phone number then provide a name and click Save. This information will be added to your contacts list for easier reference later.

gmail-sms-contactWhen Gmail gets done saving the contact information, a window appears at the bottom of the screen – much like a chat window. Type you text message and send it with the Enter key. If the other person responds, you will receive a response in the same window. Gmail makes it as easy to send text messages as it is to chat – and best of all it’s free.
Another way to send text messages from Gmail is to use the SMS in Chat gadget. This is also a labs feature that works very similar to the Text (SMS) in Chat feature. I don’t recommend using this labs feature. First, it requires the Text (SMS) in Chat feature to be turned on – so why not use that instead? Second, at the time this article was written, the labs feature seems to have a bug in that it prompts you for contact information each time instead of reusing previous entries from the contact database. This creates duplicate entries in the contact database each time you use it.

Keep in mind that although the text messaging using Google may be free to you, it may not be free to the person receiving or sending replies. Currently, text messages from chat only work with US phones.

Listener John writes in and asks “Is there a way to set a primary email for a contact that has multiple addresses?”

While I cannot find a definitive rule or setting to make any particular email address the primary one, my own experience has shown me that mutliple email addresses seem to be ordered by the frequency they are used. The more you use a specific address for a particular person, the more likely that address will appear at the top of the list. If you’ve got information to the contrary, let me know on the blog or drop me an email.

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