Tag: Google

January 3 2016

Google Voice is a free telephone service that does practically everything your current provider does, like make phone calls, receive voicemails, and send texts. But it’s so much more than that.

Like many people, I’ve had the same phone number for so long that I can only estimate when I first got it. There’s a kind of convenience to having the same number, just like having the same address. The problem is that it’s not always convenient, and sometimes it’s downright annoying. Telemarketers, pranksters, and collectors don’t care about your privacy. They have your number, and that’s all that matters.

A few noteworthy features include free phone calls, free texts, video conferencing, and voicemail transcription. I’ve been using it for five years now because I’ve loved the service, and I understood why it wasn’t very popular. It has always been a great service, but it has been held back by the second-rate apps. Google never really put much effort into the app or website, which didn’t make sense to me until they integrated it into Google Hangouts. Now it benefits from a much better user experience while still retaining everything that makes Google Voice great.

1. You Get to Choose a Free Second Phone Number

When you sign up you choose a phone number that can make calls and receive calls like any other phone number. Then you connect that number to your current phone, and it becomes a free second line with more features than most paid telephone services can even provide.

2. Public/Private Number

Your cell phone can now become a private number that you only give out to select people. Your Google Voice number can be public, and you can feel safer about giving it out. That’s because of the next feature…

3. Spam Filter for Phone Calls and Texts

Don’t you wish you could just ignore a voicemail from someone you know is spamming you by phone? Well, now you can in just a couple taps of your screen. That telemarketer will never bother you again. It’s almost impossible to keep your phone number out the hands of people who pass it around as a commodity, and this gives you more control on how to deal with these calls.

4. It Saves You Talk Minutes

When you make a call through Google Voice, it uses a wifi connection instead of your talk minutes. And if you opt in, then it uses your data connection when wifi is not available. That way it works just like a telephone but it favors free connections over paid services. If you make a lot of calls from within reach of a wifi connection, this could drastically reduce the number of minutes you consume each month.

5. Customized Voicemail Messages

Not only can you create a customized voicemail like any other service, but you can create different messages depending on who’s calling. So, if you use the same number for work and personal reasons, you can have different greetings that change based on the criteria you set. Your friends hear a more personal greeting (maybe one that even says their name), your business colleagues hear a professional greeting, and unknown numbers get a generic message. And once they do leave a message…

6. It Transcribes Your Voicemails

While this part isn’t perfect, it does serve an incredibly useful function. Whenever you receive a voicemail, you can have it automatically transcribed into text and sent to you via text, email, both, or neither. It’s a useful way to get a quick glimpse at the voicemail before you hear it and to preserve the message for posterity. Which reminds me of the next feature…

7. Keep All the Things!

You’ll never lose a text or voicemail again (and it’s super easy to delete the ones you’d rather forget). The default account has enough space for virtually any individual who sends/receives phone calls, voicemails, and texts every day. I pay a few bucks a month for extra storage because I use Google Drive, but I imagine it’s pretty hard to fill up the available space just by texts and voicemails.

8. It Works Everywhere

You can use it on iPhone, Android, both, or neither. You don’t even need a phone. You can access all of your messages and take/place calls on your desktop, laptop, or tablet. It’ll even work if you’re still using one of those indestructible Nokias from the late 90’s.

9. No Software Required*

Accessing your messages and using the voice service doesn’t require additional software. It works on almost every web browser without the need to install additional software. If a computer can handle Gmail, it can do Google Voice. So, you could log into your account and check your messages from a public library, your computer at work, your home computer, or on a friend’s computer.

* Technically, you do have to install an operating system on your computer and a web browser. Also, you need the Google Hangouts app on your phone if you want to use Google Voice instead of your cell phone provider. But no software is required to access your information.

10. Free Unlimited Texts

Yes, you read that correctly: free unlimited texts. It sends/receives SMS texts to/from any phone via the internet, so you aren’t charged for it by your provider. The only catch is that it’s web-based, so you have to have some kind of data connection for this to work. You could remove texting from your plan if you’re careful, especially if you don’t really text that often.

11. Pick Up Where You Left Off

Let’s say you’re having a text conversation that suddenly gets wordy, but you’re not in a position to make a call at that moment. Just switch to your web browser and type it out instead. And when you leave the computer for whatever reason, you can pick the conversation right back up on your phone. It allows you to focus on communicating rather than the technology.

12. Get Some Much-Needed Face Time

You can also do video calls/conferencing, which is so commonplace now that it’s almost amusing. Google Hangouts was originally designed as a chat room with video conferencing, and it has proven to be a pretty reliable one of those. All you need is a decent data connection and plan.

December 5 2008


Google has a new social networking tool that I’ve been waiting months to implement into my sites. Late last night they finally sent me the email, so I added it to my site. I’m planning on putting on just about all of my other sites. The cool thing is that you can join the site without having to register on each one. Just use your Google login and you’re in! You’ll be seeing more of this service all over the internet, so why not get started right here right now?

May 5 2008

Why Gmail Rocks

If we’ve ever had a discussion about email in the past year, chances are that I’ve tried to sell Gmail to you. I’m not just doing that because I’m geeky, or just because I think all the cool kids are using Gmail this year. The reason I do it is because I’m trying to make life easier for you, for me, and everyone else. I’m sure you like your current email service, but look at this way…

You may be driving a mid-90’s Ford Escort with manual transmission, no air conditioner, no airbag, and an old engine. Sure, it may be clean, has a nice new paint job, and has lots of new buttons, but then you drive into a Ferrari dealership. Now imagine a brand new (as in, just rolled off the factory floor) Ferrari with automatic transmission, air-conditioning, a hidden trailer hitch (for towing anything a dozen 18-wheelers can tow), shields (yeah, the kind they use on Star Trek), and a team of engineers who constantly fix or upgrade every broken or worn-out part on the entire car (all while you sleep)!

Yes, that’s probably an overly-complex analogy, but Gmail really does rock that much. And here are just a few reasons why…

#1. Archiving – You need to get used to archiving everything rather than deleting. In fact, you may need to change your whole outlook (no pun intended) on this behavior because it means something entirely different now. Before, if you had an email that you didn’t actively save somewhere, it’d eventually get deleted off the server. Well, with Gmail, unless you specifically delete it or it gets left in the Spam folder, it will remain in your account forever. This is important for two main reasons: security and “searchability.” The good thing is that you’ll never lose another email again…period. However, you also need to be aware that you have to delete anything you absolutely want deleted. So, get in the habit of archiving unless it’s absolute junk and you’re certain you’ll never ever need that email again.

#2. Re-inventing the inbox – Your inbox is like your desktop. It’s your staging area for things you need to deal with or don’t want to forget. The rest of the emails in there should be archived or deleted. It all depends on your own behavior, of course, but you shouldn’t have more than twenty-or-so emails in your inbox at any given time. Sure, you can have a thousand if you want, but you’d be neglecting the whole point of the Gmail inbox and the archive button. Don’t be afraid to archive something immediately after you’ve read it, or if you already know what it’s going to say. Archiving doesn’t hide it away in some locked vault, never to be seen again. It simply removes it from your inbox. Your inbox should just contain emails from people who are actively waiting on a response, or if there’s a bill notification or some other reminder you don’t want to forget.

#3. Filters! – Yay, filters! They rock, rock, rock! And, here’s why Let’s say you keep getting email from Old Navy, and you just can’t get them to stop sending you stuff. Well, just create a filter that automatically archives (or deletes) all email from them. That way, it skips your inbox entirely and you never see it. There are a ton of great uses for filters. If you have a friend who is always forwarding you junk and you can’t tell them to stop (but you also don’t want to simply block them because they are a friend of yours), then just create a filter that automatically archives everything from “” that has “FWD” in the subject line. That way, if he ever sends you a personal email that isn’t a forward, it’ll come straight to your inbox and you won’t miss a thing. And besides, if you set it to automatically archive, you won’t be getting rid of anyway…just hiding it. Finally, filters can be used to “unsubscribe” from any email service, no matter how hard they make it to do so. If you’re tired of receiving email from Victoria’s Secret, set up a filter that automatically deletes all email from them and you’ll never be bothered again.

#4. Labels – Another paradigm shift that Gmail will (happily) force you to make is getting rid of the “everything needs a folder” mentality. Outlook-based email, AOL, Hotmail, and the rest have always forced us to create all these folders for our email, arrange them just so, and otherwise add steps that we don’t really need. There are no folders, really, in Gmail. I mean, they call them the inbox folder and the spam folder just so people know what they’re referring to, but there is not actual folder. So, how do you keep everything straight? Labels! Add a label called “business” that is blue and one called “financial” that is green, or whatever you can come up with. They’re flexible and you can rename them, so you’re bound to come up with plenty of uses for them. But be careful that you don’t overuse them. After all, Gmail is about simplicity, and part of the simplicity is being able to search for an email rather than search through folders, labels, etc. And speaking of search…

#5. Google it! – Never forget that you’re using a Google-based program, not just a service provided by the company. Want to find something easily? Google it! It’s in your email somewhere. This is one of the best things about Gmail. Let’s say I sent you a password to my website about muffins, but you can’t remember when I sent it so the thought of scanning through alllllll of your emails is daunting (especially since you don’t delete them anymore). Well, try searching in your email for “password” and “muffins” and hit enter. Chances are, the exact email you are looking for will be sitting there waiting for you. If not, add/remove keywords until it does. I can’t stress to you enough how great this feature is until you experience it yourself. In fact, this is the reason why folders are irrelevant now. Why search through folders if you’re going to search all of them at once every time?

#6. Importing – Have you been using that Hotmail, MSN, or AOL account for years? Have it forwarded to your Gmail account. Have you been using Outlook or Thunderbird to check your email? You have no reason to even have those programs on your computer anymore. Gmail is a web-based version of Outlook that requires no installation and is constantly being automatically upgraded. Any POP or IMAP email address can be directly attached to your Gmail account. So, you could have your Gmail account, your Hotmail account, your AOL account, and your school email (for example) all checked in one place. Then, you just create a filter that adds a label to each email with the name of the email address it was sent to, and you’ll easily be able to tell where it was sent. Because of my web business and all the domains I manage, I have dozens of email addresses…dozens. But I check them all in one place with no effort (once it’s set up, of course). Which leads me to the last thing I’ll mention…

#7. Spam? No, thanks. – Gmail’s server automatically detects spam over the whole network. So, if Joe in Montana gets an email from a scammer in Liberia, and he marks it as spam, the system recognizes that and every email just like it gets automatically moved to everyone’s spam folder. Like I said before, I have dozens of publicly-available email addresses, but I rarely get more than one spam in my inbox each day. In fact, if you factor in Gmail’s filters, labels, and awesome spam controls, you should never be afraid of giving your email out to ANYONE…even spammers! I have been posting my personal email address ( on the internet, in emails, and using it to sign up for every service for the past few years, and I have no problems with spam. Sure, I have 4,000+ messages in my spam folder right now, but I haven’t looked at a single one of them, and they’ll die after 30 days anyway.

If this hasn’t convinced you to at least give Gmail a shot, then please turn off your computer and go back to your newspaper. ;o) I’m kidding! I love ya. Hope this helps.