Use Google Voice‘s SMS functionality like it’s a chat program on your Mac. VoiceMac is a free Mac desktop client for Google’s free, USA-only phone service, and it offers you the SMS interface you’ve been looking for.
Google’s web version of Voice works well on the desktop, but it’s not exactly seamless: you need to leave your browser open and there are no notifications for incoming messages (unless you’re using the Google Voice extension for Chrome). VoiceMac isn’t perfect but it’s the best free Google Voice client out there for Mac users.
Google Voice is USA only; VoiceMac is Mac only. Sorry, vast majority of earth’s inhabitants: you’ll have to sit this one out. I’ll outline alternatives for other platforms below.
Using Voice Mac
Start Voice Mac and you’ll need to log in to your Google Account. The program will use your Google account or your Mac contacts to find phone numbers;
Once everything is set up you’ll see a list of your contacts:
You can, at any time, search for a contact using the search bar at top. Double-clicking a contact will, by default, call them using Google Voice, meaning the phone chosen in the drop-down menu at top will ring – pick up the phone and you’ll be connected.
That’s cool, but the really great part about VoiceMac is the SMS functionality. Click a contact, then click the “SMS” button and you’ll open a new window:
It’s not that complicated: type and you can start texting. In my testing replies showed up here the same time they did on my phone, meaning you can basically have a real-time conversation.
By default this program (poorly) mimics the SMS application on the iPhone. You can change this in the settings, if you want, but the alternative interfaces aren’t much prettier.
Still, it’s hard to beat this program in terms of functionality. Growl is supported for all incoming texts, meaning you’ll know what they say the second they come in.
You can also use this program to browse your Google Voice inbox, including your Inbox and the messages you’ve archive. You can even listen to your voicemails.
If a phone number isn’t familar to you VoiceMac can help a little: you can quickly look up the city and state a particular phone number is based in. Here’s me using it for a contact unrelated to any you saw above:
Be sure to explore the settings, because this program can do more.
You can also set this program up to make and receive calls, assuming you have a SIP account somewhere. I don’t, so I can’t help you there; sorry.
Download Voice Mac
Click here to download VoiceMac. You’ll find the download link at right, below the rating and other information. Installation is of the good old-fashioned “drag to Applications” sort; an in-depth manual is included in the package.
VoiceMac works on OS X 10.4 and later; Intel and PowerPC processors are both supported.
There are a number of alternative out there, of course.
- Windows users can check out GVNotifier. I haven’t had time to review it yet, and am not sure how it works, but it looks similar. Stay tuned for a writeup.
- Beyond that the alternatives seem to be Mac-based. For example: if you want to manage Google Voice from your Mac’s system tray – and don’t mind paying $5 – check out GrowlVoice. Personally I prefer a windowed application to the system bar but this app might work for you.
- If you’d prefer to use Mac’s dashboard for sending SMS messages check out GV-Connect. It lacks a conversation-style interface but can quickly send messages and features growl notifications for
- Linux users: I’m yet to find a perfect application. Google Voice Notifier can let you know when a new message comes in but cannot tell you what that message says. Speak up in the comments below if you know of something better; I’d like to hear about it.
This application is perfect for keeping up with my text messages while I’m working on my Mac. If you’re a Google Voice user with a Mac I highly recommend you try it out.
How’s it working for you? Let me know in the comments below, because I always appreciate a good conversation.