Back when it was nothing but a small, tiny speck of the internet, Google launched its over-the-air voice calling service called Grand Central. The service was supposed to provide tools and features that you might otherwise have to pay for, like unlimited voicemail, unlimited nationwide calling, unlimited texting and voicemail transcription, but for absolutely free. The service took off, and now Google's VoIP service is a hit. Everyone and their grandmother has the feature enabled on their mobile phones because of its easy set up, whether they're using a Smartphone or dumb phone, iPhone or Android phone.
But what if there was more from Google Voice than its advertised features? We've got 14 awesome tips and tricks to get Google Voice working like a boss, and more than just another free phone-over-the-internet service. Read on for tips on how to do things like send free text messages, block calls, and set up different voice messages for different people.
First things first: If you have a Google account, then you have a Google Voice account by logging in at Voice.google.com.
In recent weeks, Google has offered voice calling right from within Gmail. This feature allows you to call using your Google Voice Number without the need to pick up a phone.
To get started, log in to your Gmail email and locate the Chat box in the left-hand sidebar. From there, you should see a new contact called Call phone; click it.
A small box will popup on the right-hand side of your Gmail window displaying a dial pad. You may be prompted to download and install a small plug-in that will enable you to make a phone call. You wil also be able to dial a number or type in a name from your Google contact list to call. Make sure the Sound settings on your Mac are set up correctly.
Text messaging has become extremely popular over the past few years, and for good reason. However, one big annoyance is that it can be expensive to sign up for a plan that gives you unlimited messaging. Fortunately for smartphone users, there's a way around all of that.
Open Voice.google.com in your mobile phone’s web browser and sign in. You should be presented with the dialer, but tapping on the small new message button will bring you to a page where you can type in a phone number, or choose a contact from your address book. You also have a message box where you can type in your text message body. You can then send or discard the message.
When you receive a response back, it will be in your Gmail's inbox. Tapping on any message will allow you to see all of the messages in that thread. You can then text reply, call, or archive the message by pressing the appropriate buttons at the bottom of this page.
When someone calls your Google Voice number, you can have the message automatically transcribed into text, then emailed to your mobile phone.
To turn on this useful feature, visit the Google Voice settings by clicking Settings > Voice Settings from the menu in the upper right-hand corner. From there, select the Voicemail and Text tab. Under the Voicemail Notifications section, check the box labeled Email the message to, then select the appropriate email account from the drop-down box. You can also add a different email address, or have Google Voice text message your mobile phone when you get a new voicemail. Then, you need to check the box labeled Transcribe Voicemails under the Voicemail Transcripts section, then click Save changes.
Now whenever someone calls your Google Voice number and leaves a message, you will get an email at the specified address, allowing you to instantly see what the person said. There will also be a link where you can listen to the actual voicemail. Granted, the transcription system doesn’t always get the words right, so, as they say, your mileage may vary.
Sometimes, you may need to block people from calling your Google Voice number. Google makes this extremely simple.
From any recent call, text message, or voicemail, simply select the more option, then select Block caller.
A pop up window will ask if you’re sure that you wish to block the caller and will allow you to listen to the message that blocked callers will receive when trying to call your number. Note that this feature will only block calls coming in through your Google Voice number. If someone knows your actual home or cell number, they can still call that number.
All blocked calls, voicemails, and text messages will end up in the Spam folder in your Google Voice account. If you no longer wish to block someone, you can visit the Spam section, select the more option again, and choose “Unblock caller.” This will restore the message to your inbox and unblock the caller.
With Google Voice, you can have different voicemail greetings for different callers. Say, when a work contact calls they get a more professional greeting, but when your friends or family calls they get something silly. This is accomplished by specifying Groups for your different contacts.
To do this, head over to Settings > Groups. From this screen, you can manage your groups and contacts using the Manage Groups link. When you’ve finished creating and managing the groups through that link, return to the Groups settings and click the edit button under the appropriate group.
From the edit page, you will be able to set which phones the call gets forwarded to, and under the section labeled “When people in this group go to voicemail”, you are able to select or record a new voicemail greeting. When done, click the save button to automatically have anyone in that group receive the specified voicemail when they call your Google Voice number.
Occasionally, you may want to record personal, business, or conference calls for later reference, and Google Voice can happily oblige. Simply press the number 4 when you first accept a call, or anytime during the call. When you want to stop the recording, press 4 again. A voice will audibly note whether or not the call is being recorded.
Please note that Google does not allow you to record calls that you make, only calls you receive. There are also some state and Federal laws that may apply to recording phone calls--so, y'know, don't try to go all FBI on us and record your super secret conversations.
After you have finished the call, the recording will be available in your Google Voice account by clicking on the Recorded section in the left-hand sidebar. You can listen to a previously recorded call by pressing the small play button located underneath the date and time stamp information.
With Google Voice, you can embed voicemail and recorded calls onto any webpage just as you might with a YouTube video. To do this, simply navigate to any voicemail or recorded call and select “Embed” from the more drop-down menu. This will popup a box with the embed code and a box that will allow you to type in a caption if wanted.
Situations where this might come in handy: an over-the-phone engagement, a crank call to the local pizza joint, or if someone posts a celebrity's phone number on the internet and you want to prove to all the world that, yes, you did talk to Dylan McDermot on the phone for half a second.
Something that you can’t do with a standard phone is switch from a mobile call to a landline call, but Google Voices does this! Simply press the star (*) key while you’re in a call and all of your other phones connected to Google Voice will ring. Simply pickup a ringing phone and your call will be instantly re-routed.
Unfortunately, this feature will only work when someone calls you, not when you make an outbound call.
A PBX phone system is the lifeline of many companies, but smaller companies might not be able to afford the luxuries that these phone systems can provide, such as extensions, multiple voicemail boxes, etc. With Google Voice, however, you can create your own private, virtual PBX system.
You can simply register all of your personal (or company) phones, then when someone calls, all of your available phones will begin to ring, allowing you (or another person/employee) to answer any phone. You can then transfer the call to another person by pressing the * key like we showed you in step 8.
When you’re closed, or no longer taking calls, you could then enable Google Voice’s “Do Not Disturb” feature that will automatically send all calls to voicemail, without ringing any of the phones.
To enable this feature, navigate to the Settings > Calls tab. Check the box labeled Enable Do Not Disturb. You can optionally set an expiration time in minutes, hours, or days. When you’re done, click Save to have all calls directed to voicemail.
Sometimes you may want to know who is calling from a particular number before answering. Well, there is a nifty feature named Call Screening that will allow you to listen into a call even while someone is leaving a message. This will allow you to determine how to handle the call: answer, send to voicemail, or record it.
To enable this feature, visit the Settings > Calls tab and ensure the On box is selected under the Call Screening section. Optionally, you could have Google Voice ask unknown callers to say their name when calling your number. When you’re done, click the Save button.
There are many instances where you may need to have a phone number, but don’t necessarily want to give our your mobile phone number. Enter Google Voice.
Our own Roberto Baldwin uses Google Voice to control his apartment doorbell system. When someone buzzes the doorbell, it will ring all the phones in his account, allowing him to answer and let someone into his apartment no matter where he’s at. Try doing that with a regular phone number. Plus, you have the ability to turn off forwarding when you don't want to be disturbed.
The number that Google Voice assigns you can be used for life. It’s the only phone number you’ll ever need because when you get a new cell or home phone number, you can just register it in Google Voice and delete the old one.
However, there are times where you may require a new Google Voice phone number because you’ve moved and perhaps want a new local number. For a $10 one-time fee, you can change your number.
From the Google Voice main page, click your phone number in the upper right-hand corner of the screen (or navigate to Settings > Phones). Once there, click the Change link beside of your Google Voice number. A screen will popup that will walk you through the number changing and checkout process. Note that your old number will continue to forward calls to your new number for 3-months after you change numbers. This extra bit of time will allow you to notify your existing contacts that your number has changed.
Google Voice is great when you want a single interface to control all of your calls, but some people are more than happy with their existing phone number. But you can still put your Google Voice account to good use by turning it into a voicemail-only number. By doing this, people can call your Google Voice number to leave you a voicemail in your roomy, unlimited voicemail inbox.
To do this, navigate to Settings > Phones and uncheck the box under the Forwards to section for all of the phones associated with your account. By doing this, no phone will ring when someone calls your Google Voice number. After a few rings a caller will be directed to your voicemail, allowing someone to send you a voicemail only.
If you run an online business, or just want people to have a quick way to get in touch with you via a phone call, a call widget on your website can help. To embed a call widget on your website, navigate to Settings > Call Widgets.
Once there, click the Add a new Call Widget link. A new page will allow you to specify a name, pick a style, and choose whether or not to ring a phone or send the call to voicemail. You can also select a greeting or record a new greeting. The call presentation section lets you set whether or not you want to have Google Voice ask callers for their name when calling.
When you click the Save button, you will be taken back to the Call Widgets settings page where you will be presented with the embed code for your website. You can place this code anywhere on your website, just as you would embed a voicemail or YouTube video. When someone clicks this button on your site, they will be asked to enter their phone number and Google Voice will connect the two calls.
As you can see, the possibilities are truly endless when it comes to Google Voice. Do you use or know of another cool feature of Google Voice? Let us know in the comments below.
Follow this article’s author, Cory Bohon on Twitter.