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Send SMS Text through Gmail and Gtalk

written by: Meryl K Evans•edited by: Aaron R.•updated: 1/31/2009

Regular users of Gmail and Google Talk get another unique feature to make their lives easier. The next time you need to text someone without a cell phone in hand, just go in Gmail or Gtalk and text away. It's easier to text with a full keyboard than a cell phone's built-in keyboard.

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    My daughter relies on texting to communicate with me more than anything else. Including speaking in person. At least, she doesn't send 14,000 SMS messages per month. Her record is half that, but it's still a lot! I don't keep my cell phone in my home office because it makes a static noise due to interference with the speakers.

    Google solved that problem with SMS texting feature and it works great. When you send a text message through Gmail's built-in chat feature or Google Talk (Gtalk), the other person will recognize you by your Gmail account. Well, unless your Gmail ID is something like "Toocool" and they don't know or remember your ID.

    Sorry to disappoint those outside of the US, this feature applies to US phones for the time being.

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    Set up Text Messaging (SMS) in Google Chat

    Sign into your Gmail account. Click the green labs icon at the top right corner between your gmail ID and Settings. Alternatively, you can reach it by going to Settings and then click the Labs tab. The "Text Messaging (SMS) in Chat" feature appears near the bottom of the Labs page. Select "Enable" and "Save Changes."

    That's it. The hard part comes in putting it to work especially as you connect with each user's phone for the first time.

    In the Chat box in the sidebar, enter the name of the person you want to text. Either the person will show up in the list or in the case of a new contact, a pop up appears with Mail, Invite to chat, and Send SMS options. For those already in your contact list, you'll see a similar pop up with a couple of more options.

    Select Send SMS and enter the mobile phone number, if it's not already filled for you. Click Save. A new chat window appears after saving -- maybe. This is one of the glitches for first-time Gmail SMS users (me included). The chat window may not show up -- it took a few tries before it finally did for me. Try restarting your browser. The feature may need a little time to wake up and take effect.

    When you see the chat box, enter your message and hit Enter. Leave it at that until you receive a response. This way you have a second chance, if the first one doesn't take. Google's SMS feature won't let anyone send more than two messages to the same recipient until the recipient has replied. This can be a problem because the person may miss the messages. When this happens, you won't be able to send any other messages to the recipient. This happened to me and there was no way around it. I tried having my recipient text the phone number that appears on my recipients' screens when I send SMS from Gmail. It didn't work.

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    What the Recipient Sees in a Google Text Message

    The first time someone receives an SMS text from Gmail or Gtalk, the receiver gets two messages:

    1. The original SMS text "Gmail -" with the message.
    2. " sent you an SMS from Gmail. You can send a reply to this msg, or send STOP to opt out, HELP for more info."

    A phone number also shows up in the text message. It won't work to text the person through the phone number. The best option is to reply.

    Remember, if a recipient doesn't have unlimited texting, he or she will may pay a fee for each text message depending on his or her cell phone carrier's rates. So ask before you start texting someone for the first time. In the SMS pop up chat window, Google reminds of this with the following message, "So 'n so may be charged for an SMS by their mobile carrier each time you hit enter."

    Enjoy the convenience! I do!