Best Google Voice Apps for OS X 2012

If you have a Google (gmail) account you must have figured out the usefulness of Google Voice. Some time ago [link id=’78’ text=’I wrote a tip’] with an overview of the Google Voice applications available for Mac. A new, and perhaps the best, contender is now on the scene.

Rather than go into the benefits of Google Voice itself, my aim here is to give you an update on what are now the best ways to integrate Google Voice functionality (send/receive SMS Text messages, view and listen to voicemail, initiate calls, etc.) into Apple Mac OS X.

 

First up is GrowlVoice

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For a mere $4.99 GrowlVoice gives about as much bang-for-your-buck as could be expected. Like many of the excellent applications I’ve recommended for OS X in recent weeks, it runs as a small icon in the menu bar.

From this inconspicuous icon comes full access to your Google Voice account(s). You can add as many accounts as you wish, if you happen to have more than one account with Google.

To the right you can see the inbox. It will show text messages and voicemails; their read/unread status; the ability to mark them with a star; the date/time of the message; and a photo of the sender (if available).

GrowlVoice send txt
Send a text message

Next up is the TXT (SMS Text) messaging interface. It’s just like the TXT system on the iPhone, on iChat, and other Apple messaging interfaces. Google Voice lets you send TXT message at no cost to any number in the USA. If that’s something you do from time-to-time, it is now as simple as sending the message right from your desktop.

GrowlVoice txt
Have SMS Text Conversations
GrowlVoice  Google Voice for OSX
See your inbox right from the menu bar

 

 

GrowlVoice features:

  • Multiple accounts

  • Fully-featured search

  • Sort messages by inbox

  • Google Contacts or Address Book

  • Initiate calls

  • Listen to transcribed voicemail

  • Infinite scrolling in inboxes

  • Custom keyboard shortcuts

  • Preferred phones

  • Customizable sounds

  • Account labels

  • Contact images

You can buy GrowlVoice on the App Store here.

 

 

VoiceMac

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Before discovering Growlvoice, I used VoiceMac. Voicemac is relatively good at what it does, yet I would tend to close it because I didn’t want its one or more windows sitting around on the screen. I also found the way it handled displaying voice mail and txt message clunky. A new window would open up, and take up even more screen space. I much prefer the way GrowlVoice handles things and will likely uninstall VoiceMac.

VoiceMac does support SIP accounts, which is a plus if you have a SIP phone account (I do).

The big issue I currently have (and have had for a while) is that it is no longer stable on my computer. It tends to crash and have problems. For instance, it crashes when I try to initiate a call on my SIP account… so there goes that nice feature. It’s not had an update in quite a long time, and perhaps needs one.

If you don’t want to pay the $5 for GrowlVoice, then VoiceMac (free, and open source) might be your best bet… assuming it doesn’t crash on your system. I can’t say if the instability it has on my system is only, or if it’s a general problem with the applicaiton.

To use VoiceMac for initiating calls totally within the realm of your computer you’ll need a SIP phone installed, along with the necessary configuration. I’ll cover this in another Best Mac Tip.  Just search for SIP on this site to see what’s been posted so far.

You can view the screen shots of VoiceMac here.

 

 

GV Connect Widget

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The other Google Voice application I have is the GV Connect Widget. It sits on the Desktop along with whatever other Widgets you have installed.

Up until installing GrowlVoice, which I find so much more convenient, I would use GV Connect to know when I have new voicemail, and to quickly send an SMS Text message. I do find its texting functionality a bit clunky, one effect being that it’s easy to sent the same message more than once (it just sits there ready to send again, even once sent).

With GrowlVoice I suspect I’ll remove this Widget. However, if you would like just a Widget and not a full application to access Google Voice, GV Connect certainly does the job and it served me well for a few years.


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11 Comments

  1. I really wish GrowlVoice would ring when others call my account. I also wish I could place phone calls from it. That doesn’t seem to work though, and when I e-mailed the developer (about 6 months ago), he never wrote back. Is he still doing anything with GrowlVoice? Other comments on the App Store said that the developer never responded to their e-mails either. 🙁

    • Ben, please see the information I just shared with Gene. You also seem to not fully understand what Google Voice is actually designed to do. You can do what you want, as per what I just wrote to Gene.

  2. I am looking for a Gmail client for my Mac that I can use to make and receive phone calls using Googles system. You can use Google’s app on A PC to do this. But you need to use a browser to do the same on the mac. GrowlVoice has you either point to a cell or GTalk to use an outgoing/incoming line. I am looking for an app where I do not need to open my browser or use my cell. In both of these you do.

    • Hi Gene,
      I get the impression you have not fully understood the way Google Voice works. Google Voice is a forwarding system. Calls to not terminate to Google Voice, rather GV forwards them to a point of termination (POT). Normally the POT is a mobile phone or land-line number. It has to be a number within the USA. For outgoing calls, GV does not originate the call either. Rather it will make a call connection between your POT and the number you are trying to call.

      It seems what you want to achieve is to terminate incoming to your computer. I am not familiar with the app you are referring to on Windows computers.

      I have been using GV via my computer for many years. The way I achieve this is I have a free SIPGATE.COM sip/voip number. SIP is a software phone. With an SIP account you can have the POT on any device that can run SIP/VOIP software. That includes your computer, Android devices, iOS devices, etc.

      Unfortunately SIPGATE no longer give out free numbers. BUT if you research online I suspect you will find information on other companies providing free SIP accounts with incoming US numbers. Once you have got yourself one of these, you instruct GV to forward your calls to the SIP account phone number. You set up a software phone on your computer with the SIP account details. You can then send and receive calls via your computer. You will still, however, need something like GrowlVoice to initiate the call. Growlvoice sends the instruction to GV that you want to call X phone number, and you’d like the call routed to your SIP phone number. The phone software on your computer will then ring. YOu answer it, and the call goes through to X number. Just like normal.

  3. Hi Jonathan,
    I think I’ve finally found what both Gene and I were searching for. It’s called Talkatone, and it works on iOS and Android devices. So, the downside is that I can’t use it on my Mac OS X, but the up side is that my smartphone now rings whenever someone dials my GV number. I can also initiate GV phone calls through it.
    Their web-site is http://www.talkatone.com.
    Perhaps Talkatone is working with a SIPGATE in the background, but I really have to wonder if GV is as limited as everyone keeps saying it is. I also wonder if Google Hangouts (the new Google Talk app) will soon be the answer as well. They have said they intend to have Google Voice integration soon with SMS being the most requested feature.

    • Yes, that looks like it does the trick. As far as I can tell, it achieves this through running all the calls and SMS messages via their own servers. Doing that, they somehow get around the forwarding number requirements of a standard Google Voice set-up. People have mixed reports (in the Google Play reviews) about this particular application.
      By the way, if you decide you like Talkatone, you should be able to run it on your Mac computer within Bluestack. There’s a post on best-mac-tips.com that shows you how to do that.

    • By the way… there are plenty of apps for sending and receiving SMS messages directly from Android and iOS.

      On further investigation I see Google may have changed the way the GV system works, to allow for direct calls. For instance, on Android there is an App called GV Phone. I notice I can make calls directly from this. The one test I performed suggests it doesn’t receive incoming calls though. But it may well be possible from this app or some other one. Google certainly appears to be moving in this direction.

      Further research indicates “Spare Phone” ($3) or “Grove IP” will do what you want… i.e. making and receiving Google Voice calls. I have no idea how these apps pull this off. I can only assume Google have expanded their API feature set to allow for this.

      UPDATE: I see how it’s working. This apps are hooking into the Google Chat API for the incoming calls. So it is not that Google Voice is now providing true VOIP/SIP service. Rather, for a long time they have provided incoming calls through Google Chat, and these apps are making use of that in an innovative way. In that case, GrowlVoice could do the same thing. I highly recommend everyone wanting this notify the developer.

      • Indeed! I’d love to see Growl Voice pick up on this feature! I wrote the developer many month ago with no reply. I noticed in the comments of his app that many people said they were very dissatisfied with the customer service. I get the impression the developer isn’t really responding to anyone’s feedback.

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