10 Tips For Using Google Voice

  • MORE

One of Google’s most useful services is Google Voice, which provides users with one number where their friends, clients, and colleagues can always reach them. This is great news for anyone who’s sick of checking their home, work, and mobile voicemail every time they miss a call. But Google Voice has a lot more to offer than just consolidation; you get free voicemail transcription, the ability to screen and block callers, personalized greetings for different callers, and free texting.

Getting a Google Voice number is as easy as going to www.google.com/voice and signing in with a Gmail account. From there, you can choose your area code and phone number, or have one assigned to you. If you’re a Sprint customer, you can now port your mobile number directly to Google Voice, enabling you to keep in touch no matter where you are without having to worry about changing numbers.

Even if you’re not ready to fully give up your phone number to Google, there are still numerous useful features for those willing to try it out. Here’s how to get the most out of Google Voice.

1. Make Google Voice number ring multiple phones at once.

Your Google Voice number is capable of ringing on your landline, mobile phone, and computer simultaneously. It’s also customizable by the time of day, so all of your phones don’t ring when you’re at home in the evening. To ring multiple lines:

  • Click Settings > Voice Settings.
  • Click Phones. You’ll either see a list of devices currently connected to your Google Voice number or you’ll be prompted to add a phone.
  • If you already have forwarding phones listed, make sure the box next to them is checked. Otherwise, click Add Another Phone.
  • Give the phone number a name and specify a type—mobile, home, work, or gizmo.
  • Click Show Advanced Settings to access voicemail options and the ring schedule. You can schedule Always/Never Ring on weekdays and/or weekends, or specify a custom schedule for both.

2. Send text messages for free.

It’s possible to send and receive texts through your Google Voice number, the Google Voice app on your smartphone, and through Gmail. To send a text through the Google Voice desktop, click Text. Then enter a recipient and your message. However, sending texts through your Gmail account keeps all of your correspondence in one place and saves on texting costs.

To send texts to your Gmail:

  • Click Settings > Voice Settings.
  • Click Voicemail & Text.
  • Check “Forward text messages to my e-mail.”

3. Share voicemails with others by e-mailing them the audio.

It’s easy to share a funny voicemail with a friend.

  • Find the message you wish to send from the Google Voice inbox on the desktop.
  • Click More below the message.
  • Click E-mail, and enter a recipient.
  • Add a message.
  • Click Send.



4. Screen calls.

Google Voice works like an old-school answering machine. If you prefer not to answer unknown callers, you can jump in at any time to answer.

  • Click the gear-shaped settings icon in the Google Voice desktop interface.
  • Click Voice Settings > Voice Settings > Calls.
  • Turn Call Screening on and check “Ask unknown callers to say their name.”
  • Click Save Changes.
  • When an unknown call comes through, click Answer. Google Voice will say, “Incoming call from [caller’s name]. To accept, press 1. To send to voicemail, press 2.”
  • Press 2 to activate voicemail but stay on the line. You’ll be able to hear the message the caller is leaving, but they won’t hear you.
  • Stop the message and talk to the caller by pressing *.


5. Read and search your voicemails.

Google Voice will transcribe your voicemails automatically. On the desktop interface and in the app, the transcriptions appear in your voicemail inbox. Each word is highlighted as the message audio plays back. Once transcribed, voicemails are searchable via word, phrase, and a person's name. Clicking Transcript Useful? at the bottom of a transcription gives you the option of “donating” your voicemail to Google for improving their transcription. Google Voice also lets you send voicemail transcriptions as text messages and e-mails. To enable either of these options:

  • Click Settings > Voice Settings from the Google Voice desktop.
  • Click Voicemail & Text.
  • Check “E-mail the message to:” under Voicemail Notifications to send it to a specific e-mail address.
  • Check Mobile to have it sent to the mobile phone number you have on file.
  • Click Save Changes.

6. Create custom voicemail greetings.

Greet your coworkers with one message and your friends with another. You can even specify which phone rings based on who’s calling. Here’s how:

  • Click Settings > Voice Calls from the Google Voice desktop.
  • Click Groups.
  • Click Edit under the group you wish to change.
  • Click Edit next to Ring Default phones to change which phones ring.
  • Under “When people in this group go to voicemail,” you can keep the default Google greeting. To record your own, click Record New.
  • Give your greeting a title when prompted.
  • Tell Google which of your phones to call for you to record the greeting.
  • Answer that phone and follow the prompts to record the greeting.

7. Record phone calls with Google Voice.

You can record calls you receive, but not ones you make. To record a Google Voice call, press 4 during the call. A voice will say, “This call is now being recorded.” When the call is over, you can listen to the recording on either the Google Voice desktop or from the Google Voice app. From the desktop, clicking the More link gives you the option of downloading, e-mailing, or embedding the conversation on a website.

8. Use Google Voice to make conference calls.

Google Voice offers free conference calls for up to four other parties. Simply have everyone call your Google Voice number at an appointed time. As people ring, add them to the call by pressing 5 when prompted. They’ll automatically be added, and you’ll have your meeting off to a smooth start.

9. Listen to your latest voicemail in Gmail.

Using a Google Lab plug-in, you can play a voicemail directly from the e-mail transcription copy of a Google Voice message.

  • Send voicemail notifications to your e-mail address.
  • Click Settings > Voice Settings from the Google Voice desktop.
  • Click Voicemail & Text.
  • Check “E-mail the message to:” box under Voicemail Notifications and add your Gmail account.
  • Click Save Changes.
  • Enable the Google Voice player in mail feature for your Gmail account by clicking Settings > Labs.
  • Click Enable next to the Google Voice player.
  • Click Save Changes.
  • Now when you receive a voicemail notification in your Gmail account, you’ll be able to simultaneously read the transcription and listen to the message from the e-mail.

10. Make cheap international calls.

Use a combination of the Google Voice desktop and the Google Voice app to connect with friends overseas. Though it’s not completely free, Google Voice lets you call many countries for rates as low as 2 cents per minute. Google starts everyone out with $0.10 of calling credit, and it’s easy to add more and check rates via the left-hand column of your Google Voice inbox.

From your desktop:

  • Click Call from the Google Voice desktop.
  • Choose the country code from the drop-down menu, and then enter the phone number.
  • Select the phone you’ll use, then click Connect.

From any cell phone:

  • Dial your Google Voice number and enter your PIN.
  • Press * to reach the main menu.
  • Press 2 to make a call.
  • Dial +11, the country code, and the number you wish to reach to be connected.

From the Google Voice Android app:

  • Dial 011 plus the country code and the number you wish to reach.
Add a comment
  • Maria Says:

    Right, but is there a way to use my OWN professionally recorded MP3 for a greeting? Can someone help?

  • eM Says:

    @Tonia: SMS messaging only includes the sending party's phone number, not a name. The recipient sees a name on the recipient's phone if the sender's phone number matches an entry in the recipient's phone's address book.

    So in order to get the results you want, you need to have your friends add your Google Voice number with your name to their address books, just like they did with your "real" phone number.

  • Attila Says:

    Anybody knows , if is a setting to get any beep , or alerting noise for incoming text on my laptop when I am using google voice?

  • Tara Says:

    I love love love google voice - these tips have really helped me use it more effectively!

  • Tonia Says:

    I would like any text msg I send from Google Voice to state it's from my name - not from my phone number...is that possible?

  • Bob Says:

    I forward calls from my office to my Google number when I am out of the office so it rings my cell phone. That way I know the calls are from my office when the Google number appears on my cell. The problem I have is that, if I don't answer because I am on another call, the Google voicemail never picks up, but rather transfers the call back to my office phone to leave the message there. Any way to make sure the Google voice leaves a Google voicemail?

  • Tim Says:

    Im having problem and im computer savy so im thinking theres a bug in the program! Im trying to create custom messages for differnt groups of friends everything seems to work i select a friend then click record greeting the. Answer phone to record the greeting then save and then on the computer save settings. The problem is it keeps going to default messgae so everybody no matter what group they all get the same message wtf?

  • Ana Says:

    does anyone knows if the service is available in all countries? it wrked in Argentina but im in Brasil right now and my google phone desktop does not show the "make a call" option...!! =/
    thanks in advanced =)

  • organic food Says:

    When I initially commented I appear to have
    clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are
    added- checkbox and from now on each time a comment is added I receive 4 emails with the same comment.
    Perhaps there is a means you are able to remove me
    from that service? Many thanks!

  • lola Says:

    i can't get a notifcation or sound in gmail when someone calls my google voice #. settings show forwards to google chat, notifications on, sounds on. help, i need to answer calls from my computer. thanks.

  • Jason® Says:

    There's no way to do what you are requesting the way Google Voice exists currently. If the "show my GV number" option is enabled GV will do just that, the show my GV number setting primary purpose is to allow you to distinguish which number your caller called without asking them or possibly refer to the web application/interface. However without this option enabled caller id works properly. There might exist some way to do this pragmatically but I think you might be asking a bit much from the service....

  • Mark Says:

    If you go to Settings, Calls, and choose the option to have Google use your GV number for incoming calls, and also choose to use Call Screening, you will have the opportunity to answer your inbound call and be told who the caller is (if you have saved their number to your Contacts and their number is not blocked) or "Unknown Caller".

  • Pablo Says:

    I have the same problem as Nicole: when I get a call from Google voice out changes the caller ID to my Google voice number and Ibasically lose caller ID

  • Nycole Says:

    If anyone knows how to change the setting so that when we get a call on our google voice and pick up that the number will still show up even if we have it set to show our google number on our phones???

  • Brooke Says:

    You should go to Settings (when logged into your gmail account) / Calls / Call Screening and select the "Off" radio button.

  • ben jacobson Says:

    Need help with my Google voice account. Every time I get an incoming call to my Google voice #, the caller has to state their name first before talking to me. How can I get it set up to just have them ring directly to me.

Back to top