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How to use your desktop as a SMS workstation [without Google Voice]

I’ve been running into a certain phone-related problem with alarming frequency lately: I come home from class and throw all my gear down in a pile at the foot of my bed. As a result, my phone remains hidden in my jacket’s pocket or inside my bag, and I will miss SMS notifications until either my phone dies or I finally notice something is awry. A simple answer to this would be to simple clean up my room, but I’ve found a more Android solution.

I’ve fixed this problem with a two applications that are free to the market and work quite well. With them, I’ve found a way to be notified of and answer SMS from the comfort of my browser window.

[Author's Note: The comments for this article overwhelmingly tell me that Google Voice is a simpler option for what I'm about to describe. However, for those of you who do not have GVoice service (like myself, in Canada,) this is a viable alternative]

The two applications are EasySMS and Android Remote Notifier. Both are free and run as services in the background of Android.

EasySMS works with your home WiFi network to provide the browser interface. As long as your PC is connected to the same router as your phone, you can navigate to the IP address of your Android device and view your messages. They are synced from your phone, meaning you can see all the texts you’ve made in the past. Even cooler is that when you send texts, those are synced as well; you don’t lose texts in your history.

Since EasySMS relies on your browser, it doesn’t have anything to install on your actual computer; everything is run by Android. This is a plus, as there’s no compatibility issues. A donate version exists as well, which lets the service automatically start when your phone connects to a specific SSID. This means when I get home and my phone automatically connects to my WiFi, the service starts without my prompt. The donate version also lets your SMS feed updates continually, as opposed to you manually refreshing the browser window.

But what about those of us who don’t want to donate for this version? Or how about those of us who want something with a little more “oomph” to those desktop notifications?

Android Remote Notifier (ARN) is the answer to that. Unlike EasySMS, this service requires an install on the computer side to communicate with the phone. It’s its own program, but works on the same principle; if your phone is on the same network as your computer, the service will communicate between the two. Also available are UPnP and Bluetooth connections, but I find that WiFi is easiest; I don’t have a Bluetooth dongle on my PC, and I find messing around with those ports are tricky.

Through the computer-side program, one can set up whether they want ARN to use the system’s default notification bubbles, or the much more visually-appealing Growl system. ARN is available for all systems (Linux, Windows, Mac), but I set my configuration up with Growl for Windows. It’s relatively simple to pair the services:

  1. Open Growl Preferences
  2. Go to the “Security” tab
  3. Uncheck “Tequire password for LAN apps and check “Allow network notifications”
  4. Go to the “Applications” tab. “Android Notifier” should show up here
  5. Send a test ping from the Android app to confirm that it works, which shows up like this:

In the end, I have a system that does the following:

  • When I return to my house after a long day, both applications realize that I am “home” based on the fact that I have automatically connected to my WiFi
  • The apps then start running their services
  • When a text is received, ARN notifies my computer. I get a nice text balloon in the corner of my screen summarizing who sent it and the contents of the message.
  • I then switch over to my EasySMS pinned tab to view/reply to the message. Texts are threaded and sync to my phone, allowing me to read them later if I so choose

This has numerous advantages. Besides being able to type text messages with an actual keyboard, I can keep the EasySMS tab pinned in Google Chrome, preventing it from closing. This process also allows me to plug in my phone when I get home and forget about it, unless someone decides to call me; I’m kept in the loop, while avoiding the wrath of people waiting hours for a simple reply.


Matt Demers is a Toronto writer, and Droid Life’s app guy. You can find him on Twitter, or e-mail him through his Droid Life e-mail.

  • Chris Hutchinson

    A way better way is to use Zipwhip. Just go to Zipwhip.com and install their Android app and presto, you’ve got everything solved. Their app is the best one i’ve ever seen for letting you text beyond your Android phone. They have a really slick desktop app and a full-fledged browser app. They even mark your SMS as read on your phone if you mark it as read on your desktop. http://www.zipwhip.com.

  • Jason

    Damn that’s scary, just set up the exact same thing before reading your post. As I’m in Canada too, Google Voice isn’t available. I was googling if there wasn’t anything prettier than EasySMS, as the GUI lacks in effort.

  • TheDroidAbides

    Anyone else try Remote Web Desktop? MUCH nicer looking web interface than Easy SMS and has a bunch of other cool features, some of which are not working yet but this app definitely has potential and is worth checking out.

  • Shanklin07

    I was reading an article the other day on howtogeek.com about a way to have your device’s screen show up on your computer and if your rooted you can use your mouse like you would your finger and you can also use your keyboard to type. I didnt have time to do this at the time but it sounds like a great way to have your device and ALL of its functions available on your desktop screen. Here is the page. http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/42491/how-to-remote-view-and-control-your-android-phone/

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NEOS2HO2ITOC6GKUN2Q4DZHZCA Daniel

      nice but you have to be usb teethered, kind of a hamper however still cool.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NEOS2HO2ITOC6GKUN2Q4DZHZCA Daniel

    got everything up and running great, even paid for easy sms, only problem is sorting of text messages is 5 hrs off for received to sent, but on phone is correct. Seems Matt you have the same problem by the screen shot, get that fixed?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NEOS2HO2ITOC6GKUN2Q4DZHZCA Daniel

    got everything up and running great, even paid for easy sms, only problem is sorting of text messages is 5 hrs off for received to sent, but on phone is correct. Seems Matt you have the same problem by the screen shot, get that fixed?

    • http://twitter.com/mattdemers Matt Demers

      Nah, actually that’s a coincidence. The times are right on that screenshot for me. Might want to look into timezone settings (I forget where).

  • Mr Carteratl

    i use webkey and picme as well as easy sms

  • Anonymous

    Android Notifier is a fail on Mac 10.6.6

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Trent-Russell/11831390 Trent Russell

    Try it. Google Voice is a vastly inferior solution. Contacts don’t see my real number, and i don’t see theirs. Texts are not synced with my phone.

    • http://twitter.com/mattdemers Matt Demers

      It works fine for me; apologies, anyways.
      I find that autoupdate doesn’t work unless you set it in-app and then press “enter” to set it, or click “save” at the bottom.

      Also, could be your browser not working with the auto-update.

  • Knightcrusader

    I tried this, and didn’t like it. So what did I do? I downloaded the SDK and created my own app that allows any XMPP-enabled chat client (I use Pidgin) to connect to my phone and send and receive text messages from my computer, just like it was another server I was connected to. It even pushes all the contacts with mobile numbers to the buddy list. It still has some bugs, but I am trying to work them out and hopefully put my app on the market.

    • Jeremy

      sounds cool, hope they post it up here when you are done so i can try it out.

    • http://www.facebook.com/derek.dt Derek Robinson

      Let us know when this is on the market

  • Jeremy

    well i got as far as trying easysms, after figuring out how it works finally and loading up the site and syncing it wont show any messages newer then 4 days ago

  • Anonymous

    The main thing I’m getting here is that D-L needs to put on a Google Voice tutorial because even with everyone posting instructions, I have no idea how to go about using it to get free SMS let alone free calling. From what I can tell any and all functions available through GV requries you to use a different number, which is pretty offputting for most of us.

  • Anonymous

    The main thing I’m getting here is that D-L needs to put on a Google Voice tutorial because even with everyone posting instructions, I have no idea how to go about using it to get free SMS let alone free calling. From what I can tell any and all functions available through GV requries you to use a different number, which is pretty offputting for most of us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705034 Jeff Simpson

    Alternate Guide to using desktop to SMS:
    1). Use Google Voice

    • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      Updated the article; sadly there isn’t Google Voice coverage in Canada (where I am) and other parts of the world.

  • Porno

    Or you could just have tasker forward inbound SMS to your e-mail inbox.

  • http://twitter.com/BiggiePhat JG

    i set up google voice. Rings on my phone and if i dont answer my phone it asks for the person’s name and then attempts to ring my google number….only problem with that is that i have to have gmail open constantly for it to ring (even though it didn’t when i did my tests), so I dont get why this is so complicated lol.

  • http://www.facebook.com/TxAggieMichael Michael Johnson

    Google Voice…

  • http://syntakk.blogspot.com syntakk

    Everyone keeps saying to use Google Voice instead, but doesn’t that use your Google Voice number? Everyone already has my cell number, and nobody has my GV number. It’s annoying to have to give everyone else another phone number.

    • http://www.facebook.com/TxAggieMichael Michael Johnson

      This is the BIGGEST reason I switched to GV. So that I will never again need to tell anyone another number! Google Voice has been my primary number for about a year now, and will be for as long as I can forsee. Now I’ll never need to inform contacts of a new number.

      • http://syntakk.blogspot.com syntakk

        But you can take your number anywhere anyway and it doesn’t cost anything. I’ve had my number with Sprint and Verizon so far, and moving it is quick, painless, and free.

  • not smart enuf

    In need of a solution. SecureTexts grabs my incoming messages before GV or ezSMS can get them, so they dont show in browser. Outgoing works fine. Short of uninstalling SecureText (cuz thats not happening!) does anyone know how I can beat it??????????

  • Geoff

    I like the screenshot with blurred out names, but all numbers retained. whoops!

    • Laz

      Ha! That was the first thing I noticed. Newbs! lol

    • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      Nice catch! I’ll fix that.

  • Anonymous

    I use GV for all my SMS needs. Plus you can access it from any browser as well. ;)

  • Jasn

    Kellex, will these work on the new Xoom?

  • FortitudineVincimus

    to bad it require wifi – a battery hog I do not run all the time

  • FortitudineVincimus

    to bad it require wifi – a battery hog I do not run all the time

  • Im4degreesaboveu

    i dont know if anyone mentioned it but i think google voice does something like this. not sure though you’ll have to check. lol

  • http://twitter.com/BiggiePhat JG

    am I the only one that doesn’t understand google voice? Or am i just dumb…why would i want to port my number to them if it gets rid of my cell phone….then i would have no data plan for my droid…? And i can make free calls to ANY phone in the USA with google voice? Why does skype charge me to do that and i dont even get a phone number with them

    • Anonymous

      You don’t have to port your phone number; you can simply use the one Google Voice supplies to you.

      • http://twitter.com/BiggiePhat JG

        yea I understand that. Ive had it for 18 months and im just starting to figure out whats going on with it lol.

    • Anonymous

      google voice is a forwarding service mostly. if you port your number you will need to still get another number from the cell company, but you dont give that one out. when people call your ported number, you can have it ring any phone you associate with it, even at scheduled times. free calls are only doable from gmail.com on a desktop or laptop, through the google talk within it

      • http://twitter.com/BiggiePhat JG

        ah thank you…i mean i installed the google voice extension to my chrome browser…so basically if i had to call say HP Customer Support i can just open the voice extension dial the number and boom its a free call?

        • Anonymous

          you would have to allow forwarding to google talk for your number to show up, then in the phone to call field select google talk and it would be a free phone call from your computer, so you’d have to have a mic and speakers on the computer ready for it

  • Anonymous

    I’ll fifteenth the Google Voice thing. Plus, on Gingerbread, you cam use it for WiFi calling (and 3G calling, soon, once it gets cooked into ROMs).

  • http://twitter.com/EdwardCrosby EdwardCrosby

    Google Voice does this and more. Sign up and go to Google.com/voice to send and reply to SMS. You even get an audible when you receive a message.
    Google Voice is definitely a better solution.

    • http://www.twitter.com/slinky317 slinky317

      But what if you want to use your regular phone number, and not your Google Voice number? Is there an option to do this without porting the number over?

      • http://www.osu.edu monolithic

        When you send a text through Google Voice or your browser interface, the recipient sees your Google Voice number. When you receive a text sent to your google voice, it forwards it directly to your phone and shows that it’s coming from Google Voice, but it labels the sender as whoever it was that sent you the number.

        As far as I know, you can’t transparently use your true cell number with Google Voice. That kind of defeats the purpose.

        I think that’s what you’re asking?

        M.

        • http://www.twitter.com/slinky317 slinky317

          Yeah, it’s just that people are saying that Google Voice can do what this article talks about more easily… but this article talks about using your existing number, whereas Google Voice can only use your GV number.

          • takeshi

            Every option has its pros and cons. The solution above and GV are no different.

    • http://www.twitter.com/slinky317 slinky317

      But what if you want to use your regular phone number, and not your Google Voice number? Is there an option to do this without porting the number over?

    • yeahlindsey

      What if you want to use a program like handcent or chompsms to unlock the phone and prompt a quick reply to texts received? That’s a limitation of googlevoice I haven’t found a solution for yet. Anyone have a workaround?

      Thanks

    • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

      Sadly Google Voice isn’t available in Canada. Hence me writing this article.

  • http://twitter.com/gregsgut Fatty Greg

    Is there an app that will turn off email notifications when I’m at my computer? I work from home (so I’m at my computer most of the day) and get a ton of emails, and it is annoying that for each email I get an alert on my computer and on my phone and I have to deal with both. Ideally it would use bluetooth to know when I’m near my computer and not alert me of new emails. Anyone know of something like that out there?

    • http://www.google.com/profiles/adam.furger m0bi1e

      You could use something like, Locale. Set it up so when you are within range of your home AP, notifications are turned off.

  • Tyrian

    I find it hard to believe that people would go long without their phone near them, let alone their android phone. Interesting concept none the less.

  • Thunder_37s

    or you could just use google voice in your web browser to set/receive texts

  • http://twitter.com/mickmel mickmel

    How To Use Your Desktop As A SMS Workstation, Guide # 2

    1. Install Google Voice extension for Chrome.
    2. Enjoy!

    That being said, that is a pretty nifty solution.

  • Kaufkin

    which clock app is that? ;-)

  • Ratonvaquero23

    You forgot Google voice…

  • Anonymous

    cleaning your room is so overrated. My floor is my shelf.

  • Anonymous

    i use texdro. it’s alright

  • Notregistering

    GENIUS GENIUS

  • http://twitter.com/JayGmarK MarkJay Acosta

    GoogleVoiceExtension

    • Anonymous

      what? the chrome thing? it can’t send sms.. Can it?

      • Anonymous

        Google Voice sends SMS from either your phone or your browser. The Chrome extension is rather nice, too.

      • http://amusicapp.blogspot.com Randy A

        The Google Voice Chrome extension does send SMS. Click the icon, select SMS, address, compose, send. It’s nice. When you get a new voicemail or text you get a notification.

      • http://www.osu.edu monolithic

        Yep – Chrome extension allows you to send and receive SMS through your web browser.

        • Anonymous

          Do you have to have a google#?

          • takeshi

            Rule of thumb: for anything other than GV VM you need a GV number.

          • http://mattdemers.com Matt Demers

            Google Voice is unavailable in Canada or other areas. That’s why I wrote this article.

          • http://twitter.com/readmckay Ryan McKay

            Matt I appreciate this article and am very happy to see this. I do have a google voice number but now that I am on a work phone all the time, I can’t use GV because I have to use AT&T to AT&T minutes which GV does not support. I am very happy to see this solution, thank you!