Text Messaging Right From Gmail

    December 11, 2008
    Chris Crum

Gmail has introduced a new Labs feature that allows users to send SMS text messaages to their contacts directly from Gmail. This will help stay in touch with people you have been chatting with in Gmail if they are away from their computer.

To utilize this feature:

1. Click on Settings
2. Got to the Labs tab
3. Scroll down until you see "Text Messaging (SMS) in Chat"
4. Select Enable
5. Save Changes

Once you have it added, you can type a phone number into the search box in the chat window on the left, then select "Send SMS." After that, you can begin chatting via SMS.

Numbers are saved in your contacts, so you don’t have to worry about providing the number every time. You can simply type their name, just as if you were going to send an email, and it will bring up their number. Product Manager Leo Dirac talks a bit more about it at the Gmail Blog:

On the receiving end, when you get a text message from Gmail on your phone, it will come from a number in the 406 area code. (The l33t folks in the crowd will note that this spells G0O.) You can reply to this text on your phone just like you’d reply to any other text. The reply gets routed back to our Gmail servers and shows up in your friend’s Gmail chat window. Each of your friends’ messages will come from a different 406 number so you can reply to any message and it will get back to the right person. Messages from the same person will always come from the same number, so you can even bookmark it in your phone.

If you get a message from somebody you don’t want to chat with from your phone, just reply with the word BLOCK. If you don’t want to get texts from anybody using Gmail, reply with the word STOP and we’ll leave you alone. Keep in mind that all these text messages count as part of your regular mobile messaging plan and might incur fees. So unless you know your friends have unlimited text message plans, please be sensitive to their phone bills.

Back in late October, the Gmail team experienced some hiccups when they initially tried to roll out the SMS chat feature, and had to pull it from use. Now that it’s back and presumably bug-free, or at least bug-reduced, it is sure to be a popular addition to Gmail, which has been very consistent with providing new features lately.