Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

Sending Text Messages Using Your Computer

//
Can a computer (laptop or desktop) text message a mobile phone, and can a mobile phone text message a computer? If so, how?

Yes and no.

The “no” is that it doesn’t happens automatically.

The “yes” is that there are several ways to set something up, depending on what you and the other person have available.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

SMS text messaging

SMS stands for Short Message Service, and is designed specifically for mobile phones. It’s what most people think of when they hear the word “text”.

SMS doesn’t need the internet1 and typically doesn’t count against your mobile data plan; it’s a part of your voice service.

You’re identified by your mobile phone number. If you have someone’s mobile phone number, you can likely text them from your mobile phone. (Whether or not they’ll pay attention is another matter entirely.)

That brings us to the single biggest problem exchanging SMS text messages with other devices (like your desktop or laptop): they don’t have mobile numbers of their own.

SMS text to mobile via email

Typing on a mobile device Many mobile providers allow you to send SMS messages to a mobile phone via email, using a special address or domain to which you send the message. That makes its way to the mobile phone as a text message.

For example, with Verizon Wireless in the U.S., you can email ##########@vtext.com, where “##########” is replaced with their 10-digit mobile number. That message will get sent as a text message to that phone. Other carriers have some type of equivalent and/or webpage from which you can send a text message to one of their phones.

In some cases, the SMS message will appear to come from your email address and not a number. In those cases, your recipient may be able to simply reply via SMS, and the message will get forwarded to your email address.

The biggest issue with this approach is that you need to know the recipient’s mobile provider, and how to formulate their mobile number as an email address.

SMS via web

If you have your own mobile phone, and it happens to be a smartphone, there are applications that allow you to access your SMS messages from a configured computer.

For example, I have Android Messages installed on my phone to handle my SMS messages. On my computer, I visit messages.google.com, and all my SMS text messages appear there as they arrive. When I reply using the web interface, my message is sent to the app on my phone, from which it is sent as an SMS message to my intended recipient.

I use this extensively, as I appreciate having a full keyboard to compose my messages.

The biggest downside to this approach is that you need a smartphone of your own in order to exchange SMS messages.

SMS alternatives

SMS texting is incredibly popular for mobile-to-mobile communication, because it’s everywhere and it’s simple.

But it’s not the only messaging game in town. Particularly in recent years, a variety of communications apps serve the same purpose.

And many of those apps have computer or web-based counterparts.

As one example, my wife and I never text each other. However, we use Facebook Messenger all the time. With the app installed on my mobile phone, she can reach out to me without regard to whether or not I have my phone or where I happen to be. I can use the interface I choose: my mobile phone, my desktop computer, or even my tablet, if that’s convenient.

Skype is another alternative. While we think of it as a voice or video application, you can use it to exchange typed messages. It has apps everywhere, as well as a web-based interface.

The downside to this approach is that you both need to use the same application instead of SMS texting, and whoever is on mobile will need a smartphone and a data plan.

Messaging seems ever-changing

In updating (actually re-writing) this article 14 years after its initial publication, it’s apparent that the world of messaging continues to change. Capabilities are continually deployed and improved on, and new communications applications appear relatively frequently.

The most important aspect to it all is knowing what your recipient uses (or what they’re willing to use), and agreeing on a way to use it that works for you both.

Sometimes grabbing your mobile phone and tapping out that SMS message is the quickest, most pragmatic approach.

But there are certainly plenty of alternatives.

Footnotes

1: Of course, your mobile provider could implement it any of several ways, including using the internet, but that’s all transparent to you.

Posted: February 28, 2006 in: Instant Messaging and Communication
This is a major update to an article originally posted February 28, 2006
Shortlink: https://askleo.com/116519
Tagged: , , , ,
« Previous post:
Next post: »

New Here?

Let me suggest my collection of best and most important articles to get you started.

Of course I strongly recommend you search the site -- there's a ton of information just waiting for you.

Finally, if you just can't find what you're looking for, ask me!

Confident Computing

Confident Computing is the weekly newsletter from Ask Leo!. Each week I give you tools, tips, tricks, answers, and solutions to help you navigate today’s complex world of technology and do so in a way that protects your privacy, your time, and your money, and even help you better connect with the people around you.

The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet – FREE Edition

Subscribe for FREE today and claim your copy of The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet – FREE Edition. Culled from the articles published on Ask Leo! this FREE downloadable PDF will help you identify the most important steps you can take to keep your computer, and yourself, safe as you navigate today’s digital landscape.



My Privacy Pledge

Leo Who?

I'm Leo Notenboom and I've been playing with computers since I took a required programming class in 1976. I spent over 18 years as a software engineer at Microsoft, and after "retiring" in 2001 I started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place to help you find answers and become more confident using this amazing technology at our fingertips. More about Leo.

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.