Although the iOS App Store offers several Google Voice apps for your free texting and call routing pleasure, offerings to access this handy service through a native application on your Mac are a bit more sparse. In the past, I’ve used Andreas Amann’s excellent Dashboard widget, GV Connect (Amann also created the GV Connect iPhone app for Google Voice), but I’ve found an even easier way to access my Google Voice account right from my Mac’s desktop thanks to developer Eric Horacek’s recently-updated GrowlVoice.
Before I get any further, note first that you need a Google Voice account first to use GrowlVoice – accounts are free and can be requested here (Google Voice is currently only available in the U.S. only). If you’re not familiar with Google Voice, Google provides a number of overview videos on a special Features page. In short, Google Voice is a free service that provides users with a phone number, advanced call management features, voicemail transcription, and free text messaging. Contrary to what those unfamiliar with the service might think, it is not a VoIP service (Google offers VoIP services through Google Talk, which is a different, but related, service).
GrowlVoice 2.0 hit the Mac App Store earlier this month and offers access to nearly every Google Voice feature in an eye-pleasing package. GrowlVoice lives in your Mac’s menu bar and can be invoked by a mouse click. You can also define custom keyboard shortcuts to bring up the new call and text message dialogs as well as to open your inbox or the first message in your inbox.
The main view shows your inbox as a consolidated list of all text messages and voicemails, displaying the first line of each message or voicemail transcript, if available, and its date. Here, you can also star items and mark them as read or unread by clicking the icons on the left. These tasks, along with archiving, marking as spam and more can also be done through the contextual menu shown when you right-click on an item. Double-clicking on an item will bring you to a new view showing the entire voicemail transcript or text message conversation.
An anchor button in the top right corner lets you “pin” this view so it’s always visible on top of all other windows if you need to keep an eye on your inbox for a specific message. The number of new text messages or voicemails will always be visible in GrowlVoice’s menu bar icon.
The activity I do the most with Google Voice while on my Mac is sending text messages and I set the custom keyboard shortcut for this to be Command + Control + T (you can make up your own shortcut for this and other functions). The text message composition window includes a character counter to help you keep your message under the 160-character limit. Sending the composed message is as easy as pressing the return key.
GrowlVoice’s settings let you choose to use the contacts from your Mac’s Address Book or your Google Contacts, a choice I appreciate since all of my contacts are in my Mac’s Address Book and I store nothing in my Google Contacts. Also here are notifications settings, the ability to choose between dark and light themes (both are lovely though I prefer the dark theme), and the pane where you can define your own keyboard shortcuts.
GrowlVoice supports multiple Google Voice accounts so you don’t have to log in and out of different accounts just to stay on top of them. Performance-wise, I found GrowlVoice to stay in sync well with my Google Voice account, as accessed through Google’s official Google Voice app on my iPhone.
Although it’s currently
the only one of the only Google Voice apps available in the Mac App Store, GrowlVoice works very well, looks nice and is worthy of recommendation if you’re looking for a way to access your Google Voice account easily without keeping a browser window open all the time.