App of the Week: Access Google Voice from your Mac’s Desktop with GrowlVoice
Hopefully you know all about Google Voice, the great (and free!) messaging/voicemail/call management system the minds in Mountain View have cooked up. I know I use it everyday to text from my computer without having to deal with slowly typing from a touchscreen. The one big annoyance with GV on a computer is that your messages don’t automatically update – you have to manually refresh your GV page to check if you’ve received new texts. While previously mentioned GVNotifier does the trick for Windows users, I’ve been looking for a great GV client for my Mac for ages; fortunately, I’ve finally found one in GrowlVoice, my featured App of the Week.
Platform Availability: OS X 10.6 and up; you’ll also need to set up a free GV account here.
Cost: It’s $5, but it’s also definitely worth that much. The developer has graciously provided a three-week trial version, which should give you more than enough time to decide if you like it enough to plunk down five bucks. Get the full version from the Mac App Store and download the free trial here.
What it is: GrowlVoice is an elegant and very Mac-like full-featured GV client that lives in your Mac’s menu bar. That means you can access all the functionality of GV without dealing with Google’s annoying and confusing GV website.
How does it work: After signing in with your GV account, GrowlVoice will automatically load all your messages in a small box that pops out of your menu bar. Double click on each message to move over to another window that looks just like your phone’s messages app. Texting has never been easier!
Features: Real-Time Updates – As I mentioned before, the main drawback to the GV website is that you have to refresh the page every time a new text arrives. To make sure you’re on top of all your friends’ drunken texts, GrowlVoice does as its title says it should and automatically notifies you whenever you receive a new text with a chime, and Growl notifications. This is the number one reason I prefer GrowlVoice to the official GV website.
Keyboard Shortcuts – GrowlVoice lets you customize shortcuts for Open First Inbox Message, Compose Text, Open Inbox, and Place Call. I particularly like having a shortcut for Open First Inbox Message because it allows me to quickly and easily respond to my most recent text, all without having to touch my mouse. If you’re used to the GV website, you can also enable GV keyboard shortcuts, and use GrowlVoice from your Mac just like the website.
Mac-like Appearance – This is where GrowlVoice really separates itself from other Mac GV clients. While free clients like VoiceMac basically allow you to do the same things as GrowlVoice, its GUI is just really ugly compared to this App of the Week. You have the option of choosing a light or dark skin, along with other features like rounded corners and buttons that just ooze that very specific Mac aesthetic.
The Competition: There are a couple GV desktop clients out there:
VoiceMac – Free – OS X 10.4 and up – Download it here
BigPhone Pro – $4.99 – OS X 10.7 and up, 64-bit processor – Download it here
VoiceMac and BigPhone Pro basically mirror GrowlVoice in allowing you to access all of the GV website’s features from your desktop. But GrowlVoice integrates much better into my Mac with its keyboard shortcuts and very Mac-like GUI. If you just want something that works for free, go with VoiceMac, but I really think GrowlVoice is worth your five bucks.
Summary: GrowlVoice is a very well thought out GV client that makes texting just as easy as IMing one of your friends. Get the trial and see what you think, but I bet that you’ll get too used to the convenience of GrowlVoice to want to let it go.
Do you know of any other GV desktop clients? Why do you prefer them to GrowlVoice? Let us know in the comments!