5 smart texting tricks

Even if you hate text messaging as a medium of communication, it can still be an incredibly handy tool. You can use it to find your phone, trigger events online, and do other useful things. Here's how to make the most of SMS.

Maybe your thumbs are too big (or too tired) to make text messaging work, or maybe you're just constitutionally opposed to autocompletion. In any case, you shouldn't be too quick to give up on texting, as it can make life much easier for folks on the go even if you never use it to message your people. Here are just a few of the smart ways you can use texting services:

  • Find your phone. If you've left your phone under a pile of stuff somewhere nearby, you can easily locate it by calling it, if the ringer is on, that is. If not, you'll be out of luck if you haven't installed the Android-only Wheres My Droid app. This lets you send a text to your phone that tells it to turn the ringer back on and start making noise. 

    WheresMyDroid
    Wheres My Droid

  • Search Google. It's almost painfully easy to do this, and it can be a lifesaver for folks who don't have smartphones or whose data plans are starting to feel restrictive. Just text your search query to GOOGL (46645) and you should get a pretty quick reply. It's not perfect, but it's great when you need it.

  • Read your voice mail. It's pretty easy to set up Google Voice and get text-message transcripts of your voice mail. The transcripts can occasionally be head-scratchingly hilarious, especially if your callers are mumblers or calling you from a loud party, but it can be a great way to keep up with voice messages while you're busy with other things.

  • Trigger an event. You can send a text to create a tweet, make a Tumblr entry, set up a calendar event, and much more using IFTTT, short for "If this then that." It's a sweet free service that lets users set up automated actions using many different digital services, and might make a text-lover out of you yet. It's still in beta, so get your code here and try it out.

    IfThisThenThat
    IFTTT

  • Text from your browser. If you've got contacts who live and die by SMS, sometimes you've just got to do it their way. BrowserTexting makes it easy on you by letting you connect your Android phone to any Web browser. Chrome users can get an extension to make it even easier, but the service works just as well from other browsers. Give your thumbs a rest!

About the author

    Rob Lightner is a tech and gaming writer based in Seattle. He has reviewed games, gadgets, and technical manuals, written copy for space travel gear, and composed horoscopes for cats.

     

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