Two cool phone tools

Still using 1990s-style voice mail and phone services? It’s upgrade time; here are a couple of cool tools to add some 21st century features to your telephone. (Extra cool, in fact, ’cause they’re free.)

First is YouMail.

Ever agonized over the right tone in an outgoing voice mail message — should you sound bone-dry and uber-professional, or should you inject a lighter tone? Do you want them to know how busy you are, or do you want to be generic?

Why not do it all? That’s the basic function of YouMail: youmail_logo_reflectSign up for an account and when people call your cell number they’ll get a different greeting depending on who they are.

As the site puts it, "Be fun with your friends, sweet to your sweetie, and professional with your boss."

You can also get your messages via e-mail and listen to them on the YouMail Web site. So if you forget your phone, at least you can still get your calls.

Then there’s one of the most popular features: Disconnect certain callers (you know who I mean) without even given them a chance to leave a message. That’ll teach ’em.

* * *

Second is Google’s GrandCentral. It works like this: You create an account and choose a phone number (it’s free and you get lots of area codes to pick from). Then you set that number to ring whatever phones you want it to.

gcThat means when someone calls your GrandCentral number, it can ring your office phone, cell phone, and home phone at the same time. No more call forwarding, and you can change your settings via the GrandCentral Web site on a whim.

Even better, you can create groups for incoming numbers, so that, say, if a family member calls it rings all your phones, but if anyone else calls it only rings your work and cell numbers. (Or if your boss calls, it goes right to voice mail. :-)

Speaking of voice mail, GrandCentral does that, too. Not only can you access it from a phone, you’ll also get an e-mail or text-message notification so you can listen on the GrandCentral Web site from any Internet-connected computer.

There are a bunch of other neat features, too: custom rings, call screening, receive free calls via the Web, etc. I’ve been using it since I moved to Richmond five months ago, and my GrandCentral number is the only one I give out. (I don’t think my wife even knows our "real" number, ’cause we never use it.)

It’s a great way to connect all your phones without having to remember or list multiple numbers.

And did I mention that it’s all free? Google said it’s going to stay that way, too, but it will be adding some premium features you’ll have to pay for.

(Check out the site. If you decide you want to try it and need an invitation, drop me a note at Andrew at varealtor dot com and I’ll hook you up. (5/15: Invites are currently unavailable.))

About Andrew Kantor

Andrew is VAR's editor and information manager, and -- lessee now -- a former reporter for the Roanoke Times, former technology columnist for USA Today, and a former magazine editor for a bunch of places. He hails from New York with stops in Connecticut, New Jersey, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Roanoke.
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5 Responses to Two cool phone tools

  1. Hey Andrew,
    Thanks for the tip. I love reading about some of the latest and greatest.

    As for Voicemail, I got rid of it all together! Imagine that no checking voicemail!

    I wrote about my solution over here:
    http://activerain.com/blogsview/494143/Sorry-I-Don-t

    Also I think Daniel used CallWave which will transcribe your voicemail and send you the text to your cell phone.

    Frank

  2. Very interesting phone tools. :) Is it also available in Asia and other parts of the world?

  3. I started using CallWav two weeks ago, and it is fantastic! I receive transcribed voicemails by e-mail to my blackberry, so I don’t have to listen to them, don’t have to delete them, don’t have to jot down the phone number in the message — it’s all right there in an e-mail. Furthermore, my voicemails are now automatically archived with my deleted e-mails, as the voicemails come attached to the e-mail as an MP3. An amazing tool!

  4. Hmm… the international aspect is something I didn’t think of. It might be a way for someone to get a US phone number for voice mail. (It couldn’t ring a phone outside the States, though.)

  5. Jim Rake says:

    Appreciate the new tool alert. CallWav looks like a “must do”.

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