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How to Send Text Messages From Gmail

Last Updated Dec 11, 2008 12:00 PM EST

gmail-sms.jpgWhen a phone call is too intrusive and e-mail is too slow, nothing beats a text message. Google just rolled out a new feature that lets you send text messages straight from Gmail to a contact's phone.

To enable this option, open Gmail, click on Settings, then go to the Labs tab. Scroll down until you see "Text Messaging (SMS) in Chat" and select Enable and Save Changes.

For the moment, "Gmail SMS" works only with cell phones that have U.S. phone numbers. To get started, type a phone number into the search box in Gmail's chat window on the left, then select "Send SMS." You can also select the contact you want to SMS first and then add their phone number.

This isn't just a one-way operation: You can actually "chat" via SMS this way. Your message arrives on the recipient's phone; replies get routed back to your Gmail chat window. Definitely a handy tool for desk-bound workers, as texting from a keyboard is a lot quicker and easier than texting from a phone.

Of course, we've covered this concept before: Web service Joopz enables two-way texting from within your Web browser.
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    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.