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How to use gmail aliases to send yourself text notifications

Sending custom SMS text notifications to your cell phone has never been easier – thanks to 2 nifty gmail features. By combining filtering with gmail’s ability to add aliases to your existing gmail account, you can now have notifications of events, reservations, auctions, school closings and anything other text message you can send to your cell phone via email. It’s simple, here’s how:

  1. login to your gmail account (like say, gmailaccountname)
  2. click on the ‘settings’ menu on the upper right hand corner of your browser’s screen.
  3. click on the filters tab
    image identifying screen elements mentioned in steps 2 through 4
  4. click on the hyperlink that reads “create new filter”
  5. in the text box labeled “TO ” enter your gmail address + an alias, like so:
    gmailaccountname+alias@gmail.com
    image identifying screen elements mentioned in steps 5 through 6
  6. click on the “next step” hyperlink
  7. click on the check box labeled “Forward it to”
  8. enter your SMS phone number in the text box labeled “Forward it to” for example:
    9195551212@messaging.sprintpcs.com
    image identifying screen elements mentioned in steps 7 through 9
  9. click on the button entitled “create filter”
  10. use your newly created gmailaccountname + alias address as needed (e.g. gmailaccountname+ebay@gmail.com).

Example

This coming November I’ll be on a Biblical press tour of Jordan (see blogJordan.com for more details). I won’t have a phone, but I will have a wireless air card courtesy of the good folks at Ziad (formerly Fastlink). And since my schedule is not my own, I will be using email to send my wife a text message to let her know both of my whereabouts; and when to let my daughter know when to get to mommy’s PC for some kissy-huggy Skype sessions. Imagine doing the same on while you’re on a 2 week mission trip to Indonesia or Mexico (only contacting your wife, not mine).

It’s simple, let’s say my daughter’s email address is PrincessPepperDoodle@gmail.com. Using the steps above, I establish a filter that forwards any email addressed to PrincessPepperDoodle+BlossomVonYumYum@gmail.com to mom’s Verizon-served cell phone at 9195551212@vtext.com

Now some of you are saying “hey, but can’t you do the same thing filtering on the subject line?” Yes you’re right, but what about notifications from services that send you email whose subject lines you can’t control – or from friends who can’t remember to type in the super-special subject line you seek as easily as they can add your aliased email to their address book? Here’s are three examples that speaks for themselves:

  • PrincessPepperDoodle+ebay@gmail.com
  • PrincessPepperDoodle+calendar@gmail.com
  • PrincessPepperDoodle+basecamp@gmail.com

Caveats

As with any such solution, there’s always the downside. No exception here as I see four:

  1. Message Size – Most mobile services have significant limitations on the size of the message sent. What I’ve discovered that, at least for my carrier, that’s okay as the merely truncate the message down to the first 128 characters. I can live with that. Your mileage may vary.
  2. Cost of promiscuous text – Please, please, please don’t run off trying this solution until you’ve first checked the cost of text messaging for your mobile phone service. If you’re looking at $0.20 a message, then you may want to either pass on this solution, or reserve it for only the most dire of occasions.
  3. Lack of Throttling – This is somewhat based on my concerns over cost – what happens if either a vendor or an auction goes crazy? What mechanisms do I have to put limits on inbound messages from a sender gone wild?
  4. Overzealous spam filtering – Some subject lines and or domains may cause an important message to get caught in gmails awesome spam filter.

All of these concerns aside, I still use the ‘wifey+daughter daddy is out of the country communications solution‘ described above.

Conclusion

The point is, by combining gmail filtering with + aliasing with your mobile carrier’s SMS services email address, you can begin to receive text message notifications of the emails important to you. I’ve provided an abbreviated list of some of the more popular SMS email address of your carriers below:

AT&T
phonenumber@txt.att.net
Alltel
phonenumber@message.alltel.com
Nextel
phonenumber@messaging.nextel.com
QWest
phonenumber@qwestmp.com
Sprint
phonenumber@messaging.sprintpcs.com
T-Mobile
phonenumber@tmomail.net
Verizon
phonenumber@vtext.com
Virgin Mobile UK
phonenumber@vxtras.com
Virgin Mobile USA
phonenumber@vmobl.com

If your carrier wasn’t listed above – or even if it was – please, again, I implore you to FIRST CHECK with your mobile service as to the cost of receiving SMS messages. It could be that a run-away e-bay bid could cost you more in text messaging than you save on the auction.

Then again, it could all be worth it when it comes to keeping one’s family and/or congregation aware of what you’re up to while feeding the hungry, healing the sick and tending to the in needy in far away places – like Jordan.

3 Comments

  1. Pingback: gmail » How to use gmail aliases to send yourself text notifications

  2. Pingback: 5 non-technical reasons your church or charity needs to consider using Google Aps » Heal Your Church WebSite

  3. Thank you for posting this. This will save me time and money, since I don’t have internet service with my carrier and won’t have to wait to get online to check my inbox.

    Again, Thank you!
    I really appreciate your time and effort.

    Sincerely,

    Leo