Sending texts from your computer is extremely useful in dozens of different situations. Perhaps you lost your phone and need to send a message to someone; maybe you’re over your monthly text limit and still need to get in touch with your friends; or what if you just hate typing on a tiny keyboard or lack cellular service? I know my living room might as well be a black hole when it comes to coverage. Whatever the case may be, we’ve put together this super simple guide on how to send free text messages online.
There are hundreds of online services out there that’ll get the job done, but none of them are as quite as simple and reliable as the seven methods outlined below.
How to send texts via your email client
If you simply want to send an SMS to any mobile phone, there’s no need to use third-party services. You can do it right from your email client. Instead of using a service you don’t know or trust, you can deliver a short email in the form of a text message by using an email to SMS gateway. So long as you know the person’s phone number and the name of their service provider, you can easily find the appropriate gateway address that will forward your message.
Don’t know what mobile carrier your friend uses? Find out here.
For quick reference, we’ve put together a list of some of the most common U.S. service providers and their corresponding gateway addresses below. Annoyingly, there are different addresses for regular messages (SMS) and those that include photos and other media (MMS).
In either case, sending a message is easy. Just compose an email like you normally would, but rather than entering the person’s email address in the recipient box, simply insert their 10-digit phone number with the appropriate @gateway address behind it. Then, hit send.
|U.S. Carrier||SMS Gateway||MMS Gateway|
*For T-Mobile, include “1”, which is the U.S. country code, before the phone number. To find SMS gateways for carriers not listed here, and carriers in other countries, check this list on Github.
To ensure that this process works, you should limit your messages to less than 160 characters. If you go over this 160 character limit, the message will be sent as an MMS rather than a SMS, which sometimes requires a different gateway address. Furthermore, although this method is entirely free for you the sender, standard messaging rates may still apply to the person receiving these messages. No third-party service will have access to your telephone number, or the person you’re messaging, and replies will go directly to your email inbox. This process also makes it easy to send the same text to multiple people, since you can add as many addresses as you like to the recipients box.
How to send texts via Apple’s iMessage (iOS and OS X)
The ability to share your location and embed audio clips aren’t the only features Apple decided to bake into the latest incarnation of its mobile operating system. Though the innate messaging app in Mac OS X formerly only handled iMessages, iOS 8 and 9 includes an option designed for forwarding SMS messages directly to your Mac or other iOS device. Once properly set up, you’ll be able to quickly send messages from your computer to any known number using the Messages app on your machine — and receive them in a similar fashion without ever glancing at your phone.
Related: How to download and install iOS 8
To set up iMessage and SMS forwarding on your iOS device, navigate to the main Settings menu and tap Messages. Afterward, toggle on iMessage and ensure you’re logged into the same iCloud account as all other devices using Messages. Also, make sure all of your devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network.
Then, tap Text Message Forwarding, toggle the switch directly right of the Apple device you want to send SMS messages to, and enter the six-digit confirmation code displayed on the device. Doing so will confirm that you want to send and receive messages from your iPhone on your Mac, while additionally confirming you own the machine.
Once set up, you can send text messages by clicking the pencil icon above the contact list, entering your desired recipients, and composing the message as you would normally. However, keep in mind that the standard text message limit of 160 characters still applies even when using Messages. A text longer than 160 characters will likely count as two for billing purposes, or more depending on how long it is.
However, you can send messages to other iOS and OS X users for free, as long as they use Messages themselves. You can tell the difference between text messages and iMessage, as the former will appear in green, and the later in blue.