Secrets of Google Voice Setup that I Wish Someone had Told Me

Note: I use Safari, so this might not apply if you do not use Safari. I understand this might have been easier if I used Google Chrome.

I have had Google Voice for about six years. I originally got it so I could use it to give to guys when they asked me for my phone number. I didn’t want to give them my cell number in case they were crazy stalkers, and at that time there was no way to block incoming calls (at least on my carrier and/or phone at the time). With Google Voice, you can block certain numbers from calling you, and you can also block their text messages. It was the perfect setup, really, and trust me when I say I have blocked more than just a few nut jobs.

I know plenty of attorneys who use GV as their business number for its benefits (including blocking nut jobs) such as getting transcriptions of your voicemails via email or text (which is, in my experience, rarely accurate, but at least you can use context clues to kind of determine if the message is urgent) and the ability to listen to voicemails from your computer and also text from the web.

One day I saw a colleague answer a GV call from her computer. A little pop-up window opened to show the incoming phone number, with a button to either answer or deny the call. There was even a ring tone coming out of the computer speakers.

A GV veteran, I was amazed and shocked that I had never seen this feature before. And I wanted it. I have terrible cell service in my office, so this was a great solution to prevent missed calls. My colleague said she never had to set anything up and that GV always automatically did that. Apparently I have used GV for so long that none of the auto enabling stuff applied to me.

I scoured the web for instructions on how to set this up. One option was to download Chrome and install an extension, which I did not want to do. I use Safari and I am not a Chrome fan, so this post is written from a Safari users’ perspective. All I was able to find were bits and pieces of settings in articles that were old or that did not help at all. After online searching and asking random people, I finally put the pieces together. I decided to include few direct links because there were so many things I had to read to figure this out on my own – luckily I am super patient (or insane) and at some point, all my tweaks came together.

Here are some of the things I learned about Google and GV that I wish someone had told me.

  1. Using Google Apps for Work and having a personal Google/Gmail account are two different things. This seems obvious at first but it is something I did not consider when I went on my GV adventure. My GV number is still linked to my very first Gmail address, which is NOT my Google Apps for Work Gmail address (which is my Think Pink Law email address); it is just a personal Gmail address. This created some issues since many of my search results were geared toward setting up GV in a Google Apps for Work account. For example, it seems that the Google+ page is automatically “on” if you have a Google Apps for Work account, whereas for a personal account, you actually have to activate or turn it on. I don’t know how I figured this out, but I did.
  2. You must have Google+ page active in order to have GV ring through your computer. Frankly I am not sure if this needs to happen before or after the other settings I mention throughout this post because in my case, it was the last setting I adjusted, and I am pretty sure I did it accidentally on purpose.
  3. Google Chat must be turned on in BOTH your GV settings AND your general Gmail settings. There is a check box in each case, and both must be checked.
  4. Google Hangouts must also be activated. If you haven’t done so already (or if you have an account where this was automatically activated), you can turn this on from the left side of your screen when logged into Gmail, where you see all your Google Chat contacts. The Google+ Hangouts website says this is available by clicking on your profile photo in the chat list. Once you do this, you should see and icon of a quotation mark, which seems to be the little Hangout logo.
  5. If you are already in Google+, Hangouts is already available on the right side of the page. Again, here it’s a little quotation mark icon.
  6. The setting to “ring on incoming phone calls” in Hangouts needs to be on. Find this setting either by clicking on your profile photo in your chat list on the left side of your Gmail page, or if you are on your Google+, click on the quotation mark/Hangout icon and then the little arrow to reveal the setting.
  7. A browser window or tab must be open (and thus Hangouts must be online and connected) for your computer to ring.

Have you had issues setting up your GV? How did you figure it out? What would you add to my list? Was there an easier way that I missed? Tell me!

About Julie M. Tolek

Julie M. Tolek
A solo family law attorney in Boston, Julie Tolek is equal parts geek, lawyer, entrepreneur, and marketing maven. Julie launched her firm Think Pink Law with the goal of providing her clients with convenient access to the law by harnessing technology and keeping things real with a human touch, making the law less intimidating and more accessible. With a previous career in leadership and technology training, Julie is naturally hardwired to solve problems. When not running outdoors or stuffing her face in Boston’s dining culture, you can catch her online at www.legallyblondbos.com (@legallyblondbos) and www.thinkpinklaw.com(@ThinkPinkLaw).

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