I’m a big fan of reQall, Jott, and the various other voice-to-text services out there.  I currently have a reQall Pro account and use it on a daily basis.  Naturally, the first thing that came to mind when I heard that Google Voice was going to have voice transcription capabilities was using it to augment or maybe even replace my current tools.  After some trial and error, here is the method I came up with to configure Google Voice for this purpose.

By the way, if you would like an overview of the Google Voice service, there are some nice articles on Lifehacker.com.

GENERAL ACCOUNT SETUP

  1. Create a Google Voice account.  Until it’s open to the general public, you’ll need to request an invite here.
  2. Go through the basic setup following the instructions to add your home phone number and create your account.
  3. Once your account is created, click the Settings link at the top of the page and go to the General tab (see screenshot below).  Make sure that Notifications are set to go to your desired email address.  Optionally, you can disable the “Send a text (SMS) message to” checkbox.  I disabled this because most of the messages are ones that I leave to myself, so I don’t need a text message telling me that I just left a message ;-)
  4. The Call Screening, Call Presentation, and Caller ID settings will not really matter for what we are doing.  Set these however you wish for your other callers.  Do check to see that the “Transcribe Voicemails” box is checked, and save your changes.



SETTING UP YOUR CUSTOM GREETING

The idea here is to create a greeting that mimics what you might hear when dialing into Jott or reQall.  This greeting will only be heard when dialing in from your cell phone.  There are several ways you can record a custom greeting, but here is a quick one…

  1. Dial into your Google Voice account, then press 4 to change your settings.  Press 1 to change your greeting, and follow the prompts to record a new greeting.  You can record something like “Hello – Record your message, or press star to access Google Voice.”
  2. After recording the greeting, go back to your account page.  Under Settings on the General tab, the new greeting will show up under the Voicemail Greeting drop-down box (you may need to refresh the page).  Rename this greeting to something memorable, such as “Note2Self Greeting”.
  3. After renaming the greeting, switch back to the System Standard greeting (or whatever you were using) since you don’t want the Note2Self greeting to be the default for all callers.  Save your changes.

ADDING YOUR CELL PHONE

  1. Next, you will need to add your cell phone to your Google Voice account (if you haven’t already).  You can do this by clicking the Setting link at the top of the page, selecting the Phones tab, then clicking the “Add another phone” link.  Then click the “Show advanced settings” link.  You should see something similar to the screenshot below.  If your cell phone is already set up, simply click the Edit button for that entry on the Phones tab, then click the “Show advanced settings” link.
  2. On this page, the most important setting is to select “No” under Voicemail Access.  Don’t worry, you will still be able to access your Google Voicemail by pressing the star (*) key when dialing in.  You just don’t want it to go straight to your voicemail menu, otherwise you won’t be able to leave yourself a message.  Again, you can optionally disable the “Receive SMS on this phone” checkbox here if most of your messages will be from yourself.
  3. Save you settings.  If you are adding this phone for the first time, follow the instructions to “Verify your Phone”.
  4. Once your cell phone is added to Google Voice, you will need to add the same cell phone to your Google Contacts.  Click the Contacts item on the left-hand navigation pane, and then select the (+) icon to add a contact (see screenshot below).  Type in a name for the contact, then the phone number, and click Save.
  5. Next, select your cell phone in the contacts list, and then click “Edit Google Voice Settings”.  On the screen that appears (see screenshot below), select “Send to Voicemail” so that the phone will not ring your other phones when dialing in to leave a message.
  6. For the greeting, select the Note2Self greeting that you created previously.  Click the Save button.
  7. As an optional last step, add your Google Voice number to your cell phone and put it on one of your speed dial buttons.

That’s it!  Now test it out…  Dial your Google Voice number and leave yourself a message.  Ramble on for several minutes if you like.  The whole thing will be transcribed in your email.  If you want to access the Google Voice menu, simply interrupt your greeting by pressing the star (*) key.


A few things I noticed when using Google Voice as a Jott/reQall replacement…

  1. You will not be able to call home with your cell phone by dialing your Google Voice number since this will now send you directly into voicemail.  Instead, continue to use your “real” home number that’s probably already programmed into your cell phone.  No big deal.
  2. The voice transcription quality doesn’t appear to be as good as Jott and reQall.  This is just an opinion based on several days of use, not a controlled scientific study.  Of course, the extremely long recording times on Google Voice are a compelling advantage even if the transcriptions have a few errors.
  3. I haven’t (yet) found a simple elegant way to create SMS reminders on a specific date as you can do with Jott and reQall.  This is a great feature, so I am still using reQall for this in the mean time.
  4. Google Voice doesn’t have an Outlook plugin like Jott and reQall.  Of course, there are ways to have the transcribed messages automatically create Outlook tasks using Outlook rules and some VBA code, but I’ll save that for a future article.

Enjoy!