Android users have long been able to send texts from their computers with third-party tools like Pushbullet or MightyText. But Google is taking this function native with a new feature called Messages for Web. Here’s what it’s all about.
What is Messages for Web?
Messages for Web is Google’s fully integrated way to send text messages directly from your computer. It requires the company’s Android Messages app, so if you’re using something else for text messages, this feature won’t work. That’s the first (and only?) real caveat here.
While the idea here is nothing new, the fact that it’s a core part of Messages is a pretty big deal, because it doesn’t require any workarounds or messages being sent through third-party servers. It establishes a secured connection between your phone and your computer.
Note: Messages for Web is still rolling out and isn’t yet available to everyone.
How is This Different Than Google’s Other Chat Apps?
Here’s your obligatory shot at Google for having more chat apps that anyone cares to count. There’s Hangouts and Duo and Allo and blah, blah, blah—but Messages for Web is different.
It has a clear direction: it’s SMS and MMS from your computer. That’s it! Nothing more, nothing less. It doesn’t offer phone calls or video chat options, and there aren’t really many bells and whistles. It’s simple, and that’s good.
How to Set Up Messages for Web
Setting up Message for Web is super easy. To get started, jump over to messages.android.com in your web browser—any browser will work for this, even one on another phone or tablet. That’s one super cool thing about Messages for Web.
The site shows you a QR code, which you’ll scan from your phone. Open Messages, tap the three dots in the upper right corner, choose Messages for Web, and then tap the “Scan QR Code” button. Then just aim your camera at the code in your browser.
Within seconds, Messages for Web connects to your phone and syncs all your current messages.
Just repeat this process to add multiple computers.
Using Messages for Web
The interface is very similar to what you’re used to seeing on your phone, so the transition is pretty seamless. The main interface is broken down into two main sections: the message list and the conversation area.
You can send and receive text messages, but it also support emoji, stickers, and even pictures—all of which can be accessed on the right side of the message box.
But there’s a little more to it than just sending and receiving texts on your computer. Here are some additional features you’ll want to check out.
Tweaking Messages for Web’s Settings
You can find the settings menu by clicking the three dot button in the upper right corner of the message list.
The Settings page contains some simple, but useful, tools, like the option to enable notifications and toggle message previews.
You can also enable a dark theme here. And we’re hoping that means the actual Messages app will get a dark mode setting soon, too.
The “Remember this Computer” toggle is something you’ll want to enable on your personal machine, that way you don’t have to re-scan the QR every time you want to send a text.
And if you want to know when you’re connected to the phone but it’s using mobile data instead of Wi-Fi, the Data Use Message toggle makes sure you get a proper notification. Finally, there are a couple of accessibility options here: Keyboard Shortcuts and High Contrast Mode.
Options for Individual Conversations
There are also a few options that you can set for individual conversations. In the upper right corner of the message pane there are two buttons: a bell and the menu button.
Clicking the bell mutes the conversation. You’ll know it’s muted when there’s a strike through the bell. Muting “blocks” notifications from that specific conversation. To unmute it, just click the bell again.
The menu button houses almost all the same options you’ll find in the Messages app on your phone: People & Options, Archive, Delete, Send Feedback, and Help. Those are all pretty self-explanatory, but there’s one option clearly missing here: Search. At the current time, there’s no way to search messages from your computer, which is a bummer. Hopefully it’s coming soon.
Other Things You Should Know
There are also a few other things you should know about Messages for Web.
You Can Only Have One Active Session at a Time
If you have multiple computers, it’s worth noting that you can only use one of them with Messages for Web at a time—it gives you a notification if a session is active on another computer.
Fortunately, you can easily switch back and forth by clicking the “Use Here” button in the notification.
You Can Remotely Sign Out from the App
If you decide at any point you need to kill a remote connection, you can do it from the computer in question, but you don’t have to—you also have the option to kill any (and all) remote connections from the app.
Just open Messages on your phone, tap the menu button, and then choose Messages for Web. This page shows all the computers you’re current signed into. Tap the X to the right of a computer to kill that particular connection, or just tap the “Sign Out All Computers” to sever all remote connections.
Messages for Web is something that Android has needed for a long time, and it’s off to a great start. It’s clean and familiar, offers nearly all the features you’d want from a remote texting app, and most importantly: it’s native.
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