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Google Voice

The reason to use Google Voice is that it lets you use your existing phones. So you can use your home phone, but the person on the other end only every sees your Google Voice number.

Google Voice is a free virtual telephone number. It’s not a physical phone. Calls to your Google Voice number get forwarded to any phone (or phones) you choose and the caller only sees your GV (Google Voice) number.

You can also make calls using GV from any of your existing phones. You can start the call from the GV website. Either select a contact, or type in a number then choose which of you phones you want to make the call from. When you hit the call button, your GV number will call you. Answer that phone and GV will then connect your call and the person on the other end will see your GV number, not the number of the phone you are actually calling from. You will be using minutes and incurring long distance charges for the phone you are using, unless you also use Google Talk with Google Voice.

Google Talk is a text and video chat plugin for Gmail that now also can make telephone calls from your PC (or Mac). Calling within the US is free and there are inexpensive rates for several foreign countries.

Google Voice has many more great features, like transcribed voice messages. When someone calls your GV number, but you don’t pickup it gets sent to GV voice mail where it is transcribed (with varying degrees of success) and delivered to your inbox where you can read it.

But I primarily use GV for calling clients from my home line. To do that,  I go to my GV account, find the contact I want to call (or type in their number), then choose my home phone (from a list of phones I’ve activated with GV) and click the call button. My home phone then rings and the call is then sent to my client and their phone starts ringing. On caller ID, they see my GV number and I am able to use my home phone which has unlimited long distance and often better sound quality than my mobile phone.

I can just as easily plug in my headset to my laptop and cal using Google Talk. my client still would have seen my GV number.