There are a number of tools you can use to send and receive text messages online. Some are free, and some charge for additional services such as new or changing phone numbers or being allowed to send more than a certain number of messages. Many cellphone and internet phone plans allow you to text back and forth for free as part of your service plan, and you may be able to access your texts online depending on your carrier. You can also use other chat programs such as WhatsApp, Google Hangouts or Facebook Messenger to send messages for free.
Send and Receive SMS Free
If you want to send traditional short-message-service texts to phone numbers using the internet, there are a few websites and apps that can help you do so.
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One is Google Voice, a free tool that's included with a Google account if you activate it. It includes free texts to and from U.S. and Canadian phone numbers. To send or receive a text message with it, visit the Google Voice website, create or log in to an account and click the "Messages" tab. Read through your received text message or click "Send a message" to compose a new message.
Enter a phone number you want to text or select a contact from your Google account contacts list, attach an image if you want to include it as an attachment, then type your message and click "Send."
Using the TextEm Service
Another free service you can use to send and receive texts is TextEm. Visit the TextEm home page and enter a phone number to text, choose the recipient's phone carrier and enter the message body. You can either send a message without creating an account or create a free account that will let you send and receive messages.
You can't use the service for mass texts or group texts, and you must know or look up the cellphone carrier of each person you wish to text.
Explain Who You Are
Keep in mind that, if you're using a phone number that's not familiar to your recipient, you should identify yourself in sending the text. Don't be surprised if people question whether it's really you; they may be wary of scammers impersonating you to defraud them out of money or information.
If you can, contact people using your usual phone number or email address to explain you'll be texting them from a new number.
Temporary Phone Number Services
Various services allow you to set up a temporary phone number for sending or receiving texts. This can be useful if you don't want to disclose your real phone number, but want to set up a phone number where you can be reached for a specific purpose, such as scheduling a date with someone from an online dating service or selling goods online.
These services will often forward text messages to your usual phone number or make them available through a website or app. Some provide additional services for a fee, like letting you create multiple temporary numbers at once or hold on to temporary numbers for longer than the default period.
Burner and Tempophone are examples of temporary phone number services. Shop around to find one with the features you need, either for free or for pay.
Other Text Messaging Apps
If you don't need to send messages to actual phone numbers, keep in mind that there are many apps and web services you can use to send text-based messages to other people with accounts on the same services. Some commonly used services include Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Skype and Signal.
Many of these services also allow free internet-based calling and video conferencing as well. Some also provide end-to-end encryption, making it more difficult for other people to access your text messages without your permission.
You and the people you want to communicate with can look for a service that meets your needs or, if you're not personally picky, you can ask your friends and coworkers which apps they use and install the ones needed to stay in touch.
Phone Company Online Texting
Some phone companies let you access your text messages and send messages online. This service isn't technically free, since you're paying for phone service, but it often doesn't cost anything on top of your existing plan. In some cases, you might pay an additional flat monthly fee for online messaging.
Check with your phone company to see if there's a service included in your plan or one you can add.