Text messaging isn't just kid's stuff anymore. Use these amazing online tools to turn any SMS-capable phone into a productivity powerhouse.

To many people over the age of 30, text messaging can seem like one of those strange, complicated behaviours only teenagers understand. In reality, it's one more great tool in your productivity arsenal, right up there with email and instant messaging.

In function, texting treads a fine line between those two communication capabilities, in essence serving as a basic form of email for even the simplest of today's mobile phones. Text messaging relies on a decades-old technology called Short Message Service (SMS) that's used to relay brief messages (usually no more than 160 characters, equivalent to a couple of average-length sentences).

Teens typically use texting for trivial mobile-to-mobile communication ("WHERE R U?", "AT THE PRECINCT!"). But savvy travellers can use SMS for a whole lot more. Let your thumbs do a little walking (over your phone's keypad) and you can check flight status, update your calendar, track a package or even your bank balance.

You don't even always need your thumbs: some services let you send messages and retrieve information using just your voice. Best of all, most of these text-messaging marvels cost nothing to use. However, you'll want to check with your carrier to see how many messages (if any) are allowed as part of your monthly plan.

1. Remember your appointments and schedule new ones

Can't remember what time your next meeting takes place? If you're a Google Calendar user, you can find out in a flash: just send a message with the word 'next' dial 48368 and you'll get back the time and details of your next scheduled event. Send 'day' for a full list of today's appointments and 'day' for tomorrow's.

Google Calendar also lets you add new events via SMS and you can use plain English to do it. For example: 'Lunch with Joe at Rudi's tomorrow at noon'. Shoot a message like that to 48368, and Google will add it to your calendar with all the appropriate details.

Finally, you can configure Google Calendar to send automatic reminders in advance of an event. For any existing entry, click Edit Event Details, then Add a Reminder. Choose SMS from the list of options, and then specify how far in advance of the event the notification should arrive.

Before you can use Google Calendar's SMS features, you have to configure it for use with your phone. In your web browser, open Google Calendar and click the Settings link, then choose Mobile Setup. Follow the simple cues to enable mobile-phone notifications, and you're all set.

NEXT PAGE: Tracking deliveries and calories by text

  1. Tips to get more from texting
  2. Tracking your deliveries and calories by text
  3. Composing SMS messages by voice
  4. Twitter updates and archiving your texts

Text messaging isn't just kid's stuff anymore. Use these amazing online tools to turn any SMS-capable phone into a productivity powerhouse.

Of course, Google Calendar isn't the only game in cyberspace. Services such as PingMe and Sandy can deliver notifications to your phone and process new reminders that you send from it. And Kwiry helps you remember things you're supposed to do by routing text messages created on your phone to your email inbox.

2. Track packages, calories and cash

A number of web services now offer alerting and information options via SMS to help keep you in the loop. For example, are you dying to know when your newly ordered MacBook Air will arrive? Forward your delivery-confirmation email to TrackMyShipments.com, and you'll subsequently receive SMS updates on your package's status, location, and delays (if any). You can also monitor your own shipments by sending its tracking number to a special email address.

If you're watching your weight, Diet.com can help you count your calories. Text any restaurant chain's name and menu item to DIET1 (dial 34381) and Diet.com will shoot you back the nutrition stats: calories, fat, carbs, and protein. It only covers US chains, but its still handy if you want to work out how much time you need to spend in the gym to work off that Big Mac. (Answer: a lot.)

Quicken Online can send you a text-message reminder when a bill is due, so you won't have to worry about racking up late fees. Other web-based money managers like Buxfer offer even more SMS-alert options.

They can notify you of low balances, unusual spending, and large deposits. You can even record transactions (great for tracking expenses on the run) or request an account balance.

NEXT PAGE: Compose text messages with your voice > >

  1. Tips to get more from texting
  2. Tracking your deliveries and calories by text
  3. Composing SMS messages by voice
  4. Keep tabs on friends
  5. Transfer files to your phone
  6. Archive your messages

Text messaging isn't just kid's stuff anymore. Use these amazing online tools to turn any SMS-capable phone into a productivity powerhouse.

3. Compose text messages with your voice

Most people who hate text messaging do so for the simple reason that it's such a hassle to compose messages using a mobile-phone keypad. You could always upgrade to a keyboard-equipped phone such as the RIM BlackBerry Curve, but even those models are 'all thumbs' when it comes to text input.

Plus, it seems excessive to spend hundreds of pounds on a new phone just for the sake of easier text messaging.

Instead, let your voice do the legwork (or fingerwork). A free service called Jott will transcribe your spoken message into text and deliver it via SMS to anyone in your contact list (which you have to set up in advance on the Jott site).

Just speed-dial Jott from your mobile phone, say the name of the person you want to contact, and then start talking. (Remember to keep it short: text messages can't be longer than a few sentences.

Sadly for us, Jott is currently available only in the US and Canada. So hands up whose going to start a UK-version then?

NEXT PAGE: Keep tabs on friends

  1. Tips to get more from texting
  2. Tracking your deliveries and calories by text
  3. Composing SMS messages by voice
  4. Keep tabs on friends
  5. Transfer files to your phone
  6. Archive your messages

Text messaging isn't just kid's stuff anymore. Use these amazing online tools to turn any SMS-capable phone into a productivity powerhouse.

4. Keep tabs on friends

Fans of Twitter, the micro-blogging service that lets others know what you're doing at this very minute, will find SMS virtually indispensable for sending and receiving updates.

Start by configuring your Twitter account to support text messaging: click the Settings link and then click Phone & IM. Follow the instructions to enable your phone, then set Device Updates to 'on'. While you're at it, click the Notices option and set 'sleep' hours so you're not bothered by new messages all through the night.

To receive text-message updates from your friends and family, set Device Updates to 'on' for each person. To broadcast your own updates straight from your phone, text your messages to 40404.

NEXT PAGE: transfer files to your phone > >

  1. Tips to get more from texting
  2. Tracking your deliveries and calories by text
  3. Composing SMS messages by voice
  4. Keep tabs on friends
  5. Transfer files to your phone
  6. Archive your messages

Text messaging isn't just kid's stuff anymore. Use these amazing online tools to turn any SMS-capable phone into a productivity powerhouse.

5. Transfer files to your phone

Savvy users know that the easiest way to move a file between PCs is to email it to yourself. So why not take the same approach for transferring a file to your phone?

Unfortunately, it's not always that easy: many phones balk at email file attachments due to size or format. And what if your phone isn't set up to fetch email anyway? Your only option is a traditional PC-to-phone connection, which usually requires a special cable or a complicated Bluetooth configuration.

Enter Beam It Up Scotty, a free web-based service that leverages SMS to send just about any kind of file to your phone.

Just browse your hard drive for the desired file - document, photo, MP3, movie, or whatever - and then choose a compression setting. Beam It Up Scotty can automatically optimise video and audio files for mobile-phone playback and can compress other kinds of files for speedier transfer.

Finally, enter your mobile number. Within a few minutes you'll receive a text message containing a link to download the file straight to your phone.

  1. Tips to get more from texting
  2. Tracking your deliveries and calories by text
  3. Composing SMS messages by voice
  4. Keep tabs on friends
  5. Transfer files to your phone
  6. Archive your messages

Text messaging isn't just kid's stuff anymore. Use these amazing online tools to turn any SMS-capable phone into a productivity powerhouse.

6. Archive your messages

Need to save an important message for posterity (or a pending court case)? In an ideal world, you'd simply connect your phone to your PC and copy the messages to your hard drive. Few phones can do that out of the box, however. But the free utility BitPim makes this possible for many models from LG, Motorola, Samsung, and Sanyo.

You'll also need a USB cable that's compatible with your phone; check with the manufacturer (or eBay) to hunt down the proper cable.

To preserve only a select few messages (and avoid the hassles of software and cables), check out TreasureMyText. This free web service archives and manages all messages forwarded from your phone. Later, you can visit the Treasuremytext site to review your messages, add notes, and organise them in custom folders.

  1. Tips to get more from texting
  2. Tracking your deliveries and calories by text
  3. Composing SMS messages by voice
  4. Keep tabs on friends
  5. Transfer files to your phone
  6. Archive your messages