Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Gmail to SMS: Go mobile your way

Email services and independent email notification services often provide SMS notifications for your emails, but there are none that I found working for Pakistan. Either the services didn't support SMS in Pakistan or the few that claimed were broken links to nothing.

Unless you were using facebook to receive your email, which happens to be the worst possible option with its infinite scrolling and lack of data liberation or even POP 3 support for if you wanted to move your mail later, you would be left with not much choices. Even using facebook didn't do me good for receiving email notifications which I tried by forwarding my email to my facebook account so that I get to keep the mail in my Gmail too. Facebook showed each message in truncated form and didn't send any SMS notifications for the received emails (even after shifting the thread to the inbox folder).

When you, like me, always want to stay up to date with your inbox but don't always have access to WiFi or a computer, this might be the best way (Juggaar / rig) to go for you. For what it's worth, I did not want to rig up my private Gmail account with any bots or services that I didn't trust or that could be exploited. This is why, you might think I went to a great length to get my customized email notifications on my cell.

I took a bit longer but sure route to get through. This method is specifically designed to work in Pakistan, but should work fine in other countries too. All you need is your Gmail account (optionally 2 Gmail accounts for added security), two twitter accounts (your personal account and an extra/bot account), an IFTTT account, a working cell phone and optionally a Google Doc if  you want to auto clear your inbox (if you choose to use a second Gmail account for added security; explained ahead). I would go for all the optional ones too since I like it secure.

Once you have all the above accounts ready or registered, these are the steps to set it up:
  1. Optional (highly recommended): Setup a forward for all incoming mail in your personal Gmail account to the second Gmail account, so that:
    1. The IFTTT service can not access your personal account; added security.
    2. Your old mail will not be accessed by the IFTTT account; removing redundancy risk.
    3. IFTTT email checks after every 15 minutes will not flood your personal Gmail account activity log.
  2. Sign in to IFTTT and enable Gmail (giving the second Gmail account if you choose the optional first step) and twitter (linking the extra/bot account) channels by allowing them or linking them in your respective Gmail and twitter services.
  3. Create a recipe in IFTTT for Gmail to twitter posts. I chose to use this format as the 'action': New email: {{Subject}} - from: {{FromAddress}}.
  4. Save the recipe and enable it.
  5. Now sign in to your twitter bot account and set its tweets to private (by checking "Protect my tweets" from settings) so that only the followers can read them as this account will now be tweeting your each new email subject and sender address.
  6. Sign in to your personal twitter and connect your cell phone to it from settings (mobile) and check the "Tweets from people you've enabled for mobile notifications" option after enabling the mobile settings. Adjust the rest of the settings for receiving tweets as you want.
  7. Now go to your bot account's profile while logged in from your personal account and follow it (you will also have to allow your personal account to follow your bot twitter account by logging into it as you protected your tweets and only allowed accounts can follow).
  8. Click to the drop down menu next to the follow (now turned to "following") button and turn on mobile notifications to receive tweets of your bot to your cell phone.
  9. Now send a test email to your personal account and wait for 15 min to see if you receive the email notification with the subject and sender via SMS. You can also verify the status from IFTTT recipe if it is working it will tell the 'last checked' time.
  10. Remember not to set your email notifications on in twitter just in case you registered your bot twitter account from your second gmail account (or even your personal account) or you will start getting email notifications for your own tweet posts from the bot which were already a result of email ;).
  11. If you use facebook, facebook already sends SMS notifications along with email notifications. And if you receive both, you might want forward only the non facebook email like me to avoid duplicate notifications about facebook. I used this filter
  12.          Matches: -{}
             Do this: Forward to
  13. If you want to automatically clear your bot gmail account's inbox every day so that it doesn't even keep your new email for long, you can use this Gmail Auto Purge hack that uses a Google script from Google drive (of the same account).
  14. If you ever need, you can request your tweet archive from the settings menu of your bot twitter account to get a summary of emails you received since you rigged this up.
[Update-summary: If your country and mobile carrier is supported by the IFTTT sms channel, you do not need to create the twitter accounts and you can use the SMS channel instead. To find out how to check if you are supported, read the details of this update are explained. However, I found that the SMS channel stops sending notifications so I'd still advice the full method. The reason update is not a full solution is that there is a monthly SMS sending limit on IFTTT, so updates stop after a few sms].

[Update-details for IFTTT sms channel: To use the IFTTT sms channel instead of twitter You can check whether this by trying to activate the SMS channel on your number. If you receive the pin on activating the channel, it means your carrier is supported and in this case you can ignore any steps that involve twitter. The IFTTT sms notifications proved to be slightly faster than the twitter ones (for my mobile service), however, twitter supports a larger variety of mobile careers and countries so it can always be your backup method - not to mention its SMS are routed through a short code and are way more reliable and much more likely to stay in service than the IFTTT international number the delivers the SMS notifications. Furthermore, if you want to set any reverse recipes via IFTTT, a 2 Rs sms to the twitter short code would be preferable to trigger events than to sms an international number; this is a discussion for another time since it can be tweaked to be completely free as well. So, in short, if the SMS channel doesn't work for you, you always have the twitter method to work with by ignoring this update.]

If you are confused or have any improved tweaks, corrections or optimization suggestions for my method, feel free to drop a comment. It's working great for me and it's the only method working for me.


  1. Not this every Google application, a Gmail account is needed. This is the primary reason to push many users to push into Gmail platform. click here


  2. Haha)
    I like)
    But if you want to protect your personal data, you simply use the cloud servers vdr data room


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