So you want to make calls from your home computer? Or maybe you are tired of paying the phone company and want something that doens't cost you $40/month. Or maybe you need a second line for a home business? Well Google has you covered. I have been a fan of Google products for some time. I used www.google.com as my default home page because it loads fast and doesn't have a ton of crap on the page. I use Gmail for an extra email address and everything else from Voice, Places, Analytics, Blogger, Youtube, Piccass to Docs...they have you covered! But recently I was looking for a way to make unlimited domestics calls from my home office without paying $30/month to Phone.com, RingCentral or Vonage (which is the worst of the three).
I currently use Phone.com and they have been great for occasional use, but lengthy calls seem to cause problems over my AT&T Uverse service. Enter Google Voice. When you sign up for Google voice, you can pick a number in your area (hopefully there are still some left) and it takes about 5 mins to get up and running. I am not going to go into all the features of Voice, but it has lots of nice features, and allows you to answer calls on you mobile number, and even swap out your mobile carries voicemail with google voice mail, which is kinda cool cause you would then have online access to your voice mail (read: forward voicemail to another person via email).
Ok, so now I have Google Voice...so what? Well that is where I have been for several years, until I found myself bumping up against the minutes limit of my calling plan, and not wanting to step into the more expensive unlimited calling plan, I started to look at Google Voice as an alternative. What I quickly found where the following, and hopefully this will save you hours of hunting around for a similar solution.
First, you will want to be using Google Chrome as your browser...it is super clean, very fast, and you don't have to put up with IE bullshit. Also, I assume that you already have your Google Voice account...
Outbound Caller ID: You cannot mask your Google Voices phone number to be something else, so just get over it and move on. What you can do is have your Google number forward to your real phone, so you will simply have to live with that limitation.
External Application: There are a few extrnal applications that can do what I am about to show you, but I have had great results with these two simple plug-ins, so I will go no further.
Calling from Google Voices: Think of the Google Voices page as your admin console, and just stop trying to make calls from it.
Google Chat: This is the actuall application Google uses, and the underlying protocols, to make your outbound calls, so you have two options, make calls from Gmail (which loads Chat by default) or load the two addons below.
Chat for Google Plugin: With this plugin, you will be able to launch calls from your Chrome task bar. Simple click on the chat icon, then look for the phone icon at the bottom of the chat window. When you click on the icon, a dialer pops up and you are good to go. You will also notice that it is loaded to your task tray, so you will never get disconnected when you shut down your browser window by mistake.
Google Voice Plugin: This is the second plugin you will want. It allows you to click on phone numbers on a website and launch calls. This is very cool, and save you the time of copying or transcribing the number.
That is pretty much it. One other thing, if you don't get sound through your speakers, you might need to adjust your default audio devices. Load Gmail, go to the setting pages and under Chat, you will see drop down boxes for selecting Camera, Microphone and Speakers for Voice and video chat.
Hope this has helped!