It's no secret that managing your contacts and communications has become a full-time job in itself. But the latest version of VoxOx, a free service that works in conjunction with a free application, certainly can make the job easier. VoxOx unifies most of your contacts and your communications services, allowing you to stay in touch with (almost) everyone, almost all of the time.
VoxOx lets you handle both inbound and outbound communications; it sets you up with a free phone number that people can use to get in touch with you, and lets you stay in touch with your contacts -- using the services through which you already communicate with them. The latest version of VoxOx, which is still in beta but widely available, is being called the "new VoxOx." And it does sport a whole new look and feel. The interface has been smartly redesigned, featuring a clean look that wisely places the emphasis on your contacts.
Once you sign up for a free VoxOx account and download the app, you begin by adding networks; available options include AOL's AIM, Facebook, Google Talk, Skype, Twitter, and more. You simply provide your login info, and VoxOx imports all of your contacts from each service to your account. Be warned, however, that the application's default setting is to invite all of your contacts to sign up for VoxOx, too. You should uncheck this option if you want to avoid sending out dozens of unsolicited invites like I did.
Chances are, you'll have the same contacts on various services. VoxOx will create multiple contacts for these people, but the new VoxOx allows you to merge them, albeit manually. Luckily merging contacts is an easy process -- nothing more than a simple drag and drop -- but I do wish the process had been automated.
Once your contacts are added, you can chat with them, send them text messages, send a fax (if they have a number), or initiate a VoIP call right from within VoxOx. The new VoxOx even lets you switch between various forms of communication, while still retaining a unified message window, with a threaded view of your conversation. That means that if you start chatting with a contact via Facebook, but find out they're turning off their computer, you can switch over to communicating with them via text message. Making the switch is as easy as selecting an icon on your VoxOx window, and the message looks the same to you, not matter where your contact receives it.
Like past versions, the new VoxOx sets you up with a personal phone number, but the new version allows you to select your number. This makes it easier to find a local number, although it's worth noting that VoxOx does not offer phone numbers in all area codes. For example, I live outside of Boston, and VoxOx did not offer numbers in my area code, though I was able to select one with the 617 area code used in Boston itself. You can initiate a VoIP call using VoxOx on your computer, and the new VoxOx adds the ability to make VoIP calls from any phone, such as a landline or a cell phone. Calls made over this service, called VoxOx Call Connect, can be initiated from the desktop app, via SMS, or by dialing a number from your cell phone or landline.
Also new in the new VoxOx is voicemail transcription, which is handy when you don't want to (or can't) listen to messages. It translates voice messages into text, and delivers them to you as it would any other text-based message. Overall, I found it to be pretty accurate, though not perfect -- which is to be expected.
VoxOx offers a handy way to stay in touch with lots of people and on top of the many social networks we use. If you can get through the setup without setting out dozens of unsolicited invites to use the service, you'll find there's little not to like about it.