I’ve never been good at remembering numbers — phone numbers, addresses, lock combinations, parking lot spaces, hotel rooms, number of drinks I’ve had… oh, the list goes on. And now that everyone’s got a cell phone, I’ll bet that most of us barely know our own phone numbers, let alone those of others, who are conveniently filed away in a contact list to be summoned at the press of a button or utterance of an arcane phrase. (“iPhone, bring me… Dale!”) This seems like a stroke of brilliant simplicity until that cell phone gets lost or stolen or broken or flushed down the toilet, and then there’s the awkward Facebook status or Tweet that follows:

“Please, everyone, my phone was eaten by killer whales while I was surfboarding in Fiji, so I’ve lost everyone’s contact info again. I know this is the fifth time this year, but please email me your phone number just this once more. Thank you!”

Thanks to the magic of Google Voice, you can create a phone number based on a phrase or word or something else that’s easily remembered. So when your beloved friend permanently misplaces their cell phone and they need to call you from the police station’s 40-year-old rotary for bail, they can just wheel in something like [area code] SAM-I-ARE (as a for instance) to reach you directly. This is just one of the many helpful features of the Google Voice service, though. You can also use it to get transcribed voicemails sent to your inbox, send free text messages, and make cheap international calls.

So how do you log in to Google Voice and start taking advantage of these fun features? Here’s how!

  1. Log in to your existing Google account. (If you use Gmail, it’s the same danged thing.)
  2. Go to the Google Voice Web page.
  3. Step 1 of 4: Enter your area code, city, or ZIP code, and a word, phrase, or number. If it’s imperative that your Google Voice number resides in a particular area code, I recommend typing this area code in first without anything in the second box — not every area code is currently available for this service and it’ll save you time if you know this in the first place!Because I’m a Doctor Who fan, I was trying in vain to get a number in my area code that incorporated the word TARDIS. There was only one available, and it was in the 314 (St. Louis) area code, which is about 2,000 miles or so from where I live. In fact, it was only when I entered my own area code in the first box without the word TARDIS (or any word) that I was told my area code isn’t available at all for Google Voice right now!

    Granted, it didn’t waste a lot of my time before I figured this out, but life is short.

  4. Step 2 of 4: Establish a four-digit PIN number; check the “I accept Google Voice’s Terms and Privacy Policy” box.
  5. Step 3 of 4: Add the phone number to which you’d like to attach the Google Voice number. More numbers can be added later if so desired, but this will at least get us to the next step…
  6. Step 4 of 4: Verify your phone number by clicking on the “Call Me Now” button. When your cell phone rings, it’ll be an automated message from some nice robot lady at Google. Enter the two digit number that’s displayed in the box next to “Enter this code” on your computer screen, and you’re all set!

Now you can log in to Google Voice, call your new number on your phone, insert your PIN number, set up your voice mail, stop reading this, and have fun!