How-to: Use your computer to alert you of incoming landline calls

Difficulty: 2

CallerIDAlready at Inspect my gadget, I have given you a How-to which shows you how to have your computer alert you of the incoming calls to your mobile/cell phone. Now it is time to do the same for your landline phone. Using old technology we can easily acheive this. You will never miss a call again unless you choose to.

There are many free tools which can assist you in achieving this. Attach your computer to a modem and you have a complete call management system. You are even able to use your computer as an answering machine, with advanced features such as replying with a pre recorded message depending on who the caller is.

This could work well in the workplace depending on your workplaces’ phone system. We always feel the need to answer a phone immediately, dropping everything we are doing, no matter the importance just to find out it is a telemarketer on the other end. Most other methods of communication don’t require this speedy response, such as email. To get out of the habit of dropping everything, this will give you the choice. You can always call the caller back, as once this is set up your computer will log all incoming phone numbers.

The reason I first set this up in my home and started to research how to get this happening, I would watch a fair few films with my wife and I didn’t like being interrupted by the phone if it was a sales person. Now as we watch the film and the phone rings, we know who it is and can decide to take the call or not.

Whilst this is ideal for a home theatre PC setup, read on and I am sure you will be able to find your own reasons for setting this up.

What you need:

  • Windows PC (All Versions)
    • Other operating systems have software to do this though we are concentrating on Windows in this article.
  • A landline phone line with caller ID enabled
    • I am using the Engin VOIP service but any analog line will work
    • Caller ID comes at an extra cost through most Australian phone service providers.
  • A modem which accepts caller ID
    • Most modems will offer caller ID. I once read on another site that all modems released after 1998 have this, though I cannot confirm that. I have come across modems that do not work with caller ID. I bought a modem off the bargain counter at Office Works for $40. If you shop at the right places, you can get internal modems for around the $15 mark. If you ask family and friends, they may well have one they are no longer using and give it to you for free.

Wiring it up:

This information should come with whatever modem you get your hands on. Basically, you want to put your modem in between your landline and your phone. If you modem only has an input, you will need to get a splitter. These should be really cheap, $5 should cover it.

Below is a simple diagram of how to plug it all in. There is nothing special here.

 

Modem setup

 

Caller ID Software:

While there are many shareware options for caller ID software, we will only look at what is available for free. This is one of the few scenarios where it looks like purchased software will do a little more for you and work slightly better than the freeware options, but I have been able to do all that I want with the freeware caller ID solutions listed below.

 

Screen1PhoneTray Free 1.25: This is a nice little utility that will pop up a balloon in your task-tray with the callers name and phone number. You can blacklist callers and choose which message you return down the line to them.

My favourite feature of this utility is the full screen mode which will pop up over the top of movies. Another nice feature is the ability to associate different rings for each caller. You can disable your phones ring and have all ringing out your PC speakers. You can disable this feature also.

You can have the caller ID name and number spoken to you also.

Available from Traysoft. They also have a few commercial applications which look like they would be worth having a play with.

 

Yac-screenYAC: Yet another Caller ID Program: This utility is very neat in its reporting. You are able to format the phone numbers to some extent and put a name to the number.

The screenshot on the left pretty much sums up what YAC does.  What makes YAC special is its listener. When you are on a network of computers, YAC will report to all the machines on the network that a call is taking place and the popup will show up on all the screens. 

Available from Sunflowerhead

 

Callalert

Call Alert: This utility doesn’t look quite as nice as the others, but it does the same job. It has an address book, a blacklist and a talking caller ID.

You do have the ability to call back in this one if you miss a call.

While this utility is by no means my favourite. It works and it is free.

If you have setup your computer to receive mobile calls via bluetooth, you may want to use this as the pop up is the same for both, a bit of unity is nice.

Available from IVRSoft

 

The options aren’t huge but that is not the point of this article. I have had a good search around the internet for more and have had no success. You may want to search for yourself and see what shareware is available, as there are many other worthwhile applications out there for a minimal cost.

All the freeware and shareware applications I have found do not allow for decent tailoring of numbers. They assume the numbers are American and hence giving it that punctuation. Even if you can edit the codes, I have not found it possible to get mobile phone calls and landline calls punctuated correctly simultaneously. While you can put up with this, for the utilities that let you import contacts from another address book, the punctuation is wrong and therefore it does not work as the utility recognises it as a completely different number.

Phone Dialling Software:

There is also a huge amount of number diallers available for free. As nothing beats using a phones keypad for this, I won’t go into what is available. In Outlook 2003 (and possibly other versions too) you are able to go into your contacts and right click on a contact and call the contact, picking up your handset after this. It’s a nice feature if you use your contacts as your main household address book.

Conclusions:

We have touched on the most basic use for attaching your phone to your computer. This is the first step in what I hope will be a whole series of articles exploring what you can do with your phone and your computer combined.

We have opened up the communication between the two and there is no reason why we can’t move into more advanced areas such as recording your phone calls, using your computer as an answering machine and sending SMS’s.

The ultimate aim is to use your mobile phone from anywhere to communicate with your home phone, so that you can control the electronics of your home. It would not cost a great deal of money to have your computer control heaters and slow cookers in your house, using voice recognition, you could tell your computer exactly what to turn on and off from wherever you are.

Home automation may sound extreme using your phone and modem, but it has been possible for quite a few years now. Home automation is only now taking off and the best method currently is to use your old faithful dial-up modem to communicate with your home automation system.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and found it useful. Please stick around and check out some more articles at inspectmygadget.com.


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21 Comments so far »
 

  1. barry.m.sweeten said, on February 23, 2008 @ 1:42 am

    hope your program works we have been plauged with tele-marketers and 2 ring hang up calls ,?will this blocking feature work if i do not have caller id service.

  2. Chris Duckworth said, on February 23, 2008 @ 8:26 am

    Barry, if you don’t have caller ID on your phone service, this should still popup saying you have a call. Without th program knowing who is calling though, it won’t be able to decipher who is calling. If the service offers caller ID, but you don’t have the feature on your phone, hope that the modem will be able to understand caller ID. If all else fails, you can often add caller ID to your service for a minimal monthly fee.

  3. Bhabani said, on March 5, 2008 @ 4:16 pm

    I want to answer my landline calls through computer, i.e by computer headphone. Can u suggest a freeware for this….?

  4. Chris Duckworth said, on March 7, 2008 @ 1:02 pm

    Hi Bhabani

    Normally a voice modem will come with some software to do this. I am sure there are other good freewares to do it, but none come to mind.

    A lot of voice modems also have a mic and speaker jack built in. It might be worth connecting up to them. I will look into some solutions in coming weeks.

    Cheers
    Chris

  5. Hidesquadron1 said, on April 4, 2008 @ 6:04 am

    This might be slightly off topic but I think it is still somewhat related. I am looking for similar functionality of these programs. I have a windows mobile based cell phone and when it is plugged into my computer, I would like to see a pop-up message telling me of a call coming into that phone. Is there any software that can provide this functionality?

  6. Chris Duckworth said, on April 6, 2008 @ 10:40 am

    Hidesquadren, I have had a bit of a play around with this and have had no success in setting it up. My theory was to setup the phone as a modem and then use just about any caller ID software to report the information back. Sadly, it seems bluetooth is the only way to do this.

    Beyond that, using some painful but powerful scripting may allow it to occur.

    I assume you are missing bluetooth either on you phone or your computer. If your phone has bluetooth but your computer does not, bluetooth adaptors can be found very cheap.. < $10

    If you want to go the Bluetooth option, check out this article

  7. Michael said, on June 29, 2008 @ 8:14 pm

    Is there a freeware caller ID software/Phone book dialer combination?

  8. Chris Duckworth said, on June 30, 2008 @ 4:47 pm

    Michael, check out Windows Software: Vista Caller ID 1.05 Beta. It looks nice and has oulook phonebook synchronisation. It works on both XP and Vista. It is the the best caller ID app I have seen.
    Cheers
    Chris

  9. Michael said, on June 30, 2008 @ 5:45 pm

    Vista Caller ID isn’t too bad but I was thinking of something that also had a dialer built in. Do you know of a freeware program like this?

  10. Chris Duckworth said, on June 30, 2008 @ 6:03 pm

    I havn’t really looked into dialers before. Theres an idea for a future article, thanks.
    Currently if I have wanted to use my computer to dial a number, I have used outlook. In contacts, right clicking on a number and select call contact. This does the job pretty well, and you can synchronise the pictures and numbers between Vista Caller ID and Outlook.
    I haven’t tested out the new version of Vista Caller ID that came out yesterday, but the previous versions have been nice, and it has many more features than any of the software in this article.
    Maybe drop the creators of VCID an email to add in a dialer. I an’t see i being all that tricky to make compared to what they have already developed.
    Too much thinking out loud for one day… Cheers

  11. Michael said, on July 1, 2008 @ 4:20 am

    Ok, I’ll do that. Thank you very much

  12. rahul said, on February 21, 2009 @ 4:08 am

    hello.

    i want to confrence the communication goin with landline to that of gtalk/skype/yahoomessenger(voice pc to pc). can u help me??

  13. Chris Duckworth said, on February 26, 2009 @ 12:49 pm

    Hi rahul, I haven’t tried this. I don’t think it would be possible to do unless you paid money to skype to allow for landline calls through their service. Then it would be as simple as making a skype call.

    The only other thing I could suggest you try is connecting a landline modem to your computer and selecting the modems audio input and output as your default devices in skype/msn etc. It sounds so easy so it is probably worth a try.. but it does sound a little too easy. I would love to know if you have any luck with this.

  14. Voodoo said, on March 6, 2010 @ 5:19 am

    Hello

    I was googling a little bit, and accidently bumped on this topic. I found this very useful…but :-).
    My intention is to make this connection:
    “landline attached to modem (pc)+ bluetooth attached to pc = receiving calls on my bluetooth headset”
    Is there out any caller software (no need to be free of charge) who can recognize audio device (such as bluetooth)and make this to work.

    Thanks in advance
    Voodoo

  15. Chris Duckworth said, on March 18, 2010 @ 9:07 am

    Hi Voodoo, I think it may be to do with the Bluetooth stack in use. It is possible to make all the connections, but then making the headset function as you like relies on the software. I looked into doing it myself a couple of years ago and got very clumsy results. It sort of worked, but not well enough to be practical.

  16. Bryan said, on July 21, 2010 @ 5:35 pm

    Hi, there. I am trying to find a utility to take the output from YAC over a LAN and display it full screen, while also bringing the monitor out of idle mode. Can anyone suggest a way to do this?

    Thank you!

  17. sadani said, on September 30, 2010 @ 5:10 am

    Hi,
    I have ADSL2 modem , through which i use broadband ,can i use this for connecting my landline
    to my desk top PC.
    If yes , help me how to use.

  18. Nasir said, on June 27, 2011 @ 12:31 am

    my query is the same that I want to make/receive my home landline calls to my PC without using any internet connection. I m fedup of searching the same but unable to find out the solution.. Pleaseeeeee HELP !!!

    It’s important when using a PC to use the audio service as opposed to the handsfree service. This way, you get to answer the call from your phone and talk using your mic and speakers of your PC.

  19. Sam B said, on October 12, 2011 @ 2:18 am

    Handy article, Thanks.
    Any luck with the SMS idea yet. Now my BT line does sms, I’d like to get my computer connected up to send them as typing on a phone is a pain.

  20. Sam B said, on October 12, 2011 @ 2:37 am

    Sadani & Nasir:
    You need an old style “dialup” modem to do this as they are designed to connect to the normal phone system. Broadband modems use the same wires as the phone, but connect to a computer at the exchange.
    You can get usb dialup modems if you don’t want to install an internal one.
    Many Voice modems will have the software with them to do phone integration.
    Read the article.

  21. Chris Duckworth said, on November 19, 2011 @ 8:35 pm

    You can do this with a plugin for outlook. http://www.inspectmygadget.com/2007/10/02/windows-xp-send-an-sms-directly-from-outlook/. Another alternative is to bring up your phone on your PC. I know it can be done with Windows Mobile phones, but I am sure some others can too. This letsyou use your computers PC and mouse to navigate around the phone. A Bluetooth keyboard direct to the phone might be helpful to.





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