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Keeping track of all the different networks and media you use to keep in touch these days can be more time-consuming than it's worth. That's where the free VoxOx comes in handy: This free app helps you access most of your communications services and manage your contacts from within its neat little interface. The latest release of VoxOx, beta 2.0, adds some useful tools, such as support for Twitter, enhanced Facebook support, two-way texting, and your very own virtual personal assistant.
Like the first beta version of VoxOx, released late last year, this new beta lets you make voice and video calls from your PC. You can call any phone number; 2 hours of free calling are included when you sign up for VoxOx. Calls within the U.S. cost 1 cent per minute, while international rates vary. In my tests, call quality was decent--about what you'd expect from a PC-based VoIP service. VoxOx offers some nifty call features, too, such as call transfer, conference calling, and the ability to record calls,. You also get voicemail--and you can listen in on messages as they're being left for you, so you can decide whether you'd like to take the call. You also can send and receive faxes.
And, just like the previous version, VoxOx 2 offers plenty of ways to communicate via text. You can send and receive instant messages using most of today's popular services, including AOL's AIM, Google Talk, ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, and more. You also can send and receive text messages from your VoxOx number. (A number is assigned to you based on your location, but if you'd like VoxOx to replace an existing phone line, you can port a number over.)
If social networking is more your style, you'll appreciate the enhanced social networking features in the latest version of VoxOx. You can read Twitter updates, as well as send your own tweets, from within VoxOx. You also can read Facebook status messages and chat with Facebook users who are logged on to that service. VoxOx 2 also adds support for MySpace. In the new version, your contacts are clearly identified as being logged on to a specific service, so you won't, for example, mistakenly attempt to start an AIM chat with a contact who's actually logged on to Facebook. This is a nice update from the previous version, which lacked this separation.
When you mouse over any of your contacts--whether they're on Twitter, Facebook, or any other service--you can choose how to communicate with them. Easily identifiable icons let you decide whether to send an SMS message, initiate a call, chat via IM, or even send a file. It's nice to be able to decide how you'd like to get in touch with people; sometimes you may need to avoid long conversations, and sometimes you may not want to make your friends pay for text messages.
Another nice feature is the Personal Assistant, new in this version. Each VoxOx account comes with a virtual assistant who can answer your phone calls, asking callers to identify themselves so you can decide whether you'd like to take the call. (You can set your assistant to screen all calls or only blocked numbers, and can turn this feature off.) Your personal assistant also can help callers find you, by forwarding calls to a variety of other numbers that you select, including your cell phone or your home landline.
Another new feature in this version of VoxOx is its very own App Store. So far, the App Store is a bit underpopulated, but the company hopes that will change as more developers become aware of VoxOx as a platform. I'm not sold on this being a useful feature for VoxOx, but I'll reserve judgment until there are enough available apps to form an opinion of them.
Overall, VoxOx is a handy way to stay in touch with all of your contacts--and all of your communications services. It has an attractive interface and is easy to use.
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