Over the years lots of iPhone and iPad apps have made it over to the Mac, including Notes, Maps, Photos, iBooks and Messages. Using the Messages app on the Mac it is possible to send and receive SMS text messages and iMessages without even getting your iPhone out of your bag.

There are actually two different types of messages you can send and receive on your Mac. iMessages are sent via Apple's servers, and normal text messages are routed via your iPhone. In this article we show how to send and receive both.

How to send a text from your Mac

How to use Messages on Mac

  1. Click on the Messages icon in the Dock at the bottom of the screen (it's a blue speech bubble), or search by pressing Cmd + Space bar and start to type Messages.
  2. Sign in using the Apple ID that's associated with your iPhone.
  3. Select the new message icon (the square icon beside the Search field).
  4. Place your cursor in the To: field and type the phone number or email address for the friend you wish to contact (the email address should be one they use for iMessage). Press enter.
  5. Alternatively, if you've synced your Contacts file with your Mac you should be able to click on the + sign to add people from your Contacts.
  6. If your friend has an iPhone you can tell because their number will gain a blue box. This means they will receive your text as an iMessage, sent via Apple's servers. (Note that an iMessage sent this way may arrive on your friend's phone with your Apple ID email address as the identifier rather than your phone number. It depends on whether your contact details are set up on their phone.)
  7. If your friend is able to receive iMessages simply type your message in the field marked iMessage. When you're finished, press return to send it.

Once you've logged into your Apple ID in Messages on your Mac you will be able to receive iMessages sent by your iPhone-using friends. The messages will also appear on your iPhone so there will be continuity.

How to send a text from a Mac if your friend doesn't have an iPhone

If your friend has another type of phone their number may gain a red box when you add it to the To: field. This indicates that their phone is not registered with iMessage. If you try to send a text message you will see an alert saying 'Your message could not be sent'.

However, that doesn't mean you can't text them. You just need to set up your Mac so it can send messages via your iPhone.

How to use Messages on Mac: Send via iPhone

  1. Ensure you're signed in to iCloud on your Mac and iPhone using the same Apple ID.
  2. On the Mac, go to System Preferences > iCloud and sign in using your Apple login details.
  3. On the iPhone, check the Apple ID account you are using is the same. Go to Settings > iCloud.
  4. Open Messages on your Mac.
  5. Go to Settings > Messages on your iPhone and tap on Text Messages Forwarding.
  6. You will see your Mac (or Macs) listed here with an on off slider beside them. To allow your Mac to send and receive text messages turn the slider to green.
  7. You will see a message saying to enter the code shown on your Mac to allow iPhone text messages to also be sent and received on your Mac. Tap in that number and wait for the device to be verified.

Now when you add your friend's non-iPhone mobile number it will gain a green box to indicate that you are sending a text message.

Your friend will receive a standard text message, which will have been routed via your iPhone, so it will be allocated towards your text message allowance according to your mobile phone contract.

How to use Messages on Mac: Send texts

The best thing is that the text message conversation won't be restricted to your Mac: you will also see it on your iPhone (and iPad).

How to receive text messages on a Mac

In order to receive text messages (sent from a non-iPhone) on a Mac you need to set up your Mac and iPhone following the steps described above.

This involves logging into your Mac with your Apple ID in System Preferences, and setting up text message forwarding on your iPhone in Settings > Messages.

For more information about how to use the Messaging app on the iPhone read How to use the Messages app on the iPhone. This includes details about using various Messaging features such as adding emoji, many of which also apply to the Mac version of Messages.