For the longest time I've believed that it should be possible to send and receive text messages (SMS) from my desktop, Surface, and laptop just the same as I would on my smartphone. This would allow me to communicate seamlessly across multiple devices and even better, the device I happened to be using at any given time.

I've tried other apps, but they all failed in one area or another. I used Viber for a while, but the big drawback with apps like Viber is that they require a special account and app installation for anyone you want to communicate with. It's tough to convince a friend or colleague to install a special app just so you can relay messages back and forth. Facebook has its Messenger app, but again, a Facebook account is needed and it doesn't work with cellular provider communications, it only works for Facebook messages. Texting is a way of life for many.

Still I didn’t give up. It's always been in the back of my mind to accomplish, trying each new app I found, only to finally figure out it was like the rest I had tested.

I started testing TextNow a couple weeks back. It does require an account, and it does assign you a special texting phone number, but once you let friends, family, and colleagues know that it's your "texting number" they can add it to their list of approved contacts and rest easy knowing they're not being electronically stalked by a stranger. Texting if free across the US and Canada and you get to choose the number assigned to you, meaning you can select a local area code if you want. It also integrates with your current list of Windows contacts so you don't have to go through the pains of building a separate one just for TextNow.

Usability is good. It's just as easy to use as the texting app supplied through your smartphone. There are a few customization features, but to me, that's not important. Like most apps, you can customize text color and backgrounds – if you're into that sort of thing. It can integrate with the Windows Phone Lockscreen to show quick counts of received messages. But, the best piece to me is that it works with Windows 8.1 toast notifications so I'm alerted when I receive a text message while working, so I can respond accordingly.

Incidentally, I did start receiving what I call "Spam" texts from TextNow. And, I also received notification that someone tried to actually telephone my TextNow number. I was just about to uninstall TextNow, thinking, "OK, here's the catch," when I found a note on the TextNow web site that you can prohibit erroneous messages and Spam texts by simply replying with a special TextNow command.

To halt messages from a specific number, just reply to the message with: #STOP

It takes about 20 minutes for the TextNow servers to consume the command, but once it does, the number will be blocked from contacting you by the TextNow services.

TextNow is available for a multitude of platforms including iOS (iPhone/iPad), Android, Kindle, Nook, Windows Phone, and Windows Desktop (Metro).

For Windows Phone: TextNow in the Windows Phone Store

For Windows 8.1: TextNow in the Windows Store

For iPhone/iPad: TextNow in iTunes

For Android: TextNow in Google Play

For Kindle: TextNow on Amazon

For the Nook: TextNow on Barnes & Noble

The TextNow web site says that the app is also available for Blackberry, but I've yet to find an actual link or reference in the Blackberry app store.