FrontlineSMS Overview


FrontlineSMS is a desktop software created to lower barriers to positive social change using mobile technology. By leveraging basic tools already available to most organizations, including those in 'last-mile' settings — computers and low-cost modems — FrontlineSMS enables instantaneous two-way communication to any mobile handset. It’s easy to implement, simple to operate, and best of all, the software is free; you only pay for the messages you send. Using FrontlineSMS with FrontlineSync, you can also track missed calls for the first time. Our award-winning open-source software has been downloaded over 100,000 times since its first prototype in 2005, and helps organizations all over the world overcome communications barriers. What you communicate is up to you.

What Do I Need to Get Started?

  • You need a working computer running Windows, MacOS, or Linux (beta). FrontlineSMS Version 2 runs in your browser, but does not require the Internet. We support Chrome, Firefox (v 3.5 or later), Safari, and Internet Explorer (v 8 or later). For best results, please update your browser when you install FrontlineSMS.
  • Download and install the latest version of FrontlineSMS on the computer you want to use.
  • You need
    • EITHER a compatible mobile phone or modem, with sufficient credit on it to send and receive text messages. You can see a detailed list of which items are readily compatible below. We recommend modems, as they tend to be more reliable. Remember, the software is free, but you'll still pay local, standard messaging rates from your SIM card to send messages,
    • OR an Internet connection and an account with one of our web-based aggregators.

You can hear more about the story of FrontlineSMS and how it's been used all over the world in the video below.

Laura Walker Hudson on FrontlineSMS (Animation) from TechChange on YouTube.

Connections

FrontlineSMS does not require the Internet to work, but does need to be connected to a mobile network. You can ensure this either by connecting the computer to a modem or phone, or through one of the two web-based services we support, Clickatell and IntelliSMS.

Using a Modem

FrontlineSMS needs to be connected to a mobile network. We recommend using a GSM modem connected to your computer via Serial, USB or Bluetooth. GSM modems are more commonly used to browse the Internet and send and receive email from a computer, all through your mobile network. GSM modems come in different shapes and sizes, but typically standard a typical "dongle" sticking out from your computer.

It is possible to use FrontlineSMS with a low-end mobile phone, but we recommend GSM modems because they are much easier to set up, are becoming increasingly affordable, and have a much higher capacity for sending and receiving messages reliably.

Not all devices work with FrontlineSMS - although we've designed our software to COMport and GSM standards, not all devices and drivers adhere to them. For this reason you may wish to check the list below, and our user-driven device database, for information about modems known to be compatible.

FrontlineSync

FrontlineSync is our new Android gateway application, available now on the Google Play Store. You can easily send and receive messages using FrontlineSync with FrontlineSMS. FrontlineSync also registers missed calls to the phone in your FrontlineSMS workspace.

There are some basic requirements for this to work: your Android phone will need to be on, and have access both to a mobile signal and wifi or data signal, with an appropriate plan; FrontlineSMS will need to be hosted on a public, static IP address; also, you will need the FrontlineSync application to be installed and synced with FrontlineSMS. If you don’t have an internet connection, you can still use FrontlineSync on a local area network (LAN) with FrontlineSMS. After that, any messages you send will be routed through your Android phone … and incoming messages will be routed back to FrontlineSMS. All with a local number!

Pricing

FrontlineSMS is free to download.

If you're interested in learning more about FrontlineCloud, our paid, web-hosted platform, please click here.

FrontlineSMS Version 1

FrontlineSMS Version 1 was our main product from 2008 until mid-2012. If you prefer to use it, you can download Version 1 of FrontlineSMS for Windows, Mac and Linux. If you are interested in upgrading from Version 1 to Version 2, please visit our help file on Upgrading to Version 2 for more information.

Version 1 is still the only version of FrontlineSMS that supports certain features. Below, we have detailed each feature, along with our explanation of where these features fit within our current priorities for Version 2 and FrontlineCloud.

  • Contact sub-groups - We are reorganizing how to manage contacts within Version 2 and FrontlineCloud, and we hope our new approach will be a more useful way of sorting contacts and messages than the Version 1 system.
  • Frontline Forms- We believe SMS serves a critical role in collecting and managing structured data from mobile phones, but are reevaluating our approach in the coming months. There are a number of mobile platforms dedicated specifically forms-based data collection. Rather than trying to reinvent excellent tools, we would like to build strong multi-platform linkages. FrontlineForms has always occupied an important place in the data collection ecosystem, and we'll make sure that whatever comes next meets all of the same needs, and hopefully, many more.
  • Translation Manager - We are building a new translation manager that we hope will be easier for our user community. This will include the ability to create your own translations, or modify base translations into local dialects. This is a high priority for us and should be available in the near future.
  • Auto-forward to Email - This feature is occasionally requested by our users, but not as often as other features (some new, some listed here), so we've deprioritized it at the moment. If this is important to you, you can always get in touch with our team at info@frontlinesms.com and let us know!
  • Reminders - this was volunteer code, packaged with Version 1 in beta. We know that bugs remain in the code, and plan to take a different approach to building this for Version 2 and FrontlineCloud. We are currently fundraising for this and will build this feature as resources allow.

Known compatible devices

Please find the list of devices the team has tested with FrontlineSMS directly below. Please note, the below device reports are valid whether you are using Version 1 or Version 2 of FrontlineSMS. You may also wish to check our user-driven device database. For more information about getting started, please feel free to visit the community forum.

GSM modems (recommended)

Manufacturer

Model

Connection

Falcom

SAMBA 75 GSM modem

USB

Huawei

E Series GSM modems

USB

Wavecom

FastTrack GSM modem

Serial

Sierra Compass

885 & MC8781 GSM modems

USB

Onda

Mini Modem (GSM)

USB

ZTE Incorporated

MF627 GSM modem

USB

Mobile phones (not recommended - please read the section on Connections above)

Manufacturer

Model

Connection

Merlin

XU870 data card

Card

LG

KU250

USB

Nokia

2855

USB

Nokia

3220

USB

Nokia

5070

USB

Nokia

5140i

USB

Nokia

6021

Bluetooth/USB

Nokia

6030

USB

Nokia

6070

USB

Nokia

6080

USB

Nokia

6100

USB

Nokia

6101

USB

Nokia

6102/6102i

USB

Nokia

6103

USB

Nokia

6230/6230i

USB

Nokia

6310/6310i

Serial/Infrared

Nokia

7360

USB

Nokia

8801

USB

Nokia

9300i

USB

Nokia

9500

USB

Sony Ericsson

F500

USB

Sony Ericsson

K600

USB

Sony Ericsson

K750

USB

Sony Ericsson

K800i

USB

Sony Ericsson

K850i

USB

Sony Ericsson

T610

USB

Sony Ericsson

T700

USB

Sony Ericsson

W200

USB

Sony Ericsson

W610i

USB

Motorola

C385

USB

Motorola

L6i

USB

Motorola

U6 PEBL

USB

Motorola

V220/V235

USB

Sagem

myX3d

Serial

Vodafone

625

USB