Frequently asked questions

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What about iPhone?

Apple does not allow third-party apps to access text messages, so an app like Text Collector cannot be made for iPhone. Software that extracts iPhone text messages usually accesses them via an iCloud backup. See Alternatives to Text Collector.

How do I collect a specific conversation?

Text Collector doesn’t yet have a feature in-app to export single conversations, but messages with a particular person may be extracted from the exported zip file:

  1. Share the collection with yourself – put it in your Dropbox, for example
  2. Unzip the collection on a ordinary Mac or Windows computer
  3. Copy just the files that you want. For example, if you want Alice’s messages, they might look something like this:
    • PDF file 3. Alice (123) 555-0110.pdf is messages between you and Alice
    • Folder 3. Alice (123) 555-0110 attachments are attachments to those messages. Not present if there are no attachments.

If you’re using Text Collector for litigation, it’s a good idea to keep the entire collection until you’ve resolved your lawsuit, as you might want to refer back to it later. As always, check with your attorney.

How do I open the messages in Google Drive?

Google Drive cannot open files inside a zip; instead, it just shows a list of them. To extract the files, download the entire collection to a Mac or Windows computer using the down-arrow button in the top right:

Google Drive screenshot

Why are messages missing?

Sometimes messages can go missing because the sender is marked as a spam number, but missing messages usually result from carrier customizations that Text Collector can’t read. Check whether your cell provider is on the list of carriers with known problems.

Sometimes there are workarounds that will allow Text Collector to access the messages. Other times, you may need to look into alternatives, such as screenshots.

Why does it keep crashing?

On Android 5 and earlier, you may see the “Unfortunately Text Collector has stopped” dialog.

Usually this is caused by bug in Android itself – segfaults in the PDF generator. Google fixed this in recent Android versions, but didn’t deploy the fix to earlier versions.

Crash dialog screenshot

There are several possible workarounds:

  • Try again, sometimes the error just goes away
  • Try with a smaller collection
  • Go to app settings and turn on the “external images” option, then try a new collection

The phone may give you an option to report the error; please do report it, but Google gives me no way for me to reply. If you want a reply, please write

Where on the phone is the collection?

It’s in protected storage.

Protected storage means that other apps can’t read it; if they could, apps not authorized to read your messages would be able to get to them. This also means, however, that you can’t directly copy it off the phone without root.

To export a collection off the phone, use the share feature. Remember you can share with yourself.

When will you display emoji?

Unfortunately, not soon.

Showing emoji in printable text messages requires entirely replacing the stock Android PDF library and dealing with complicated non-portable color fonts. That will take a long time.

Why does it ask for permission to send messages?

Google controls how the permissions dialogs look, so Text Collector cannot change this message:

Permissions request dialog screenshot says "send and view SMS messages"

Despite what this dialog says, Text Collection never sends messages.

See the Privacy policy for details.