Frequently asked questions

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.

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.

How do I collect a specific conversation?

You can easily extract a particular person’s messages from the exported zip file, after making a collection:

  1. Share the collection with yourself – put it in your Dropbox, for example.
  2. Unzip the collection.
  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.
  4. Share the files you selected with your attorney.

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. Even if you don’t share the entire collection, your attorney might want to see the information document and a list of the names that were collected. As always, check with your attorney that what you’re doing is kosher.

Why can’t I filter by individual names?

It’s common in litigation to start out thinking that you need just a particular person’s messages, then later find that you need to review messages from other people as well. Collecting messages from everyone minimizes the risk of losing messages you might need.

There are times, usually in corporate cases, where it is not appropriate to preserve all messages. Refer to an attorney and your companies retention policy for when this might be so.

Whatever the case, it is easy to cherry-pick conversations from the collection after exporting it off the phone, where a conversation is all messages to and from a particular person.

Future versions of Text Collector may allow export of selected conversations.

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.

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 many complexities of color fonts, which are not widely portable. It is a huge amount of work.

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 note that there’s no way for me to reply to these reports. If you want more information, please write

How do I open the messages in Google Drive?

Google Drive currently cannot open files inside the collection zip. It is best either to download the collection to an ordinary computer or use an alternative like Dropbox.

In Google Drive, right-click on the collection to get a “download” option (ctrl+click on Mac).

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.