I have spent a little time trying to find out the best way to send an SMS message to a cellphone using Linux. There is a smattering of information scattered around, but I haven’t found a complete explanation in any one place and the documentation of the SMS interface in kaddressbook seems to be a little lacking so I have attempted to document something here in the hopes it may be useful to people interested in the topic.
There seems to be two types of SMS messages. The “slow” type uses an “email to SMS” gateway of the network provider (most free SMS web messaging services use this method). Slow type SMS messages may not always work if, for example, the network provider has not activated this type of gateway, or the cellphone is on an MVNO (“mobile virtual network operator” ie a cellular service provider like Virgin Mobile USA who resells calling minutes from one or more real carriers). The “fast” type uses another type of gateway for which a charge is normally incurred by the sender of the message. Skype uses the fast type SMS messaging and charges a fee for each message sent (Eur 0.09/message within North America for example). In the current Windows version Skype has the ability to send an SMS message directly but in the Linux version of Skype the SMS service is not available in the Skype program itself. However, there is a Skype API which can access these features of Skype. Skype4Py is a Python wrapper for the Skype API and can be found here:
In addition, there is a set of Python command line tools which use Skype4Py called “Skype Tools 0.11”. Skype Tools 0.11 can be found here:
Vincent Oberle » Command-line tools for Skype
The particular tool we are interested in is the Python script send_sms.py. After installing Python, Skype4Py and Skype Tools, and with Skype for Linux running in the background you will be in a position to send an SMS message from the command line using send_sms.py. The first time you try to use send_sms.py you will need to give permission to Skype to allow Skype4Py and “sms_sender” (the “friendly name” of send_sms.py) to access Skype. Check under:
S -> Options -> Public API -> Allowed Programs
I am indebted to Happy coding » Blog Archive » How to send SMS in Linux using Skype for documenting the first two pieces of the Linux to SMS puzzle for me.
The final step is to integrate send_sms.py into the SMS message feature of kontact/kaddressbook. For the telephone number of the cellphone, under “Mobile” enter the telephone address in the form required by Skype. For example if the telephone number is 123-456-7890 enter +11234567890 as the “Mobile” number. The “Mobile” tag shows “(SMS)” at the end of the telephone number, as in:
Mobile: +11234567890 (SMS)
Clicking on “(SMS)” (do not click on the telephone number) throws up a small dialog window with the title “Send SMS - Kontact” in which the text message can be entered and also shows the character count of the message being prepared. For the purpose of the script below, if a newline is required in the message enter "
" as in: “This is line 1
This is line 2” Do not enter control characters such as newlines directly and just let the message string wrap inside the dialog box.
After entering the text message in the dialog press the “Send” button and the message will be sent. Skype must be running in the background of course.
Steps to prepare kaddressbook for message sending:
Pressing the “Send” button in the “Send SMS - Kontact” window creates a small text file containing the text with the filename mp\kde-[username]\kontact[6 char string].tmp (in KDE3). The variable “%F” created by kaddressbook contains this file name. The variable “%N” contains the telephone number string. So we have the information required for an SMS message but the text is in a file instead of the last part of the input string as required by send_sms.py. The bash script below which I have called “sendSMS.sh” will prepare and send the correct input string to send_sms.py. Prepare kaddressbook to use sendSMS.sh by making sendSMS.sh executable and placing it somewhere in your $PATH such as /home/[username]/bin/. Finally, set up a kaddressbook script hook as follows:
Kontact -> Settings -> Configure Address Book... -> Script-Hooks -> SMS Text: enter the following: sendSMS.sh %N %F
Here is my bash script sendSMS.sh:
prepare string for execution by send_sms.py
SKYPE FOR LINUX MUST BE RUNNING
$1 is %N = telephone number in form required by Skype
$2 is %F = file name containing text of message
this is automatically created by kaddressbook
after closing the SMS message window
actual file is named (in KDE3)
/tmp/kde-[username]/kontact[6 char string].tmp
Text must be a single line string as the script
as written only captures the first line of text.
Line breaks in text message may be embedded with \
eg. This is line 1.\
This is line 2.
enter into Kontact->Settings->
Configure Address Book…->
Script-Hooks->SMS Text: sendSMS.sh %N %F
exec < $2
exec 0<&6 6<&-
A more elegant way to do this would be to simply modify the python script send_sms.py to use the file name and use the revised Python script as our kaddressbook hook, but as I am unfamiliar with Python programming I devised the little bash script. The script just redirects the contents of the first line of the file containing the SMS message into the bash variable “line1” and concatenates into “string” the variable with a prepended telephone number and space which is then used as the input to send_sms.py which together with Skype4Py access the Skype API and send the SMS.