Hi Dave. I watch some the “judge” shows and often see participants hand Judge Alex, Judge Judy, etc. a printout of text messages on their phone to prove or disprove something. How do I print out text messages on my iPhone 4?
The easiest way to print text messages is to simply take a screen shot of what’s on screen and send that to a wireless iOS-compatible printer, but that’s not a “transcript” because it’ll only show a short snippet of the conversation. You can scroll back, capture, print, scroll back, capture, print, etc, but that’s crazy tedious.
Then again, it’s a TV show so for all we know, those pages are blank, right?
Actually, there are ways to pull an entire discussion off your iPhone or even extract it from an iPhone backup in iTunes, but they aren’t based on software from Apple because I think the company wants people to be kept in the dark about just how much information is in that backup.
Fortunately enthusiastic developers like the team at MacroPlant.com have spent the time to figure out the contents of both the device file systems and the backup archives, offering the terrific iExplorer program. As you’ll see, it gains you access to everything on your iOS device, whether you run it on Mac or Windows, including every text message you’ve sent or received (that you haven’t explicitly deleted).
Let’s see how we can prep for our meeting with Judge Judy using the app!
Download it, launch it, and…
I encourage you to buy a license if you find the software useful, to support its continued development, but it turns out that for what we seek, you can just as easily use demo mode to extract SMS messages, so click on “Continue with Demo” to proceed.
You can plug in your iPhone 4 at this point if you want, but notice the small button “Explore iTunes Backups”. Click on that instead and even if the phone’s not in your possession you can examine what’s in the backup.
I’ll do that and the program quickly shows me a list of iTunes backups, along with more detailed information about the most recent backup:
On the left column, you can see the primary categories of information: Backup Explorer (which lets you explore the file system), Messages, Contacts, Voicemail, Call History, Notes, Safari and Calendar. I’ll click on “Messages” to see what’s in the backup:
As you can see, it’s a list of people with whom I’ve communicated via either text messages or iMessage, organized by contact name. Some of these go back five months!
To see a specific chat, click on the person’s name. I’ll click on “Chris Hayes” to see what we sent back and forth on Christmas day:
Look closely at the buttons along the bottom. That’s the stuff that Judge Judy hopes you’ve already done, one of “Export to PDF”, “Export to CSV”, “Export to TXT” or “Export all images”.
I’ll click on “Export to PDF” to get a nice document that has the entire back and forth dialog between Chris and myself…
Pay attention to the destination directory so you don’t lose the output file, click “Export” and within a fraction of a second the export’s done and goes on for pages:
Print that PDF document and you’re ready for your day in court. Or, well, your day on TV. One of the two.
And, again, this app works for both Mac and PC and there are other applications that also let you explore either the phone directly or one of your iTunes backups. Good luck!