Top 10 tricks you didn’t know Asterisk could do

By Rod Montgomery

Today’s category from the home office: top ten tricks you didn’t know Asterisk could do. If you’re living with a phone system from the prior century, you might not be aware of what is possible today with Asterisk. If you’re already “in the know,” thanks for playing along.

10. Connect to enterprise directories
Asterisk can authenticate users against your LDAP server, Lotus Domino Directory, Apple OpenDirectory, or even Microsoft ActiveDirectory.

9. Connect using Google Voice and GTalk
Use Google’s services with Asterisk to send and receive free calls with other Google users and plain-old telephones, too.

8. Calendar integration
Have your Asterisk server call you to remind you of your next meeting, or even automatically join you with your next conference call right on time. The Asterisk calendaring API is compatible with iCalendar, CalDAV, and Exchange.

7. Distributed device state with Jabber/XMPP
The popular instant-messaging protocol to share device state across multiple systems and sites. All your branch offices in one busy lamp field!

On the silly side, change the pitch of a call with the PITCH_SHIFT function, or reroute call audio through wacky signal processors using JACK.

5. Voicemail-email integration
Asterisk has long been able to email you voicemail messages as attachments, but did you know it can natively store your voicemail messages in IMAP? Unify your email and voicemail, no charge.

4. Speak!
Asterisk offers native integration to leading text-to-speech (TTS) and automatic speech recognition (ASR) software, including Cepstral, Vestec, and Lumenvox. Let Asterisk speak to you, and understand your answer!

3. Database integration
Without special licenses or extra layers, Asterisk can use an ODBC-compatible database to authenticate users and to store call logs. Make user management and reporting a breeze.

2. Queue games with Asterisk
Some unconventional Asterisk administrators changed the behavior of their call queues. Now instead waiting your turn while listening to plastic versions of yesterday’s hits, callers interact with a real-time quiz game. Miss one and you could be knocked to the back of the line. Answer correctly and move ahead of the people ahead of you. Or do something less challenging, such as allow queue callers to hang up and be called back when it’s their turn.

1. Super-wideband audio support
Asterisk has always been able to use a variety of audio encodings, but the latest enhancements go far beyond the typical telephone sound. Version 10 supports CD-quality audio (16-bit, 44.1kHz) all the way up to even the highest-quality Blu-ray and DTS-HD audio rates at 192kHz. High-fidelity phone calls!

Do you have a favorite that wasn’t mentioned? Share it in the comments! To learn more about what Asterisk can do, visit the Asterisk wiki.

Many of these were borrowed from a popular presentation by Leif Madsen, an Asterisk Consultant, Issue Marshal, and past presenter at AstriCon


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There Are 31 Comments

  • Satish says:

    Asterisk is capable of doing lot more things than what we can think of.
    I am more interested on point no 2 , Queue games with Asterisk. Would you please elaborate more on it?

  • Chris Wood says:

    @Satish: OrderlyQ plays with Asterisk queues. Get more info at

  • Your comment was thrown out because it was submitted under the author name “Your Mom”.

  • Iordan says:


    I wanted to let you know that your point (9) above (Connect using Google Voice and GTalk) I would not really consider a feature of Asterisk, because it’s as yet extremely unstable. What I mean is that incoming calls from Google Voice/Google Talk are not always captured properly by Asterisk. There are many posts about this on the web, and it has been acknowledged by Asterisk developers in the past. Personally, what I encounter is that while most incoming calls are acknowledged by Asterisk (Asterisk “sees” the incoming call to Google Voice/Talk), Asterisk is unable to “pick up” a very significant proportion of the incoming calls.

    What’s more, quite often, incoming calls stop being “seen” by Asterisk altogether until it is restarted. My configuration follows quite closely the instructions in the official wiki:

    I’ve tried every conceivable workaround. I think that GT/GV calling is a feature that Asterisk should be very interested in making stable, as there is such a large amount of Google Talk users out there who would end up adopting Asterisk for their various needs.

  • demodulator says:

    The connection problem between Asterisk and Google Voice for incoming calls is a big problem. I know personally people who are holding off adopting Asterisk technology just because of this reason. It could have been a perfect solution for small businesses but unreliability is the deal breaker. I’ve been tracking this problem since it surfaced in March, and despite the chattering on many forums it still hasn’t been addressed. I just wish Digium would allocate some resources to tackle this problem.

  • roderickm says:

    You’re both right, @lordan and @demodulator — Google Voice/GTalk have been a moving target thanks to Google’s continual changes. A few weeks ago, Malcolm asked for community help to maintain these modules:
    From the optimistic comments on that wiki page, it seems Asterisk may sync up with Google again soon.

    I have come to rely on some Google services myself, so I know it can be difficult to be reminded that the services may change or be unavailable at any time. Their free voice services are popular with individuals and casual users… but any small business that bets their communications ability on free Google Voice service will have their tolerance tested. It’s easy to spot these risk-prone types: they’re the ones screaming the loudest when GMail has a hiccup.

  • demodulator says:

    @roderickm, thanks for your reply. It does sound encouraging that someone is working on it. I guess we have to be patient. But having said that, is there any way to inquire the progress?

  • roderickm says:

    Asterisk development is discussed openly — search for “Google” on and subscribe to the asterisk-dev list at

  • gdc says:

    I bought a license of Skype for Asterisk and unfortunately it has been discontinued. I think a similar solution will be available for the GT / GV in the future.
    Unfortunately, Microsoft ruins everything.

  • Great info!

    I particularly love the Native IMAP, that would be huge! All the rest are pretty awesome too, can’t wait for Google Voice to “officially” launch though…

  • Raymond says:

    I am told that Asterisk can be programmed into a call center, vici dialer to provide VoiP calls without the need for paying a telco carrier, no minutes plan… please advise. Thanks !

  • Grayson Peddie says:

    As for tip #1, will the Digium’s line of IP phones support sample rates of up to 192KHz?

    What about a wave file format for voicemail? As I’ve tested it, it’s hard-coded to 8KHz unless you use a g722 or wav16 file format. When it comes to wav16 and IMAP integration, users who check their voicemail messages via e-mail will have to rename from .wav16 ro .wav in order to play their messages using their music player that came installed in their computer. A perl script can be written to convert from wav16 to wav before the voicemail message gets sent via e-mail.

    As for #6, I might give it a try; however, I’m unsure how this will work when using a hardware phone such as Yealink SIP-T22P.

    I already know most of the tricks, although there are some tips that are not useful for home use, like LDAP and database integration.

  • Nick says:


    We are integrating Asterisk with AQuA (third party library/app) for voice quality monitoring. Do you plan to have it as a native module some day?


  • Richard J Croxall says:

    every time I have an issue with Asterisk, I have to download a new release. Then I have to struggle because fewer features made it to the CD image than last time and I have to download more.
    Then I have to struggle because all the installation features have changed.
    Then I have to struggle that things that used to work last time now don’t work and work out how to fix them.
    It is for that reason that I use few of the advanced features!
    For example, I still haven’t managed to get the UK timed-break feature to work so that I can transfer a call from one extension to another.

  • Daniel Allaire says:

    As soon as I have some time for it I will rebuild my home PBX with Asterisk 1.8 and recompile it for IMAP and Google talk support. I am wanting to make it work with GMAIL. I also bought 2 licences of Skype channel for Asterisk. It still works very well on my asterisk 1.6. I hope that I will be able to transfer those licenses on the new server I will build. I am very deceived that Microsoft (shame on them) took control over it.

  • Abdullah says:

    Hello there!

    I am new to asterisks. Can you please provide the links for how to implement these tricks you mentioned. I will be very thankful

  • Frank Daley says:

    and regarding the rapidly growing need for good WiFi handsets that work with Asterisk, does anyone have any good experiences and suggestions where WiFi voice + Asterisk is going over the next 12 months?

    Key issues we have been seeing are finding handsets with good battery life, and are seamlessly restored as an extension after losing WiFi connection.

  • Peter Dordal says:

    I too am interested in how to implement queue games, and I’m not seeing much helpful information at How do you create (dialplanlike?) games that can be played during the wait? And how do you reset the caller’s queue position?

  • Happy to say, been there done that and they work!…i love Asterisk!

  • phylevn says:


    Great Post.. I’ve used asterisk for seven years and every day Asterisk has a new sorprise for me.. Is interesting make new apps using this platform.. 🙂

  • Andrew says:

    Good article!
    Asterisk is flexible, stable, free and high evolutive system!

  • Great article. ASTERISK is out-of-this world. I’m in love with “her” since the 90’s. OMG… I’m getting nostalgic. 😉 — I LOVE ASTERISK!

  • We managed to use asterisk as a Time Attendance System.
    Employees just dial a custom code and asterisk writes logon and logoff timestamps related to extensions directly in the salary calculation software database …. Very handful …

  • TJ says:

    Awesome features. I am very interested in easy setup of Voice Recognition features that is easy to work with. Love to have Menu tree with voice recg.
    I upgraded versions as they come up and had a file issue which has caused problems. Love to just load latest version and not loose all my data and extensions, etc. Any ideas. I actually am running PBXinaFlash. Has awesome neat things such as weather, travel, stocks etc.
    Setting up Cell Phone call transfer I need help too. New to Asterisks and Linux but so far it has been great learning. Love ideas of neat things you can do. Use in my home for low cost calls and love the features. I have always loved Caller ID routing and love to set that up again. Be nice to find a package that is more menu driven for it’s feature sets.
    Lastly I want to add the streaming of music on hold from a very good easy listening stream and not put extra load on my network speed. Am running 30 mbps. Suggestions and best setup as you see many ways and links.

    Cheers and Happy Asterisking! Its a great Star “*” Key!

  • Hadi says:

    Please give more information about authincating users against Microsoft ActiveDirectory.

  • Numan Khan says:

    Asterisk is lovely and wonderful communication platform. I as consultant and solution architect have deployed Asterisk servers mission critical. It really rock and stable.

  • Gurvinder Dadyala says:

    Nice article, Now I have new things to try on Asterisk.

  • andrew says:

    can we bring an idle mobile phone into transmission state via asterisk without making the target phone ring??

  • The mobile phone is attached to the mobile carrier, and the mobile carrier only allows ingress via normal dialing of the mobile number. Unless you’re attaching a VoIP app on that mobile phone and sending some sort of app notification that will prompt your user to engage a VoIP call, I do not know how to accomplish your goal.

  • Jack Cazes says:

    I understand #10 but can you please give me an example of why I would want to integrate active directory with LDAP.

  • I love the idea of my phone talking to me. Very Star Trek. I’m going to look into seeing if I can make that work.

    Thanks for posting this article. I’m still learning about Asterisk and tips like this help.

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