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“Skype me” — or some variation of it – is a term we often hear. Everyone knows what it means to “skype”. It is a modern verb for internet phone calls and video conferencing. No matter the mobile or desktop OS you use, there’s a version of Skype that can connect you to friends, loved ones, and business associates almost anywhere in the world.
Skype arrived in Europe in 2003, the brainchild of the guys who once ran file-sharing service Kazaa. It has since been owned by investor groups and eBay, and now it’s been in Microsoft’s hands since 2011.
As a result, Skype is obviously available on Windows, but competing platforms aren’t left out. Get Skype on the web, Mac, Linux, and apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Kindle Fire, and even BlackBerry.
Skype is always free to get, and free for calls between Skype users—you don’t pay until you layer in extras, some of which are particularly powerful for business users.
With such ubiquity, Skype once accounted for close to 40 percent of all of the international telecommunications traffic on the internet, and that was just from Skype-to-Skype users. And while Skype still dominates these “over-the-top” (OTT) communications services, competition is now fierce. Apple’s FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Google Duo, Kik, WhatsApp, and many more integrate voice and video calling, especially on smartphones.
Making a call can be as easy as double-clicking on a name in your contacts list, or typing in a new number, but Skype can do much more. Check out the tips below to learn more.
- Show Caller ID to the OTHER Number
When you make a call from Skype to a regular phone, the caller ID doesn’t usually show. You can change that. On the desktop, under Skype Menu > My Account (which takes you to a web page) find the Caller ID settings and put in a number—your cell, your Skype number if you have one, your home landline, whatever. We all know Caller ID isn’t always displayed on the other end of a call, but when it is, it’ll show the number you selected. If the user maps the number to your name in contacts, it’ll show your name.
- Send Video Voicemail
If you and another user are both on Skype, you can leave a video message rather than a voicemail. When a call doesn’t seem to be going through on the desktop version of Skype, the software will give you the option of making a video message. Or, cut to the chase: right-click a contact and select “Send Video Message,” even if that contact isn’t currently online. You’ll get a recorder window to make a 3-minute or less video clip. On the mobile side, go into the chat interface for that contact, click the icon that looks like a camera inside a word balloon at the bottom (on Android, click the + sign on the bottom right), and you can choose to send a video. Because this is the age of Snapchat, you can also apply filters to your video as it’s made, to spruce it up a bit. (You can also send a picture you’ve already taken, take a new pic to send, send your location, or send contacts in your list to that particular Skype contact.) Be sure to explicitly send the video after you stop recording, or you just recorded it for nothing.
- Give Favorites a Star Mark
Your Skype contacts list can get pretty big after people add you, you add people, or when you turn each number that calls you into a new contact. To show only the people you like best, favorite them. In the desktop app, either drag a contact from “All” up to “Favorites” so they’ll show at the top of the list, or just click the star next to their name at the top when viewing the contact. It works for contacts that aren’t even using Skype, like local businesses.
- Use a Second Skype Account as a Home/Business Monitor
Having second Skype account is a good way to keep track of things. If you’ve got a laptop with a webcam around going unused, set it up on the shelf or table, plug it in, and turn on Skype. Go into Tools > Options > Calls, and check the box to “Answer incoming calls automatically” plus “Start my video automatically when I am in a call.” Then, use that first Skype account to make a call to the second—instant video monitor on the scene to spy on the baby sitter, pets, kids, you name it. For some extra security, make sure the account is set only to answer calls from people in the contact list, and that your first account is that only contact listed. For extra stealth, go into General > Sounds and make sure the “ringtone” and “hang up” are unchecked. Or just disable the sound and screen on the “stealth” laptop so it doesn’t give you away. If you’ve got an external webcam, place it somewhere away from the laptop to still keep an eye on things—you’ll just need a long USB cable.
- Record Skype Calls to MP3 or Video
Skype is a great collaborative tool for people, like podcasters who can’t be in the same room, journalists who don’t want a fancy phone setup for recording calls, or politicians who need records for future blackmail. No matter what, the ability to record calls you make or receive over the Windows desktop version of Skype couldn’t be easier. The recommended tools: for unlimited audio recording only, go with MP3 Skype Recorder. To record video streams (either just one side or both) try DVDVideoSoft’s Free Video Call Recorder for Skype or Pamela Call Recorder.
- Share Your Screen
Many a meeting app out there is all about screen sharing—letting you see what someone else has on their screen, or vice versa. But don’t pay extra for your meetings. Skype offers screensharing for free. Use the share icon (a plus sign) at the bottom of the window to start a share, even in a video call. You can share the whole screen, or just a specific window (handy if you’ve got a dual-monitor setup). Sharing a screen is limited to one user at a time, and everyone has to have the most recent desktop version of Skype for it to work. You can still video chat, text chat, and send files back and forth while sharing.
- Utilize Unlimited File Transfers
Sending files via email can be limited by their size—even Gmail limits attachment size. Skype file transfers have no size limit. Nor is there a limit to the number of files you can send. Skype even claims a lost connection will pick the transfer back up when the internet connectivity returns. You send a file to someone—or a group!—you’re conversing with via the share button (plus sign). If you’re not speaking, use the chat interface—the icon looks like a document. You can send files from Android Skype (above) as well.
- Use Skype Without a Skype Account
The only way to do this is with the web client, accessed at web.skype.com, and to be honest, it works best with the Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer 11 browsers. That’s because Microsoft want you to get the best experience if you stay inside their ecosystem.
Click the Start a Conversation button to get started, then enter a name. You’ll get a link to share with others, which is good for 24 hours. Really, the only way this works is if you provide the link to someone and they get back in touch—once one or more people have joined the chat conversation, you can use the temp account to turn it into a video or voice call. It’ takes an extra couple of steps, but it’s a nice way to do some file sharing, screen sharing, make a voice or group call or video chat without actually signing up. 9. Activate the built-in Universal Translator
Arguably the coolest thing Skype’s ever done since making video chat a household name is the Skype Translator; it literally changes languages on the fly as you type or talk. It’s available only on Windows desktop or the Windows 10 app, as well as Skype for web. Enable it with Tools > Options > General > Skype Translator. When you turn it on—typically by tapping the translator icon that looks like a globe—you can choose a language from a drop-down menu for that user. What you say is then translated on screen for the person on the other end. Skype recommends using headphones to cut down on chatter and noise. And, well here’s the really cool part: If you’ve got some Skype Credit or a subscription that allows calls out to regular phones, you can even use Skype Translate that way—whatever you say will get translated to the person on the other end. It’s got support for 50 languages as of this writing that work in chat, but only a few work for voice/video calls: Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Portuguese Brazilian, Russian, and Spanish.
- Rename Contacts
If you’ve got several contacts with the same name, or just want to make them easier to track, or even just name the contacts with their Skype user names, that’s easy. Right-click directly on a contact’s name in the desktop app, select Rename, and you’ll get a dialog box in which to type the new moniker of choice. You’re only changing the name you see it as—you’re not actually changing anything on the contact’s account (you can’t change their username, you don’t have that kind of power).
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