Skype tips and tricks (Feature)
By Jay Dougherty Feb 26, 2011, 2:06 GMT
Washington - It's hard not to like Skype (http://www.skype.com). Free PC-to-PC voice and video calls, multi-user conferencing, and easy chat and file transfer utilities make Skype a must-have utility for many, especially since no voice-over-internet capability is built in to today's operating systems and Skype's serious competitors are few and largely unheralded.
But are you getting the most out of the Skype service? Read on for some tips on maximising what you can do with Skype while taming some of its annoyances.
--- Get rid of ads
Ads are now an unfortunate part of the Skype interface - at least by default. To get rid of them, open the Tools menu, and click Options. From the resulting Options panel, click Notifications in the left-hand pane, and then click Alerts & Messages from the suboptions that appear. In the right-hand pane, under the section labeled 'Show messages about,' deselect the 'Promotions' check box. You can also deselect every other check box on this screen if you want to remove all possible annoyances.
--- Call normal phones
Many people still think that you need to be sitting at your computer to use Skype - and that the person you're talking to must be as well. While that was the original aim of Skype, the service has grown up. With a Skype Out number, you can use the service to call any phone. And with a Skype-enabled USB telephone, you don't even have to be sitting at your computer to make Skype calls. While Skype Out and the phone will cost you money, the Skype service is significantly less expensive than traditional phone or cell service, so you'll likely save big over the long haul.
--- Go wireless
It's no fun to be using Skype while tethered to your PC with a wired headset microphone. You can free yourself in a few ways. Use the mic in a webcam - which of course can allow you to conduct video calls as well. Use a desktop standup microphone. Or buy a wireless Bluetooth headset or ear piece. The latter are widely available online for prices starting at about 25 dollars.
To use a Bluetooth headset, your computer will need a Bluetooth adapter/receiver as well. Many notebooks already have it. If your notebook or PC doesn't, pick up a USB Bluetooth adapter online. They're available for as little as 12 dollars. Once you have the equipment, Skype should recognise it and allow you to start talking without wires.
--- Record your calls
Skype can't record telephone calls, but Pamela for Skype can (http://bit.ly/kw1fe). Pamela can record voice and video calls, keep an archive of calls, and help you turn your recorded calls into files suitable for a blog or podcast. The free version limits call recording to 15 minutes. Before using Pamela, just make sure your conversation partner knows that the call is being recorded. By default, Pamela sends out a voice message informing everyone when recording begins.
--- Forward you calls
If you're relying heavily on Skype, you won't want to miss calls. You can use the service's call forwarding feature to make sure you don't. From Skype's Tools menu, click Options, click the Calls button in the Options, and finally click Call Forwarding in the submenu. Select the 'Forward my calls to' check box, and type your mobile or other number in the box below. This is a fee-based service, but it's covered under Skype's Pay Monthly subscription service.
--- Speak their language
Thanks in part to applications like Skype, the world has grown smaller, but language barriers still exist. Get rid of them, to some extent, by installing the free Chat Translator and Speaker for Skype (http://bit.ly/cCPY7y). This tool, designed to be used with Skype's chat window, translates in real-time and can even 'speak' your Skype chat messages in 10 languages.
--- Downgrade Skype
New versions of Skype add features, and sometimes they take features away. In Skype 5, for example, you can no longer transfer a file to a chat participant simply by dragging the file to the chat pane and dropping it. Instead, you have to go through a more laborious file selection process.
If you'd like to go back to an earlier version of Skype, check out OldApps.com (http://www.oldapps.com/skype.php), which provides almost every version of Skype from the current version to version 0.9.
--- Use Skype on your mobile phone
Skype's international call pricing is compelling, but your mobile phone carrier's is not. So just use Skype from your mobile phone. Skype now has apps for BlackBerry, Android, and iPhone users. Combine the app with a Skype Out number and the international plan of your choice, and you have a low-cost mobile option for calling just about anywhere for a lot less money.
--- Have a Skype tip not covered here? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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