How many ways to use Skype are there, do you think? Do you use it to simply type back and forth with friends or family? Maybe you use the voice option to actually talk with your “chat friends” and relatives. Most people I speak with are unaware of the fact that Skype is an extremely powerful and useful communications tool (and toy, I admit). There’s much more to it than simply typing and/or talking with someone, combined with sending dozens of animated emoticons.
Several Ways to Use Skype
Skype’s an excellent communications platform. However, most people are really only aware of the basics, “chat” and maybe some voice and/or video. My daughter loves using the animated emoticons when we talk, even if we’re using voice and video.
Use Skype to Make Phone Calls
I have family and close friends at every corner of the globe, from Russia to Argentina, Canada to Hong Kong, and everywhere in between. There are times when I really need to talk to one of them immediately, but can’t reach them through Skype messaging or Facebook. I could use my cell phone to call them, but that would get prohibitively expensive, especially since we sometimes like to sit and talk for quite some time, like when I’m talking with my kids.
One of my favorite ways to use Skype is as an international telephone. It costs less than half what my carrier charges me and the quality is often much better. If I wanted to, I could also buy an unlimited world subscription, but I don’t use it enough for that. As of this writing, there are a few countries that the unlimited isn’t available in. You can also make collect calls to landlines in the U.S. or Canada.
Start a Call Directly from the Windows 8 Start Screen
After buying the company, Microsoft massaged the program’s code quite a bit. Then they made some minor changes to the code for Windows 8, basically hooking the two programs together. Now you can make a Skype phone call directly from your Windows 8 Start Screen.
- Click the People tile.
- Select the person or people you’d like instant access to.
- Right click those names and select “Pin to Start.”
- When you wish to make a call, simply click the contact you wish to call and select “Call Skype” and then “Yes” in the pop-up box and get ready to talk.
Sending Files is One of My Favorite Ways to Use Skype
There are times that I will want to send a file to someone, but will want to take as many precautions as possible to ensure that that file isn’t intercepted in transit. Skype lets me do this whether or not I’m actually talking to the recipient. From the contacts menu, I simply right-click their name, select “Send File” and the file to send to them. When they launch Skype, they will receive a pop-up message that I sent them a file. Downloading it is similar to downloading a file in Firefox or IE.
Use Skype to Create an Online Family Gathering
Another of my favorite uses for Skype is group chats or discussions. There are times when I’ll want or need to talk to both of my kids together, but that’s not possible or easy to do with a cellular carrier and my kids can’t afford three-way calling on their landlines. So, I simply select the Group icon and then add group members by dragging their contact icons into the empty group. Although Skype/Microsoft say that the ideal number in a group conversation is five to six, I have had up to 15 in groups before. Mac users will need to follow the steps below:
1. Click File
2. Click New Conversation
3. Click Add
4. Select Add People
5. Start talking when they start entering
Use Skype as a Security Camera
Skype is awesome for video calls. Face to face is, in my opinion, always the best way to communicate. However, you can be sneaky and check up on the goings on at home using the program. First you need to set the device up in an location where it can see the room in question.
Next, you need to set up the device at home to automatically accept incoming calls with video. Click this link to find out how. Now, simply place a call to that Skype account when you want to check up things. Imagine Fido’s surprise when his master’s voice tells him to get off the couch, but his master isn’t in the room.
Microsoft Owns Skype Now, So …
Microsoft recently bought Skype from the guys who originally created it a number of years ago. This gives users of other Microsoft products some extra features or abilities. For example, owners of the Surface 2 can have almost unlimited Skype calling to landline phones in more than 60 countries, as well as cell phones in (so far) eight countries. Check the documentation that came with the device for the country lists. Once the subscription is activated (within 90 days of purchase) that offer is good for any device you use that account with.
Another cool thing is something I mentioned in a previous article concerning Xbox. If you’re an Xbox user, you already know that you can talk with other online players while you play online games. However, did you know that you can also video chat with them, split screen? Yeah, you can make faces at the other players when they beat you, or you beat them.
Photo Credit: Matthew Pearce