Skype lets you make free voice and video calls to any other Skype user. And if you take out certain subscriptions or load some credit onto your account, you can call landlines and mobiles, as well as computers. First, check out our step-by-step guide to get started. Once you’re up and running, head back over here to discover even more ways to maximise the service so you can stretch your subscription further.
1. Instant messaging
When you’re logged on to Skype, it works as an instant messenger program, similar to Yahoo Messenger or Windows Live Messenger. You don’t have to make a phone call to chat or leave a message: choose an online contact, type your message and click Send. Even if your friend isn’t online, the message will be waiting for them when they do sign in.
2. Import contacts
Save time typing individual contact details and import them instead. If you’ve got contacts on Facebook or a webmail account, click on Contacts then click on Import Contacts. Choose the type of account you want to import from and enter your username and password (don’t worry, Skype won’t store these). Click Add these Contacts, to add them to your list. They’ll also be sent an automatic message inviting them to join Skype, if they’re not already signed up.
3. Test call
If you’re not sure you’ve set everything up properly you can make a test call. Choose Skype Test Call from your contacts and click on Call. Listen to the message and then leave your own. If your system works properly, you’ll hear it played back. If nothing happens, click Check Settings to discover the problem.
4. Recent calls
Choose View then Recent, to see who you’ve been chatting to on Skype recently. You can click on any contact to see more details or to send them a message.
Set up your voicemail so people can leave messages when you’re offline or out of contact (charge applies, see Skype for details). Choose Tools, then Options, then select Calls, followed by Voicemail from the left-hand pane. Tick the box marked Send Unanswered Calls to Voicemail. You can record your own personalised message or use the existing one.
6. Call forwarding
If you have Skype credit, you can get your calls forwarded to a phone number of your choice. You’ll be charged for the cost of calling that number. To set it up, choose Tools, then Options, followed by Calls and Call Forwarding. Tick the Forward my calls to box and type in the number you want to use.
7. Skype apps
Apps are plug-in programs that give you even more Skype features for your buck. You can get them from the App Directory. Enter a keyword to search the directory or use the Advanced search to limit your results to free Apps only. Once downloaded and installed, you need to give the App permission to use Skype.
8. Record calls
The simplest way to record calls for free is with MP3 Skype Recorder. Make sure you quit Skype before downloading and installing it. Once it launches, re-launch Skype and give MP3 Skype Recorder permission to use Skype, when prompted. Choose where to store your conversations and check that Connected to Skype; Recording: On, is displayed in the program window. Next time you make a call, MP3 Skype Recorder will display a message telling you the call is being recorded. Click the Play button in the program to listen to your calls.
9. Online status
You can vary your online status if you don’t want to be disturbed when you’re busy. Choose Skype then Online status and select the one you want to use. If you want to be sneaky and see what other people are up to without them knowing you’re online, choose Invisible.
10. Change ringtone
You can change the standard Skype ringtone to something more personal. Choose Tools, then Options, then Sounds. Select Ringtone and choose the sound you want to use from the list. Alternatively, click Import sounds and browse for a WAV sound file on your computer, which you could have recorded yourself.