If your friends and family are scattered all over the country – or all over the globe – then you know how pricey it can be to call them. Your heart probably skips a beat when the latest bill hits the doormat.
However, when you start using Skype, you’ll never need to worry about another bill. You (and your family or friends) just need a broadband internet connection and a cheap headset or microphone. You simply sign up for a free Skype account and you can start making free voice calls to each other from your Advent PC.
Add a webcam at each end and you can make video calls too, which is perfect if you’re missing a loved one, or you want to check they’re getting some wear out of their Christmas jumper.
Once you’ve signed up to Skype, you can search for friends who already use it: there’s even an easy way to invite friends and family who haven’t signed up yet. Read on to discover just how simple it is.
1. Join Skype
Go to www.skype.com and click 'Join Skype'. Choose the tab marked 'Create an Account' and fill out your details. You’ll need to provide an email address, as well as your chosen Skype name and password. Once registered, choose to download Skype for Windows. Then install the program on your computer and log in when prompted.
2. Set up your kit
The Welcome Wizard takes you through the process of setting up your equipment. Make sure your microphone or headset (and webcam , if you have one) is plugged in. Choose 'Check Your Sound Works' and try out your speakers, headphones, mic and/or webcam .
3. Find friends
You can add friends and contacts from Facebook, Hotmail, Gmail and a number of other popular providers listed here. Just choose your provider and enter your username and password so that Skype only connects once to collect a list of your contacts. It won’t store your password or any other personal details. Click 'Import'.
4. Invite friends
Skype detects which of your contacts are already registered. You can select these by clicking 'Skype Names' followed by 'Import Contacts'. If you select anyone who isn’t already on Skype, you’ll automatically send them an email invitation to join. You can change the wording of the email so that your friends know it’s really from you.
5. Make a phone call
Once you’ve got a list of your friends who are on Skype, select one from the list of online contacts. This will open a text message window. Now you can send them a quick text message to check they’re online before you call. Once you’ve established contact, just click the 'Call' button to start a voice call.
6. Chat by video
When chatting via voice you’ll see your friend’s avatar or photo, if they have one. To add video to your call, just click 'My Video'. If your contact has a webcam and accepts the call, you’ll see their image live on screen with your own image shown as a small thumbnail in the corner.
If you want their image to fill the monitor, just click the screen icon. Don’t worry if the picture is a bit blurred; this is down to the quality of their webcam and/or internet connection. Scroll the mouse over the screen to bring up the call controls, including the button for ending the call once it’s finished. And there you have it – free calls to anyone, anywhere in the world.