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Wise Tech Tips

Communicate for free over the Internet with Skype


By James Wise
web posted January 11, 2010
TECH TIPS – We live in a time where there are countless ways to communicate with one another. While it sometimes seems we have too many ways to be contacted, I think there are still opportunities to improve. Today’s Tech Tip covers a free, simple, and very useful computer program many of you may know about already called Skype. Skype allows for free computer to computer calls (with audio and video) and instant messaging (i.e. text based “chatting”). It’s also a low cost option for making international phone calls to regular phones.

If you don’t already have Skype installed on your computer, you install it and get started as follows:
1)    Download the program from http://www.skype.com/ (use the “Get Skype Now” button).

2)    When prompted, choose to run/open the file (or save it and run it after the download finishes).

3)    Choose the desired language (English should be selected already by default) and click “I agree – install”.

4)    When the installer finishes, click “Start Skype”.

5)    If you already have an account, you can use the “sign in” link. If this is your first time using Skype, fill in the fields as necessary (full name, desired Skype account name, password), check the box to accept the license terms, and click “Next”.
6)    Enter your email address, uncheck “Yes, send me Skype news and special offers (unless you really want this), and fill in your location (this is helpful for people when they search for your name in Skype), and click “Sign In”.

7)    A welcome screen will appear after this. This screen has several helpful links you might want to checkout. When you are ready to use Skype, just click the “Start using Skype” option. You may also want to uncheck the “show welcome screen at startup” box otherwise you will see this screen each time you start Skype.

After you get Skype up and running, the first thing you probably want to do is add a contact and contact that person. To do that, click the “New” button and click “New Contact”. Then, type the name of a person you want to add. Here’s one place where it helps if the person added their location because you’ll probably see more than one contact listed for that name. If you aren’t sure which person to click in this list, you can ask the person you want to add to give you his or her Skype name (which is unique). Once you find the person you want to add, click his/her name and then click “add contact”. Once that person has accepted your connection request, you’ll be able to communicate via Skype.

Once you have a contact in Skype, communicating with that person is very easy. Just click the person in your contact list and you’ll see options on the right had side of your screen. For example, you can press “call” (or “video call” if you have a web cam connected to your computer) or if you just want to chat back and forth by typing, you can type in a message and click “Send Message”.

When you close the Skype window, you’ll find that it is actually still running in the background (and would alert you if anyone tried to contact you). When Skype is running, there is an icon in your system tray (the area near the clock on the Windows taskbar). You can double click this icon to bring up the Skype window. You can right click this icon to change your online status. Note that your contacts can see your Skype status. If you don’t want your status to be known, you can right click the Skype icon and change your status to “invisible”. If you have messages waiting, the Skype icon will change and show you an unopened message count. If you want to really close Skype (stop running the program and not get notifications of messages or be reachable), right click the Skype icon and click “Quit”.

By default, Skype will automatically start again (in the background) when you restart your computer. I recommend using this setting to make Skype more useful without having to start it and check for messages from time to time. If you don’t want this to happen, you can change that in Skype under the “Tools” > “Options” menu.

There are many other options with Skype as well. For a small fee, you can use Skype to call normal phone numbers. This is really useful for low cost international calls. There are also special “Skype Phone” devices that allow you to use Skype without using your computer. You can even use Skype on some mobile devices (like iPods).

If you need help with Skype, feel free to email me (EdgefieldTechHelp@gmail.com). I might also come back to Skype again in future Tech Tips to cover more options and/or give more detailed instructions. There are also some great Skype resources on the Internet like https://support.skype.com/ (which you can access via the help menu in Skype) and there are a lot of videos about Skype on http://www.youtube.com.






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WEBNEWS –  Send in your favorite or favorites. There is no limit to the number of recipes you can send in. With the Editor’s wife being the driving force behind her own personal section, help her create an exchange of local favorites, home cooking, grilling, sauces, and deserts!  Send in your submissions here.