The Internet offers many efficient ways of making voice or video calls. Skype is one of the most popular options. It allows you to conduct PC-to-PC video or voice-based calls for free. In order to start using Skype, all you need is a computer outfitted with a microphone, a webcam and an Internet connection. If you are using a laptop or PC that is less than two years old, then your system might already be integrated with a microphone and webcam. In any case, you can get hold of a reasonably efficient webcam and microphone for less than Rs. 1000.
Opening a Skype account
You can download the Skype software by pointing your browser to http://www.skype.com. The software is quite small and the installation process gets done quickly. The Skype icon will appear on your desktop. Click on it. To start a new account, you will have to click on the “Create a new Skype Account” icon. In the interface that appears, you have to type in your full name, and also pick up a new “Skype Name”. The “Skype Name” is the name by which you will be known to your contacts on Skype. It is better to have a Skype Name that is based on your real name.
You will also need to create a password with six or more characters in it, and you will have to disclose your email. At the bottom of the screen there is a button that says, “Create a new Skype account.” Click on it. On the next page you will be offered a chance to test your system – you can check the audio quality, the microphone quality and the camera quality. Once you close the welcome screen your Skype account will be ready for use.
Create your directory
Now that the installation process is over, you can set out to finding contacts. You have two options – search for your contacts from the Skype’s international dictionary or directly add your email contacts. In case of email contacts, you have the option of importing from sites like Facebook, Gmail, Rediff, mail.ru, Rambler, 163.com etc. The directory route option for adding contacts is also quite simple. Just type the name of the person in the search bar and click on the button. As there could be many people with the same name, many different options will get displayed on your screen. You have to select the contact according to the unique Skype name.
Click on add contact, if they are on their computer, you can start talking to them directly, and if they are not then you can type in a short message saying that you have added them on your Skype account. It is easy to see which contacts are available for talking, and which ones are not. The one’s with green light flashing beside them are available and the ones with dull grey sign beside them are not.
Make video calls
Select the contact you wish to speak to and click on the green video call button in the centre of the screen. If you face difficultly in hearing the audio of the person with whom you are video conferencing, you can check the speaker volume and also make sure that the microphone is properly inserted. This is as easy as it sounds. You can have free face-to-face chat with anyone one in the world without any hassle. However, if you want to make a call to a regular phone number, it is going to cost money. For this you will need to use your credit card for buying Skype credits.
Most of us will never feel the need of buying Skype credits; the free video call feature is such a satisfactory option. Once you are done with video calling, you can click on the “Skype” on the upper left hand corner, and select the sign out option from the drop down list. You can also set up your Skype account for “call forwarding” so that your calls follow you wherever you go. The popularity of Skype can be gouged from the fact that in the fourth quarter of 2010 Skype had on an average 145 million connected users per month. Skype users made 207 billion minutes of voice and video calls in 2010, approximately 42 per cent of which was video.
Skype for mobile
If you are using a modern smartphone, running popular operating systems like Android or Windows Mobile, then you could easily cut down on your mobile tariffs by downloading free Skype OS for mobile. However, Skype will not work on 2G networks. It needs 3G, 4G or WiFi connectivity. The phone must also have at least 12 MB of internal memory free.