How to Use Skype to Make Free Calls
What is Skype?
Skype is a computer program which allows you to make free voice and video calls between two computers which have Internet connections. Calls can also be made to land line and cell phone numbers from your computer, and calls to international numbers cost about the same as a local call. This tutorial explains the basics of how to setup Skype, add contacts and make a call.
What Do You Need to Use Skype?
- A computer, tablet or smart phone
- A microphone or webcam if you want to make video calls from your computer. These can be external or you can use the integrated webcam which is practically standard on modern laptops/desktop computers. Smart phones of course have integrated cameras and microphones.
- The Skype software application which is free
Skype - The Facts
- Skype is a VOIP software program which stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol. Basically a VOIP program converts audio and video during a call into data and sends it over the Internet. Since it is free to send data, (once you pay your broadband bill) Skype cashes in on this and allows calls between computers to be free. This is in contrast to calls over the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) which are timed and for which there is a charge. There are other VOIP programs such as Gizmo and Google Talk but the most well known is Skype.
- There is no charge for voice or video calls between two computers - They are entirely free!
- You can call regular land line or cell phone numbers using Skype. The call charge is made up of a fixed setup cost and a per minute cost. For example, a call from the U.S. to the U.K. costs 4.9c to setup and 2.3c per minute. This makes Skype great for making international calls.
- Skype can be configured so that when you ring someone on their cellphone or landline, a chosen number appears on the callee's caller ID unit or phone. You could for instance pick your cell phone number. This lets the callee know who is calling.
- Another feature of Skype is "Skype to Go". This allows you to call a number from your landline or cell phone. This is useful if you want to call someone in another country, or even make non local calls in the same country which might normally incur high call charges because of the distance. To set this up, you submit the land line or cell phone number/numbers of the person you are calling to Skype on your account page. A local number is then generated which you call from your phone. A self service menu allows you to pick the number you wish to contact. Since the number is local, it is charged at local rates. This is useful if you wish to call someone abroad or if you are abroad yourself and want to call home. (You don't need to call from a device running Skype such as a computer or smartphone to use this feature, but you must have a Skype account)
- An "Online Number" makes it possible for people to call you on your computer or smartphone running Skype, from their landline or cell phone.
- To pay for calls to land lines and cell phones, you can choose a "pay as you go" prepaid option or pay a monthly subscription charge. The latter works out cheaper per call if you are a heavy user.
- You can make a video call if you have a web camera or webcam for short. You don't have to do this and can just make a voice call, if you don't want to be seen! Most new computers have an inbuilt webcam. Alternatively you can buy one and plug it into a USB socket.
- A feature which can be useful is share screen. If someone is helping you sort out a problem on your computer, this facility allows them to watch everything which is happening on the screen of your computer.
- It is possible to send files to the other computer and also SMS messages to cell phones.
- A disadvantage of Skype is that it often suffers from anomalies. For instance the connection can drop or there can be short periods during a call when either party cannot hear each other. It sometimes happens that you get a "stuttering" effect where the last word which a person says is rapidly repeated. Often though the sound quality can be excellent and much better than that achieved on a standard telephone set to speaker/hands free mode. This is because of the higher quality of microphones and loudspeakers in a computer.
How to Setup Up Skype - A Video Guide
First download and install Skype from www.skype.com.
Next you need to setup an account and pick a username and password for yourself. Once you have done this, you can start adding contacts.
How to Add a Contact
- Select contacts - add contact from the Skype menu
- Enter the person's actual name in the box which says "Full Name". This name will then appear in the contacts list
- Add the person's Skype name in the "Skype Name" box. You will need to get this from the person you wish to make contact with.
- If you wish, you can add a telephone number
- Click on "add" to add the person as a contact. A window appears where you can enter a message requesting that they allow you to add them as a contact. This is to prevent people just Skypeing people at random. Click on "send request". When the person accepts, you can see their status in the contact window at the left of the screen.
How to Setup Your Microphone
Setup Your Microphone - First select a contact from the list at the left. To setup your microphone, click the button with the bar graph on it. You can then pick a microphone from the pull down menu and check the box "automatically adjust microphone settings". This will adjust the gain of the microphone to cope with background noise.
How to Call a Contact
- Select the contact from the list at the left side of the screen.
- The symbol to the left of the persons name in the list indicates their online status. They can be online, offline when not signed into Skype, invisible when online but don't want anyone to know, away when they are not active on their computer for a set period of time. You can set your own online status by right clicking the Skype icon on the task bar.
- You can make a video call if you have a webcam by clicking on the "Video call" button, alternatively click on "Call" to make a voice only call. If you click on the small triangle/arrow on the right hand side of the call button, you are given the choice of calling a cell phone or landline (If you have added these numbers to the contact during setup)
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