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Skype: How to Use It

Updated on September 7, 2009

I’d start by automatically assuming everyone knows what Skype is – but many people don’t. Therefore, a little background info for those of you living under a rock. (I was one of you until just last week!) Well, ok, I’d heard of Skype prior to that, but I’d never used it. And I certainly had no idea just how varied the services they offer are. After a little searching, I must confess I’m feeling a little ridiculous that I’ve only just installed the program last week.

Skype is, basically, a way to call anyone in the world – for free.

Anyone who has a computer, or Skype-capable phone, that is. So, yeah, it might not work if your family are nomads in the Mojave. Otherwise, you could probably manage it.

How do I get it?

You go to www.skype.com and download it. It took a few minutes to install on my iMac, and as soon as I registered a call-name, it was ready to go. It was that simple. Seriously.

What do I have to pay for?

Nothing! It’s FREE to create a call name, and free to call anyone else with Skype. No hidden charges, no expiration dates. Just free.

Do I need a microphone and headset?

Possibly. My iMac came with a built-in mic and built-in speakers and that’s all I use. If your computer or phone is already equipped for this, you needn’t buy anything either. If you do need a mic and headset – or if you simply just want one – you can buy one from your local electronics store for cheap.

How do I make a call?

You just log into Skype, click on the contact you want to call, and press the call button. It will then ring them – like a phone – and they can answer. Just like a real phone, really.

This is too weird, I prefer a phone.

Guess what? They sell USB phones now. You can get one for cheap from the electronics store, take it home, connect it to your USB port, and voila. Or, you could buy a Skype-enabled cordless phone handset, which will divert calls to something like a cordless phone. So don’t let the mic/headset thing put you off.

Does it sound strange, talking through a computer?

I’m sure the quality of your speakers will have something to do with it, but I can honestly tell you it sounds very phone-like on my Mac.

What else can I do for free with Skype?

You can cam-call. Yeah, all you need is the camera. Just select the option and you’re ready to go. You can also instant message. Not sure why this would be preferable, though. Unless, of course, you’re at work and don’t want the boss to know you’re not working!

By now you’ve realized Skype is pretty cool. It may not be a necessity in the US, where local calls are free, but over here in Europe, they aren’t. You pay every time you call someone, unless you’re dialing an 800 number. And you pay by the minute, which makes Skype a Godsend. It’s particularly fantastic when making naughty phone calls to another country – free calls mean you can take your time and have a proper conversation.

God bless you, Skype!

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