How to Use Skype

Tips for Using Skype

Configure your Skype account to meet your needs, such as adjusting your privacy settings to avoid unwanted calls.
Configure your Skype account to meet your needs, such as adjusting your privacy settings to avoid unwanted calls.
Image courtesy of Skype

No matter which version you choose, Skype is pretty simple. Typically, it's just a matter of clicking on your contact, making the call and then choosing what you'd like to do within the call, like file or screen sharing. To call a phone, click on "call phones" and type in the number. However, there are some things that you can do to improve your Skype experience.

Because some of your Skype profile information is public, other Skype users can search for you to set you as a contact. That's great for allowing friends and family to find you, but it also means that strangers can potentially try to call you via Skype. You can just avoid accepting their calls, of course, but you may also want to accept calls only from your existing contacts. To do this, go to "tools," "options" and then "privacy." This will also help you avoid falling prey to a phenomenon called "vishing" (short for video phishing, much like those realistic-looking e-mails that you may have gotten from what appears to be your bank, but isn't). Unscrupulous Skype users employ this method to contact strangers and pose as a friend or family member to get personal information, such as Social Security or bank account numbers. You can also block specific users in the "options" menu.

Your built-in or USB webcam may be working great, but some regular Skypers upgrade to higher-end products to get the best video quality possible. You may also want to get a headset to make your audio clearer. Skype sells these accessories, as well as USB phones, video phones (no computer required), cell phones and VoIP phones. Of course, you can also buy them elsewhere as long as you make sure they're compatible with Skype.

Skype also sells what it calls "extras": add-ons that enhance the service. Some of these are just for fun, like games that you can play with other Skype users. Others are more useful in a business setting, such as programs that record calls (great for interviewing) or allow you to create a call center to take incoming customer calls. There are also add-ons that allow Skypers to make notes and draw on virtual whiteboards, useful for conference calls or online tutoring. Some add-ons are free, but most are either a flat fee or require a subscription. They're all developed by third parties, so the cost varies.

Although Skype is easy to use, you might run into some problems from time to time. Read on to learn how to troubleshoot when you're Skyping.