Today’s post comes from guest contributor Lindsey Passaic, an American living in Paris with her husband. When she’s not going from boulangerie to boulangerie searching for the city’s best pain au chocolat, Lindsey can be found chronicling her adventures living and working abroad on her blog American Girls Are.
by Lindsey Passaic
No, that’s not the sound of your landline or mobile ringing. That’s the sound of Skype connecting you to your friends and family near and far. Skype is a computer application that allows you to make calls to all those you want to stay in touch with while traveling or living abroad. More useful than any travel trinket from Brookstone or SkyMall, Skype is a must have item for any traveler. You can say sayonara to complicated calling cards and expensive long-distance conversations. Skype not only connects you to the voices you wish to hear, but the faces you’d love to see–all for free!
Skype makes communicating easier than ever and with the application’s hassle free set-up and user-friendly design, there’s no excuse for not signing up. Follow these simple steps and before long you’ll be chatting away!
Before getting started, confirm that you have the following requirements:
- PC running Windows® XP, Vista or 7, both 32- and 64-bit operating systems OR Mac computer with G4, G5, or Intel processor, 800 MHz or faster (with Macs OS X v.10.3.9 (Panther) or newer);
- High speed Internet connection;
- Speakers and microphone—built-in or separate (Note: If you are not sure whether your computer has a microphone, visit Computer Hope. The general rule is that most desktops do not have a microphone and most newer model laptops do. If you need to purchase a microphone, WebAudioAdvisor offers advice about choosing the right model for your needs.)
- Web camera—built-in or separate — if you want to use Skype for video calls.
Setting Up Skype
1. Visit the Skype Web site at http://www.skype.com/intl/en-us/home
2. Scroll over the button labeled “Get Skype” and click on “Windows” or “Mac” depending on which type of operating system your computer uses.
3. Click the button labeled “Download Now” and follow the instructions.
4. Once Skype is downloaded on your computer, open the application and create a user account. You must create a Skype name, password, and submit an e-mail to complete the process. Remember to check that you agree with the terms of usage.
5. After your account is created, Skype will automatically sign you in for the first time.
Making Free Skype Calls
Skype calls are free only to other Skype users. To make calls to landlines and mobile phones, you must purchase Skype credit. See below for details.
1. To video chat with another Skype user, you must search for their Skype name at the top of your Skype box. Type in the name you are looking for and click “Search for Skype Name.” A new window will pop up with your search results. If you find the contact you are looking for you, highlight his or her name and click “Add contact.” If you do not find who you are looking for, you can continue searching using the person’s full name or e-mail.
2. When you click “Add contact” a new window will appear displaying a message that will be sent to your new contact. Click “OK.” By clicking “OK” the message will be sent and your contact can then choose whether to allow you to see them when they’re online.
3. After clicking “OK” another pop-up window will come up saying that your contact has been added. Click “OK.” Once the contact accepts your request on their end, their Skype name will appear in your Skype box.
4. Your Skype box will list all of the contacts you add. A user is available to chat if there is a green check mark next to their name. If a green check is not next to their name, that user may be away, not available, busy, or offline. You can change your status by clicking the “Account” tab in the Skype toolbar and selecting “Change status.” Scheduling time to talk is the best way to ensure that you are signed into Skype at the same time as friends and family.
5. To begin a session with one of your contacts, click the green phone button underneath their Skype name. By clicking the green phone button you initiate a call and a new call box will appear. The contact will hear ringing on their end and “pick up the phone.” A call is in progress when the top of the call box reads, “call with (contact name)” and displays the time you’ve been talking. You can continue your audio conversation this way for free as long as you like!
6. If you are equipped with a built in camera or Web cam, you can allow the contact to see your face by clicking the “Video” button. Within a few seconds your face will appear in the call box and that is what the contact sees on their end. To stop the video click the red “Video” button a second time. You can mute the call by clicking the microphone button, hold the call by clicking the pause button, and end the call my clicking the red hang up button. By clicking the starred “More” button you can view the user’s profile, begin a chat, send a file, or send contacts.
Example of Skype box as it appears on a Mac
Making Skype Calls to Landline or Mobile Numbers
1. If you want to call a landline or mobile number, you must purchase Skype credit (starting at 2.2 centimes a minute). To add Skype credit, click the “Help” button on the Skype toolbar and then click “Buy Skype credit.” The amount of Skype credit you use depends on where you are calling and how long your calls are. The Skype Web site offers additional pricing options, including a monthly subscription plan and a premium plan. Skype allows you to design a monthly subscription package that is just right for you. You can pick the country or countries you wish to call and the amount of minutes you need. For example, unlimited minutes to the United States from France costs 5.74 euros per month. The premium plan, at 6.89 euros per month, gives you group video calling—an excellent option for getting all of your friends and family on the same call.
You can purchase Skype credit or a Skype plan using PayPal, VISA, Mastercard, Moneybookers, JCB, or PayByCash.
2. After you have purchased Skype credit or purchased a subscription plan, click the dial pad button at the bottom of your Skype box and enter the number you wish to call.
Sending Free Messages via Skype
To send an instant message to another user or start a chat conversation, click the blue text button underneath their Skype name. A pop-up box will appear and you can type your message at the bottom of the box. If you wish to send a text message (SMS) to a mobile number, you must pay using Skype credit or through a purchased subscription.