Skype is one of the most popular VoIP and IM programs out there, and its userbase should grow even more with the imminent closing of Windows Live Messenger and the migration of WLM users to Skype. Today, we'll take a look at a few simple tips, tricks, tweaks, and extensions to get more out of your your experience with this popular app.
Your contacts list will display your contacts according to their username or preferred nickname, making it easy to find Uncle Martin in a list. Still, sometimes you might forget who "DarkAngel1337haxxor" is. Fortunately, right clicking on a given contact gives you the option to sort things out by letting you rename and sort people into lists for easier reference. You can also use the "Create a group" button to set up convenient lists for sending out mass messages to groups of people.
The newest iteration of Skype features a whole load of features designed to integrate more closely with Office Outlook. Consolidated profiles and contact information put your Skype and Outlook details in one place, and allow you to initiate calls to Skype, landline, or mobile phones, start Skype IM conversations from within Outlook, and keep updated with your contacts' online/offline status and mood messages.
Like the soon-to-be defunct Windows Live Messenger, Skype now includes Facebook integration, allowing Skype users to view their Facebook Newsfeed, keep updated on their Facebook contacts' posts, as well as upload their own status updates through Skype. Skype now also allows you to chat with Facebook contacts through Skype.
Windows Live Messenger users undergoing adaptation shock and trying to learn a new interface, or Skype users looking for a more IM-like interface or experience can set Skype to compact mode through the View menu, which displays the Contacts and Skype Home as separate windows. With Skype Home closed, the Contacts view now mirrors a more traditional IM client view, with chat conversations showing up as new windows. This makes it a bit easier to navigate between multiple conversations (though we haven't yet found a good mirror to WLM's tabbed conversations).
Another useful feature available is Call Forwarding, which allows you to receive Skype calls wherever you are, even if you're not near your computer. This feature requires Skype Credits, but it will allow you to reroute Skype calls to a landline or mobile phone when you're away or not signed in on your PC, tablet, or smartphone.
Skype displays a relatively unobtrusive banner ad for promotions just below your contacts list, but if you're so ad-phobic that you can't stand the sight of it, you can turn it off. An 'x' button on the ad itself usually allows you to close the ad, or you can permanently keep Skype from displaying them again through Tools>Options>Notifications>Alerts & Messages. Uncheck the "Promotions" box, restart Skype, and voila!
A simple hardware addition is a Bluetooth wireless headset for your calls. This will allow you to do things like pace as well as provide a modicum of privacy (as opposed to receiving a call on open speakers) without being chained to a wired headset or mic setup. If you have a Bluetooth device paired to your computer, you can go to Tools>Options>Audio settings, and from there, select your device as the primary microphone and speaker for Skype. You might still want to set the "Ringing" option at "Ring on all devices" on the off chance that you get a call when you don't have your headset on.