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skypes.jpg I am a total Skype fanatic, to the point where I use it for 95% of my phone calls and virtually all of my Instant Messaging chats. But when you download Skype for the first time, you are given a basic shell of a program and then you have to make the effort to personalise your Skype and add the programs which will be useful to you.

So today, let’s take a look at my Skype and two of the features I have found useful.

Record your Skype calls with PowerGramo

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After a disasterous experience with Pamela Recorder, I next turned to PowerGramo and I have never had any cause to be disappointed. PowerGramo is a small software program which you can use to record your Skype telephone conversations. Unlike Pamela, PowerGramo runs silently and automatically in the background and the person whom you’re speaking to will never know they’re being recorded.

Calls are initially recorded as “PGA” files (PowerGramo’s own file format) and from there, you can convert the audio file into MP3, OGG and WAV (although MP3 files need a “lame.dll” encoder file which I can give you a copy of if you like). The sound quality is also crystal clear.

Upgrading to the paid version, you can also record conference calls (the free version limits you to recording conversations with only one other person)

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The only problem I have found with PG is that if you run several Skype programs at the same time (under different Windows accounts), PowerGramo crashes (maybe because you have to connect a specific Skype account to the program and if you run other Skype ID’s at the same time, the program doesn’t know what to do). I often run up to 4 Skype lines at the same time and during those times, I have had to shut down PowerGramo. I have reported the bug to the company but have not received an answer to date.

Another little niggly thing is that PGA files can be pretty big in size so converting it to another file format is a must. When I convert my audio files to mp3’s, they are often more than half the size of the original PGA file!

How PowerGramo has helped me: Since I partly use Skype for business calls, I’ve often found that keeping a recording of a phone call helps when chasing bad debts or negotiating agreements. In a “he says, she says” situation, having a MP3 file of the phone call can make the problem go away instantly or the call recording can be used in court as evidence if you’re collecting a bad debt. Which is why I like the fact that PowerGramo doesn’t warn the other person they’re being recorded, unlike Pamela Recorder, which broadcasts it far and wide.

Send faxes on Skype with PamFax

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I was overjoyed when this feature was rolled out as I have never been able to afford a fax machine and I lost track of the number of times when business clients asked me to fax them something, and upon hearing I had no fax machine, they virtually asked me if I was an amateur or a professional. So PamFax comes as a welcome relief. OK, you can’t receive faxes with this service, you can only send them. But hey, it’s a step in the right direction.

You have to download a small program and from there, it’s an easy step-by-step process. The cost of sending the fax is taken out of your Skype credit, there are no up-front or recurring costs, and you can get a status report of your fax’s progress by Skype chat, SMS or email.

The only problem is that, as I have said, you can’t receive faxes through Pamfax so if you send a fax and the other person tries to fax you back, it will fail. Strictly one way.

How PamFax has helped me: Obtaining new business clients by being able to fax back important documents quickly such as signed contracts, completed work and confidentiality agreements. Being able to fax documents also makes you look a little more professional – that is unless they try to fax you back then the whole professionalism thing goes right out the window!

Tomorrow, we’ll be looking at some more ways to build up your Skype application, including taking a look at the Extras Manager and the programs being used by Skype API developers.

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