Skype – The Best Tool For International Video Conferences & Cheap Phone Calls

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international video conferencingOn the surface, Skype looks like an application for text, audio, and video chats, a great way to stay in touch with a friends. Only that it’s more than that. Skype is a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) messaging service that offers a range of advanced features.

Originally created by Estonian developers in 2003, Skype quickly reached over 600 million users and was acquired by Microsoft in 2011. The basic service hasn’t changed much since then and Skype remains one of the most reliable ways to audio and video chat with friends from around the world. Moreover, you can have Skype calls forwarded to your cell phone, use Skype Credits to call any phone number in the world, and in some countries you can get a Skype number for others to call you.

If any of this sounds new to you, have a second look at this very versatile application.

Getting Started

After downloading and installing Skype, you can create an account by clicking the respective link as you first launch the application. Once you are logged in, you will see a full Skype window with your contacts on the left and tabs of interest on the right.

Personally, I prefer the Compact View with only my contacts. You can switch views via the respective menu in the Skype toolbar. In the View menu you can also change the default tab displayed in the Default View. Your options are Skype Home, Profile, Call Phones, and Snapshots Gallery.

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international video conferencing

To make sure you can actually Skype with people, i.e. audio or video chat, you should look into your Skype settings and set up your speakers, microphone, and webcam. Go to Tools, open the Options window, and switch to Audio settings. Here you can select and test your hardware. The free call option at the bottom is very useful to confirm that everything is working. Proceed to Video settings if you want to use a webcam.

video conferencing with skype

If you are struggling with Skype, check out these 6 Things You Should Check First When Skype Does Not Work.

Add & Manage Contacts

You can add contacts via the respective button at the bottom of your Contacts list. While this feature is intended to work like a phone book, you can also search Skype’s database based on the contact details of your contacts. Using the Contacts toolbar menu you can import contacts from Facebook and other services.

You can organize your contacts in lists. To create a new list, click Contacts in the Skype toolbar and go to Contact Lists and Create New List… Under Contact Lists you can also choose which lists to display.

video conferencing with skype

Call a Skype Friend

Once you have people in your contacts list you can call them for free, given they also use Skype. Open the chat window and click the respective button for a Call or Video call. You can also call their phone number by expanding the list of numbers on record via the little arrowhead and selecting the one you would like to call. This, however, requires that you have Skype Credit available.

Once you are in a call, you can turn your webcam and sound on or off, and view the chat using the respective icons. Via the + icon you can add people to the call, send contacts or send a file. You can add up to 9 people to a Skype call. Note that video is only available for up to two people. To have video conferences with more than two people, you need to sign up for a Skype Premium subscription, available through Account… on the Skype toolbar menu.

video conferencing with skype

To make a good impression on your Skype calls, also check out these 10 Tips To Get Most Out Of Skype Video Conferences.

Top Up Your Skype Credit

Skype is great for peer-to-peer calls over the Internet. But it also works for calling phone numbers, provided you have purchased Skype Credit. In the Skype toolbar click on Skype and select Buy Skype Credit… from the menu. Here you need to register a billing account. I am using PayPal, but you can also use a credit card and several banking options.

skype video conferencce

Skype Credit enables you to call phone numbers. If you call specific regions regularly, you should look into subscriptions. For example I purchased 60 minutes to call any US number. Subscriptions are available via Skype / Account… / Call phones.

Call Forwarding

To forward Skype calls to a phone number when you are offline or away, click Skype in the toolbar menu, select Account… and switch to the Call forwarding tab. Here you can enter the desired phone number. This service is free of charge.

international video conferencing

To set this up vice versa, i.e. people call a local phone number and this is put through to your Skype account or a voice message service, you need a Skype Number. This is a subscription and rates depend on your location.

And More…

To become a real Skype wiz, you should study our Skype Shortcuts cheat sheet and look into Skype Apps.

Have you reviewed this article carefully, but came to the conclusion that Skype is not your thing? Here Are 6 Of The Best Free Alternatives. Or maybe you’re a huge fan! Please share why you do or do not like Skype and how you would like to see it develop in the future.

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11 Comments - Write a Comment

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Jigar Amin

Super Good Work Skype Gyus

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Junil Maharjan

I have been using skype for a long time and it has always been one of my favourite software. It is the best voip service i’ve encountered and have it on my mobile, tablet and laptop.

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Bob

I have been using Skype for a long time now as I live away from my family. As I don’t trust the local phone services I actually have a subscription which costs me just over ?5 per month on a quarterly basis. For this I can phone any landline in Europe without paying any extra. I just hope micro$oft don’t get too greedy and spoil it for everyone.

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Lisa Santika Onggrid

Can you use the VoIP feature if you use other client like Trillian? We’re setting up online meeting and haven’t decide whether to hold text-based meeting (IM-like) or video calling.

Tina Sieber

Lisa,

If you need video, you could try Google Hangouts. It supports up to 10 people for video chat. Skype is great and free for a voice chat of several people. For video with more than 2 you have to purchase a subscription.

Text-based meetings are fine with any tool, but they are also very limited. I think there is great value in making online meetings more personal using voice or video chats. It allows for more depth. Also makes it more difficult to facilitate, but that’s worth it. You’ll still have emails for text-based exchanges. :)

Douglas Mutay

Google Hangouts is very good and I have come to a point where I can say that it’s even better than Skype. In addition to video chatting, you can even share documents, images and YouTube videos with a maximum of 10 peoples at a time and for FREE! It has a wonderful technology, especially the way it can effortlessly switches back and forth between the person who is chatting and cleverly skipping your own camera when you’re the one who talk. So better than any other Google as proved to be a giant again in this area.

Tina Sieber

I love Google Hangouts. It’s the best!

But not everyone lives in their browser and Skype offers the convenience of a desktop application. :) Hence, to truly rival Skype, I think Google has to work on the much neglected GTalk and integrate it with Hangouts. Also, the Hangouts / Google Plus Android app sucked when I last tried it.

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Greg Belding

Love Skype to keep in contact with family through out US.

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denno

According to Wikipedia, Skype was invented by a Danish and a Swedish guy, not Estonian.

Tina

The company was founded by a Swede and a Dane in Luxembourg. The software developers were Estonian.

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Richard Philo

Avoid Skype if you value Customer Service. They have none – no E-mail contact, no telephone contact … NONE!

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