Skype is a great way to communicate with friends, family and colleagues across the Internet using its text, voice and webcam chat features. But it can all get a little bit dull, using it in the same way, day after day. As useful and functional a tool as it is, Skype is thankfully equipped with all of the necessary hooks for third party apps to customize and improve the experience.
To get the best apps for your desktop Skype software, you will first of all need to be using the most up-to-date version, so make sure your Skype client is the most recent (the software will regularly prompt you to update if not). If you suspect that the application isn’t the latest and it isn’t displaying any update prompts, head here to download the most recent version.
Once this is installed, open Tools > Apps > Get Apps… to launch the Skype app directory, where you will find the following top choices (among many others).
If you have ever needed to record a video chat in Skype then Vodburner is the answer. Whether you’re looking to archive collaborative discussions or rewatch a conversation with a relative, this free app (that’s free as in “both users must have it installed”) will enable you to not only review your video chats but edit them as well.
Call volume, background music, the addition of external video and various trimming and editing tools are included, as is the ability to export in MP4 and WMV in 720p resolution. If you’ve ever noticed a Skype chat seemingly delayed due to network traffic, worry not – Vodburner includes a tool to ensure all parties in a group video chat remain in sync.
Podcasters around the world swear by this tool, which enables you to record phonecalls on Skype. Whether you’re calling other Skype users or making calls to landlines or mobiles, MP3 Skype Recorder will kick in when the call starts and record it to an MP3 file on your PC.
From here you can either archive it for future reference (useful if you’re speaking to a call centre) or use it in your podcasts.
This great unmissable tool is a free and functional alternative to the Pamela Call Recorder tool which you will also find listed on the Skype apps page, and is considerably better.
Online collaboration is becoming an increasingly popular way of working as more and more people hook up on projects via the Internet, and Idroo is a very useful enhancement that can make sharing ideas online extremely easy.
Essentially it is nothing new – whiteboards have been added to instant messaging clients for years – but the tools on offer enable a variety of options for sharing everything from office work to school work.
Have you ever wanted to describe what you’re saying to a colleague online with a pen and paper rather than by typing or speaking? Idroo is the solution.
If you’re more interested in pimping Skype than recording and sharing your thoughts, ClownFish is a feature-packed plugin that offers everything from playing background music to translating text chats to a variety of languages (via Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Babylon and others).
While recording tools are available ,they’re only a sideshow – ClownFish enables you to listen to messages with a text-to-speech tool, replace yourself with an AI robot or even change your voice! The app also features a spellcheck.
Staying with fun stuff, Messenger Plus! is designed to allow you to share animations with your contacts, with over 35 Flash video clips ready to be played back to your friends through Skype.
Think of this as a companion to ClownFish. Like the previous plugin, Messenger Plus! includes call and video recording tools, but it also offers some stunning video effects such as mirror, emboss and invert. With tools for backing up your text chat archive, Messenger Plus! will also allow you to set different ringtones for each contact, similar to a mobile phone!
A Limited Choice
This is clearly a somewhat limited list, something which we have Microsoft to thank for. Since their purchase of Skype some months ago, the platform has been reorganized (its reliance on P2P networking has been ended in favour of an array of new servers) and the number of approved third party apps has been greatly reduced.
There is every chance, of course, that with the expected Skype integration in Windows 8, a whole new method of adding apps or plugins to the software will come along, but in the meantime these suggestions can be easily added, as long as you remember to grant permissions to them from within Skype!
These apps, plugins or whatever you want to call them will enable you to extend your use of Skype in a variety of fascinating new ways! Let us know in the comments below if you have any personal favourites which we haven’t mentioned here.