Skype: Beyond the Basics

Category: Telephony

You already know that Skype allows you to use VoIP technology to make phone calls over the Internet. Here's a look at some of the more advanced features, and how to incorporate them into your work or social life...

Skype calling features

Skype Advanced Features

Skype has a list of features you can use for free, which as you know includes internet calling from computer to computer, instant messaging, and free video chats. Here are some of the fee-based features that Skype offers:

  • Making outbound calls to any US or Canada number
  • Calling international phones for a low rate
  • Take inbound calls by getting a Skype phone number
  • Skype Voicemail
  • Forwarding calls to your home or cell phone
  • Sending SMS messages to cell phones

A Closer Look at Skype Calling

Probably the most useful features are making outbound and taking inbound calls. Just like your regular phone, your Skype phone can be used to call people, and do it from your PC. Because SkypeOut calls are over the Internet and through Skype, you pay a much lower fee, and you get unlimited calling. The fees are reasonable, and competitive with other VoIP lines. Currently you can get one year of unlimited nationwide calling (USA and Canada) for $29.95. You can make international calls with Skype for 2.1 cents per minute to over 30 countries. Can you hear me making cheap international calls now, Mr. Verizon guy?

With SkypeIn, you get a personal phone number that lets you receive calls from anywhere in the world, via Skype. People can call you from regular landline phones, mobile phones, and of course from Skype. Your Skype "phone" will ring if you're online and connected to Skype (anywhere in the world) and you then have three choices. You can answer the call, let the call go to voicemail, or you can forward your Skype calls to a landline or mobile phone. Skype forwarding lets you answer your calls whether you have access to a computer or not, and calls are charged at the SkypeOut rates.

Skype Voicemail is cool because it works both inbound and outbound. Skype will take voice messages when you're offline, away from the phone or busy with another call. But you can also record outgoing voice messages and send them to one or more people with just a few clicks. Voicemail privacy settings allow you to control who can leave you a message.

One of the more interesting features is the ability to chat with multiple people at their computers or on the phone at the same time. When you are in Skype, and you are chatting with someone, you can look at the bottom of the chat box to find the button, "Add more people to this chat." You can chat with as many people as you like that are on your list, and make it a party or a conference call. Individuals can leave without interrupting the rest of the group. If too many people are talking, you can type in a message on the IM screen.

Importing and Exporting Skype Contacts

When you have a long list of friends and you want to share with someone new to Skype, you can export your list of contacts and send it to your friend. If you hit Skype's Contacts tab at the top, the drop down box will have a "Send Contacts" feature. You can chose which contacts you want to send to your friend, and your friend can accept and add all the friends. It's a quick way to get someone started.

You can also import your Outlook contacts by going back to the Contacts tab and selecting the "Import Contacts" option. When you get there, Skype will help you upload from Outlook's address book. Follow the directions to import your phone numbers and contacts.

Letting People Know You Have Skype

Other than passing out your new Skype username or inbound phone number, Skype has a feature that you can add to your website, your MySpace page or other places. MySpace, FaceBook and other social networking sites have places on the profiles, where you can enter your Skype username or contact info. People can hit a button and instantly add you to their contacts list and connect with you.

You can also add a button to your website. This can be done from the Skype Community page. Skype allows you to make Skype Casts, which is sort of like Podcasts, where conversations are recorded, and then added to your blog or website. You can then feature the Skype button, and set a date and time for the next Skype cast so more people and join in.

The Community page also has forums and other ways to find more friends to add to your contact list. You can do a search for name, location or just browse profiles to find someone you can connect with.

Skype Accessories

Skype phone If you use Skype for work or you have a busy Skype social life, you might like to try the accessories Skype has to offer that work with their system. A few basic tools include a custom headset, and a plug-in hand held phone, with optional wired or wireless features. You don't have to buy these exclusively from Skybe, but they do offer some nice compatible selections on the website.

They also have custom regular phones and web cams. They offer wireless options for the phones and headsets and some adapters so you can plug your regular phone in. The Skype Store has more options.

More Skype features are being added regularly, and Skype encourages people to help with the Beta testing. If you happen to visit the Skype website and find a Beta test going on, click the link to learn about the feature and sign up if you are interested. Skype can be a great resource for your business or for connecting with friends and family. Post a comment below and tell us how you're using Skype...

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Most recent comments on "Skype: Beyond the Basics"

Posted by:

Raidel Estevez
18 Jan 2008

I have a netgear wireless router [wgr614] and a d-link usb phone adapter attached to my laptop, so I can make phone calls using regular phones thru skype service.

sometimes my calls are dropped, then i think the reason might be i don't have my router set up to make phone calls when my laptop is wireless connected to the internet. even when i'm wired my calls are dropped sometimes. how can i "tell" my router that skype is a known program and needs to be allowed permanently? thank you for all your advices!!!

EDITOR'S NOTE: If there was a problem with the settings in your router, then it seems like the calls would NEVER go through. More likely you have a flaky internet connection.

Posted by:

Raidel Estevez
10 Mar 2008

Hi Bob! Once again I need to ask you about Skype service. Do you know any gateway I can buy in order to receive my phone calls without having my laptop hooked to my usb phone adapter? I know there are some compatible with Vonage, but I don't know if there is a way to tweak them. Do you know how I can tweak a regular gateway and make it compatible with Skype? Thanks, and keep it up!!!

EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm not sure what you mean. By "gateway" do you mean a network router? Are you trying to use Skype on a wireless connection?

Posted by:

Raidel Estevez
18 Mar 2008

Hi Bob! I have a laptop that can be either connected to the internet thru a LAN cable or wireless, and I'm still able to receive or make phone calls with Skype. In order to use my home regular phones I have to have my laptop hooked to an usb phone adapter and then my phone line is hooked to this adapter. If I want to have my laptop around my house, I have to disconnet it from the usb adapter, then my home phones have no signal. The only way I have to answer or make a phone call with my home phones is thru my laptop, but it has to be hooked all the time to that usb adapter. If you have Vonage service you'll have a device [I call it gateway, but I might be wrong] which is connected to the modem or router [in case you have one] and your phone line is also connected to that device. Once you set it up for the first time, you don't need to have your computer on in order to receive or make phone calls with your regular phones. What I need to know is if there is any of these devices that can be tweaked to make it compatible with Skype. I hope you got it now. Thanks, Raidel.

EDITOR'S NOTE: OK, now I know what you mean. You want to plug your Skype phone directly into your modem/router. I have not seen a product to do that. But there are wifi phones that allow you to make and receive Skype phone calls wherever you have WiFi access. SO if your router has wireless capability, that might solve your problem.

Posted by:

04 Sep 2008


I just set up my wireless laptop and can not log into Skype. Does anyone know why? Do I need a router? I have checked my firewall and that is ok. I am not sure what the problem is and I can not contact Skype.

EDITOR'S NOTE: What happens when you try to log in? In general, Skype will perform less well on a wireless connection. But I'm curious as to why you ask about needing a router... how can you connect to the Internet on a wireless router WITHOUT a laptop?

Posted by:

Jim Enright
10 Mar 2009

Hi Bob
We have just had a new router installed and are now having lots of problems with skype calls dropping, one side unable to hear the other,this affects calls computer to computer, computer to landline and landline to computer in both directions, we have between 2.5 and 3meg download speed the upload speed is often about 25% of this

Posted by:

Eric Bottah
20 Mar 2009

Dear Sir,

I live in Toronto, Canada. I understand Skypephones do not retail in North America. My question is if I can buy the Skypephone 3 Cell phone and get it shipped to me in Canada, what are the things I would have to know or do to make it work here in Toronto?

Can Skypephone work independent of local wireless careers or would have to operate on top of local cellphone career lines? That is, do I have to have a pre-exitsting cellphone plan, to enable Skype to piggyback on, in order to work? Would Skype provide me with it's own telephone number, the way MagicJack works?

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Skype website says that the "3 Cellphone" is not available in North America, but it works great for anyone who travels overseas. See for details.

Posted by:

Dave Weiss
21 Oct 2011

I have used Skype on my laptops and desktops for years, and it works like a charm. I use one trick I have not seen mentioned in your suggestions: I use SkypeIn combined with Google Voice.
The advantage: my Google Voice number is the only one I make available; Voice then sends incoming calls to my SkypeIn, as well as any other numbers convenient to me wherever I am - no forwarding charge!
I make and receive most calls at my computer, but when I'm not at my computer, Voice also rings on any landline or cell phone, plus handling voicemail -- transcribing and forwarding to email.

Posted by:

13 Feb 2020

Yeah, Skype is good and is definitely easy to use. But when it comes to business meetings, I recommend using R-HUB web conferencing servers b/c of its unprecedented security.

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