How to use Skype

Skyping friends and family is easier than you think. Here's how to get started

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As one of the world’s most premier text, video, and voice chat applications, knowing how to use Skype is a great idea — especially since it’s entirely free unless you’re calling mobiles or landlines. With just a few clicks, you can call someone on the other side of the world in crystal-clear HD video and you don’t need to know a single phone number.

So, how do you actually use Skype? It’s easier than you might think, but if you’re at all concerned or confused by its array of options, we’re here to help. In this guide we’ll walk you through how to download, run and use Skype and all of the great features it has to offer, so you’ll be chatting and calling in no time.

Note: Although Skype is available on everything from Xbox consoles to smartwatches today, this guide will focus on Windows 10 users. Many of the same tips and steps will apply elsewhere, but they may not be exact.

Getting set up

The first step in using Skype is downloading it and setting up your account. They are two steps that are far easier today than they’ve ever been and will get you well on the way to your first Skype chat or call.

Step 1: Open your browser of choice and navigate to the Skype homepage. Click the big, blue “Get Skype” button and it will open the corresponding Microsoft store page. Alternatively, open the Microsoft Store yourself by clicking the taskbar icon, or searching for “Microsoft Store” in the search box. When there, search for “Skype,” and click the corresponding app page.

Step 2: Click the blue “Get” button to download and install Skype for Windows 10. The Microsoft store may ask you if you want to use it across multiple devices, in which case you’ll need to sign in with your Microsoft account. If you’d rather just have a dedicated Skype account, choose “no thanks.”

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Step 3: Skype should now be installed on your system. To start it up, use the search box in your Windows taskbar and look for “Skype.” When it pops up in the search box, click the corresponding icon.

Step 4: If you already have a Skype account, you can login with your Skype name, email or phone number and skip through to the next section. To make a new account, click the “Create a new account,” text.

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Step 5: You can sign up to a Skype account with an email address or phone number. It’s totally up to you which you would prefer to link with your new account. When you’ve decided, input the relevant information and click “next.” Note: Doing so automatically agrees with Microsoft’s services agreement and privacy statement.

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Step 6: The next screens will ask you to input personal information like age, name and location. Input all of that and continue clicking through. When asked for a verification code, check your corresponding email or phone number and input the code.

Step 7: If asked for a CAPTCHA code, input that and click “Create Account.” You now have a functioning Skype account.

Finding friends and family

Where once you needed to know all of your friends’ details and had to add them as Skype contacts, today all you need to know is a single piece of information and you can find them easily and start chatting straight away.

Step 1: When you first login to your account, Skype will ask you if you want to import your existing contacts. If you already have some set up on your Microsoft account, doing so will fill out your contact list immediately.

Step 2: To find anyone else you want to talk to, select the “Search Skype” box in the top left-hand corner and search for their real name, Skype name, or email address.

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Step 3: If your friend has a common name — and sometimes if they don’t — you may find that there are a number of people to choose from in the list that pops up. Use profile pictures to find the person you’re looking for, or alternatively click on them, then the name at the top of the window, to view their profile information.

That’s it, you’re ready to begin chatting. Anyone you talk to will automatically be added to your contact list.

Text chats

Not in the mood for a voice call? Having a sneaky chat at work while the boss isn’t looking? Text chats are just as useful today as they’ve ever been; there’s a reason Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp remain two of the most popular apps in the world. Here’s how to text chat on Skype.

Step 1: Select the person you want to talk to either from the list of recent conversations on the left, or from your contact list at the top of the Window. This will open up a conversation on the right-hand side of the app window.

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Step 2: Click the bottom of the conversation panel where it says “Type a message.” Type what you want to say and hit enter, or click the send arrow on the right-hand side.

Step 3: Await a response. Rinse and repeat!

Voice calls

When Skype first launched, its big selling point was its voice over internet protocol (VOIP) abilities. While it would go on to facilitate voice calls to landlines and mobile devices, its Skype to Skype voice calling function remains a key component of its service. Setting up a call is as easy as ever.

Step 1: Make sure you have a compatible microphone and headphones/speaker set up. Plug them in and make sure Skype has picked them up by clicking the three dotted menu at the top of the Window, then going to “Settings.” You can leave your “Speakers” and “Microphone” as “Default device,” but you can specify your chosen input and output options with the drop-down menus if so choose.

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If you want to test that your hardware is working correctly, use the “Test audio” link in the Settings menu. Alternatively, call Skype’s “Echo” services using the same steps as below.

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Step 2: Select the contact or person you want to talk to in the same manner as the text chats.

Step 3: Click the blue phone icon in the top right-hand corner. If that person is online and Skype is open, you will then call them directly. If they accept the call, you will begin a voice call automatically.

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If someone rings you in the same manner, just click the corresponding button to pick up the call. Alternatively, if you don’t want to talk to them click the red button instead.

Video calls

To add an extra dimension to your conversations, why not use Skype’s video call function? All you need is a webcam and a willingness to show your face on it.

Step 1: Make sure that your camera is working correctly with Skype in a similar manner to your speakers and microphone. Click the three-dot menu icon and select Settings. Click “Default Device” under the video heading at the top of the page and select your webcam from the drop-down menu.

If you want to double check it’s working correctly, toggle the “Test video,” button in the settings menu. If it’s working correctly, a live-video of you will appear within the menu.

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Looking thrilled is optional.

Step 2: When ready, select the contact you want to call and click the blue camera icon in the top right-hand corner. Alternatively, start a voice call and then click the same camera button in the call window.

When the call is running, you can see a miniature version of the video your friend sees in the bottom right-hand corner. If they start their webcam in return, you’ll see them in the main window.

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Step 3: If you want to text chat during the call for whatever reason, click the text chat button in the top right-hand corner of the video call window. That will shrink the main video section of the window and give you the usual text chat options below.

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