How to use Skype: getting started

Skype is a popular way to communicate with friends and family online across a variety of platforms.

Skype combines the best of text, audio and video chatting and can essentially turn your computer into a phone, without the expensive long distance rates or monthly minute restrictions. The best part is that instant messaging, audio and video chats are free when used between Skype accounts.

This beginners guide will walk you through installing Skype, as well as building your contacts list and other basic essentials to get yourself up and running. You’ll be chatting in no time!

Installation and username setup

Skype is a desktop application, which means you’ll need to download and then install it before you can get started. Skype is available for both Windows PCs and Macs. Although this guide is geared toward Windows users, many of the tips can be applied to Mac as well.

Once installed, launch the program via the Skype desktop icon. A sign-in screen will appear, prompting you for your username and password.

If you don’t have a username yet, click the blue “create a new account” link. You’ll be asked to choose a username and fill out some basic information. Once completed, you can log into your new account and get started.

Finding new contacts and customizing your account

Locating new contacts

There are a couple of ways to find people to talk to on Skype.

First, you can click the “Add a contact” button on the bottom left of Skype’s interface. It’s right below your contacts list. This will bring up another window that allows you to search for other users by their email address, phone number, full name or their Skype username.

You can also search for friends who use Skype via Facebook. Just click on the Facebook icon to the right of your contacts list. You can connect Skype to Facebook in a matter of seconds and be well on your way to adding contacts.

Once added, these new people will appear in your contacts list, with profiles pictures if they’ve added them and statuses that indicate their availability to chat.

Adding a profile picture

Although this is optional, you can choose to add a profile picture to further customize your Skype account.

Navigate over to the profile tab in your right hand Skype window (alternatively, go to File > Profile > Change Your Picture in the menu bar) and click “Change picture” link.

A new window will subsequently appear, and Skype will automatically try to verify whether or not you have a webcam installed. If you do, you have the option to capture an image of yourself and add it as your profile picture immediately. If you’d prefer to use a picture you already have saved on your computer, click the “Choose file” button in the window’s lower left corner.

Setting up your Skype status

Make sure your contacts know when you’re available on Skype. You can choose from the following different statuses: Online, Away, Do Not Disturb, Invisible or Offline. These statuses will give your contacts a good idea of your availability and whether it’s appropriate to message or call you.

When it comes to your Away status, you can determine how long your computer is allowed to remain inactive before Skype automatically switches your status to Away. Go to Tools > Options on your menu bar. From there, choose General settings and check the box marked “Show me as Away when I’ve been inactive for __ minutes.” Also indicate how many minutes in the relevant space.

Note that your contacts can still message you when you’re listed as Away or Do Not Disturb. If you want true privacy, either opt to go Offline or pick Invisible.

Invisible status is a great option if you want to limit who you talk to on Skype. Unlike in Offline status, you can see which of your Skype contacts are online when you choose to be on Invisible. They just can’t see you. You can chat with any of your contacts while using this status, but you’re much less likely to receive messages from others, since you’ll appear as Offline to everyone else. It’s the best way to chat incognito!

Now you’ve got all the basics, you should be able to use Skype without any problems. Please ask in the comments sections if you have any difficulties!

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