Hacking Skype: 25 Tips to Improve Your Skype Experience
Updated: May 18, 2009
For millions of users, Skype is the VoIP solution of choice. If you're just getting into this great telephone alternative, you are going to be surprised how much you can do with it. In this article we cover 25 tips, hacks, and extras to help you utilize Skype to its fullest potential.
Starting Simple: Built-In Skype Features you Didn't Know About
Skype is such a rapidly emerging technology that a lot of brand new users aren't even aware of all the built-in features that Skype offers standard, not to mention the add-ons and hacks that you can improve it with. In this section we cover some often overlooked standard features of Skype that can dramatically improve your experience.
1 Call Forwarding
Whether you've set your Skype account up on your home or work computer, the fact is, you are occasionally going to get important calls when you aren't there. Thankfully, you can simply forward those calls to another Skype account or even a cell phone or land line. That way, even if your computer at work is shut down, as soon as a call comes in to your Skype account, the call will immediately ring on your cell phone, your home computer and your home phone line, meaning that no matter where you are you'll be sure to get it.
To forward a call click on the "Tools" menu and select "Options." From there set the forwarding number in the "Call Forwarding & Voicemail" section.
2 Filtering and Blocking Users
Skype is a great tool for both business and pleasure, but if you don't take preventative steps, it can also cause you some serious security problems. Vishing is a new VoIP targeted scam in which cyber-criminals use a VoIP client such as Skype to call people and attempt to trick them into revealing important financial details such as credit card numbers or online passwords. But you can limit these attacks by simply blocking unwanted callers.
To block unknown or unwanted callers, simply click on "Tools" and select "Options." From there, select "Privacy" and choose the level of security that works best for you. When it comes to individual attacks, you can avoid repeat vishing calls by blocking the spammer by clicking on "Manage Blocked Users" in the "Options" dialog.
3 A DIY Home Security System
Whether you want to keep an eye on your pet goldfish from work or just make sure no one has broken in the house while you are on vacation, Skype can double as an away from home monitoring system.
Checking in is simple with Skype's one and two way video calling two separate Skype accounts, a computer at home with a webcam, and access to the Internet. Using one account, setup the home version of Skype to auto-answer calls and automatically fire up the webcam. Then to check in, just use the second Skype account to call the first, and the webcam video will pop up.
4 Providing Customer Support
Got a small business online? Want to offer some customer support without spending a fortune on telephony costs? Skype's graphical click-to-call SkypeMe buttons are ideal for this. Create your SkypeMe button (free account needed) and embed the code in your website, weblog, template, email, or wherever you want it to appear. When someone views your web page (or email message), the button will indicate whether you are online and accepting Skye calls, busy, or offline. If you're on the go and want to receive calls, just leave your Skype client running and set call forwarding (see above).
Plugins, Addons, and Extras
Think of the off-the-shelf version of Skype as a new car without any optional package. Sure, it will still get you to and from work, but it doesn't have any of the bells and whistles that make your new toy exciting. Unlike car options, however, these Skype Plugins and Add-ons won't cost you a fortune, and they're easy to install to boot.
5 Using Skype to Sell your Services
You've got information that other people can use, and with the Bitwine Skype add-on you'll be able to leverage that information into an income stream. Whether you're a lawyer, a mechanic, or a talented collector, there are people willing to pay for the information you have, and using Bitwine makes selling that information easy. Through Bitwine, you set up your hourly rate, then customers approach you about the topic they would like to discuss, you set up a meeting time, and at the end of the meeting Bitwine tallies up the time and will even coordinate payment via PayPal through another add-on, Bitwine extra.
6 Recording Calls
There are a lot of add-on options for recording Skype calls, including the free Audacity audio editor. But Audacity has to be triggered manually, and since you don't always know beforehand when a call should be recorded, the fact that Audacity is manual is a serious limitation. By contrast, there are a number of Skype recorders that start up automatically. HotRecorder is arguably among the best. HotRecorder allows searchable Meta text to be added to each recording, and works with Google Talk and other IM clients. For aspiring Howard Sterns, there's a selection of Emotisounds such as laughs, claps, etc., that can be inserted into the conversation for later podcasting.
7 Enhanced Voicemail
If you use your Skype phone for more than just the occasional long-distance call, you should enhance your voicemail setup beyond the basic Skype standard. Pamela offers (automatic) call recording, an answering machine for voice and video, automated chat reply if you're away, Skype VoiceMail management, and email forwarding of audio files. In addition, Pamela will let you setup a separate greeting or voicemail message for different users, so that your business and personal calls won't hear the same message. And best of all, Pamela allows for remote control, meaning that if you forget to change one of the voicemail settings before you go on vacation, you can make the changes via any computer anywhere.
8 Keep Up With New Music
If you constantly find yourself wondering why everyone else's iPod seems to have better music than yours, maybe its time to start branching out and discovering new music. Last.fm, a Skype add-on provides you with an easy forum to share your own musical preferences and listen to what other people like. With this add-on, you can browse through other Skype and Last.fm user's music collections and listen in. While you're listening, information about the song and artist you're listening to is displayed and you're given the ability to find similar titles.
Setup is really simple, you just need to download the Last.fm extra, sign up for a free account at Last.fm and there download the Last.fm software. For those of you that are Mac users, Last.fm will still work as a Skype add-on, the only difference is that you will need to download the iScrobbler extra to make Last.fm Mac compatible.
9 Universal Chat and Language Translation
It's a global world out there, so whether you're conducting business or pleasure with Skype, you are likely communicating with people around the world and may occasionally encounter language barriers. Thankfully, by using the quick add-on Universal Chat Translator you can communicate with anyone no matter what language they speak. The software only produces text translations, so you may feel like you're watching a foreign film with subtitles, but the fact that the Universal Translator can read text in 11 languages and understand spoken text in 50 means that you'll at least be able to get your point across.
10 A Complete Small Business Collaboration Solution
If you're running a small business or working as part of a team on a single project, real-time collaboration is essential. There's no better way to supplement your Skype conferencing than with a collaborative desktop provided by Skype add-on Unyte. Unyte lets you choose which applications or documents to share with the other people on your conference call. Then everyone can be looking at the same documents at the same time, and when changes are made they appear on everyone's screen so that there is no confusion. Pricing depends on the number of people you want to bring in on the conference, but you can give two-person collaboration a try for free.
11 Combining Real-Time Document and Voice Collaboration
If the setup hassles of Unyte are too much for you, a simpler solution that redefines easy-setup is TalkandWrite. TalkandWrite will give you video and voice conferencing as well as handle real-time collaborative document editing. That means, that not only will the changes you make be reflected on the other person's screen, but you'll also be able to see and talk with the other person about those changes as you make them. This easy Skype add-on can be a real time-saver for anyone who spends time working with a small team preparing for a project.
With the advent first of cordless phones and then cell phones, every communication device is going mobile. So it doesn't make sense that your most advanced communication tool, Skype, should keep you tethered to your computer. Here are a few Skype add-ons and extras to give you the freedom to get out from behind your desk.
12 Bluetooth and Skype
The first step to mobility is just cutting the cord that connects you to your computer when you're using Skype. You can think of this step as the advent of the cordless phone for Skype, it will get you mobile, but only within certain limits. Most newer computers are already Bluetooth capable, so purchasing and synching up a Bluetooth wireless earpiece or headset is extremely simple. In fact, you can use a single Bluetooth earpiece to handle calls from both Skype and your cell phone, so you may not need to buy anything if you're already using a Bluetooth earpiece with your mobile. The only downside to going Skype wireless via Bluetooth is that you are limited by Bluetooth as to how far from your computer you can be. But for those that are just looking for a way to cut the wire and have a little more mobility around the office, Bluetooth is the perfect solution.
13 Mobile Phone Skype Calling
Imagine if you could use SkypeIn or SkypeOut from your cell phone: you could make and receive phone calls to people around the world with the convenience of your cell phone but the pricing of Skype. Thankfully, that day is already here, but a surprising number of Skype fans just don't yet know about the capability. Ego has been offering their Skype based cell phone service for almost a year. It lets you see who is online, make and receive calls with your Skype contacts, and use Skype Instant Messaging.
If the idea of carrying both a Skype phone and a regular cell phone doesn't suit you, TalkPlus has hacked the Skype API to create a server that functions as a Skype client, demonstrating that integrating Skype calls and regular mobile calls will soon be a reality. In fact, in November 2006, TalkPlus demonstrated a successful mobile call to Skype test id echo123. Their hack was then made public, and could be installed on mobile phones to talk to the Skype server. Since then, the service has temporarily gone MIA, but expect that very soon full cell phone/Skype integration will be a reality.
14 Skype on a Cell Phone…Indirectly
While the ultimate goal is complete Skype/ mobile integration, for now you can get a lot of the functionality of a Skype mobile phone by routing your mobile through your home Skype setup. By using a Phone Diverter, which will allow your cell phone to communicate with your computer, you can enable Skype on your mobile phone indirectly.
Essentially, you will be using your mobile phone to call your home computer, which will in turn ask you to enter a password, and then allow you to use your SkypeOut credits to call your Skype friends. While the system isn't yet perfect, in part because you'll be racking up both your cell phone and SkypeOut minutes at once, it is an effective way to be able to make Skype calls from your cell phone now.
15 Bringing Skype to your TV
Imagine, you hear your Skype phone ring, but it's the fourth quarter of the game, and who knows if the call is even important. You don't want to get up, but it seems you have no choice. Thankfully, with mcePhone you won't have to get up to find out who is calling ever again, as your incoming Skype calls will simply pop up on your TV screen.
From your TV you'll be able to see your own Skype-Status (online, offline, etc), the number of SkypeOut credits you have, which of your Skype friends are currently online, and whether you have any new voicemails. And when a new call comes in, a small window automatically pops up letting you know who the caller is, and it will even let you decide whether you want to accept, ignore, or reject the call all by remote control.
16 Having your Skype Announce Who is Calling
Despite its simplicity, AudioID is easily one of the most useful Skype hacks for home users. AudioID will allow you to setup an individualized announcement for each caller that will play over your computer or home speaker system. So instead of hearing a generic computer ring from somewhere way back in the home office, you can hear a clear message from your computer, "Call from Kristy" which will let you decide whether you need to run back to take the call or whether it can wait until later.
Pure Silliness: Skype Hacks Designed to Entertain
Much of Skype's appeal is the connectivity and productivity it brings to its users. But Skype can also just be a great way to have a whole lot of fun. These simple hacks will help you do just that.
17 Voice Analysis Love Detector
Whether you're using a Skype based dating service or are just want to know if that secret crush feels the same way about you, the Love Detector is a fun Skype add-on that uses SENSE voice analysis technology to detect love and other emotions over your Skype calls. But before you rush out and purchase the full version, you can give this add-on a free trial run and start testing how people really feel about you.
18 Making Board Games Fun Again
Need a break from work but need to stay in front of the computer so your boss doesn't get suspicious? There are a whole host of classic board games that you can add-on to Skype for some fun diversion. With Backgammon, Bingo, Chess and Checkers, you can compete against your fellow Skype users using 'old-school' games with 'new-school' interfaces.
19 KishKish Lie Detector
If you're using your Skype phone to conduct business deals and you want to make sure the other party is being truthful, or you just want to prove once and for all that your boyfriend is a cheater, try KishKish, the Skype Lie Detector add-on. KishKish detects the stress level of the person you are talking with over Skype, and it uses that information to detect when they are lying.
20 Creating a Lip-Snyc-ing Avatar to Hide Behind
Video calls can be great for connecting with people on a more personal level. But sometimes, whether because we don't know the caller well or it just hasn't been a good morning, we don't want to be seen. Instead of feeling embarrassed in front of the camera, CrazyTalk allows you to create your own Skype video avatar and have him/ her lip-sync anything you say. This fun add-on is surprisingly simple to setup and use, and will allow you create your own custom avatar from any digital photo. Once set up, it takes just a click to have the avatar pop up, cover the Skype video screen and begin lip-sync-ing.
21 Disguising your Voice
There's nothing more entertaining than changing your voice to mess with your friends. Whether you want to impersonate their boss or their girlfriend, DoNaut has got you covered.
This easy to install Skype add-on will allow you to adjust the tone and quality of your voice throughout the call. In addition, you can use DoNaut to pipe in some background music to your Skype calls off your favorite music player such as iTunes, or Windows Media Player.
22 "Can I Have Your Number?" … "Umm, No."
Whether from a bad blind date, or a sales person that just won't take no for an answer, we've all been in a situation where we didn't want to give the person our phone number or Skype information, but it seemed unavoidable.
Thankfully, the folks that compiled the original NotMyNumber Directory have given Skype users the ability to provide people with a fake number as well. This simple Skype add-on will give you access to local numbers in every major city that are guaranteed to be inactive. That way, when someone you don't want to talk to asks you for your Skype number, you can very casually access the Skype NotMyNumber Tool and offer them a completely fake number.
If you're tech savvy and really want to push your Skype setup to the limit, this list of advanced hacks can help you create functionalities that are sure to improve your experience and wow your friends. But be forewarned, even though a lot of these hacks will be simple to advanced tweakers, if you're new to Skype you may find some of these hacks are over your head.
23 Multiple Logins
If Skype has become your family's communication device of choice, then no doubt you have experienced the problem of having multiple members of your family trying to use your home Skype account at the same time. For a quick fix to this problem, just setup setup multiple logins, so that everyone in the family can use their Skype ID whenever they want. So far this hack is only available for Windows XP users, but keep an eye out for a hack compatible with your OS in the near future.
24 Wake-up Call
If you're a regular business traveler, finding yourself without a wake-up call can be a big problem. Thankfully, by following this hack tutorial you can use the "Scheduled Task" feature in Windows XP to set a time and have Skype call the hotel phone to wake you up.
25 Design your own Hack
Don't see a hack here that interests you? Or maybe you need custom functionality and can't wait for someone to create it. Skype has open developer API, so you can write your own plugins which can be created in HTML or Java, or as an EXE or DLL. If you're looking for a community to help you with some of the programming hurdles, the Skype Developer Zone blog will even keep your questions private so that no one steals your new idea before you get it finished. And when your application is complete, the site also offers a Publishing Studio Publication Studio to manage your published component.
This list of 25 Skype hacks, modifications and add-ons are all designed for one thing… improving your Skype Experience. And with your newfound Skype knowledge you are now just a hack away from experiencing this great service in ways you never have before. So go out, implement a hack or two, and enjoy your improved Skype service. Happy Skype-ing!
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