One of the coolest features of Skype is that you can make phone calls to other people who use Skype, and it's absolutely free! What's more, you can even use Skype to make a phone call to someone's home or mobile phone! This feature costs money, though; we'll cover it at the end of this tutorial.
Phone calls using Skype are made possible by a set of technologies known as "Voice over Internet Protocol", or "VoIP" for short. VoIP is able to convert the analog audio signal of your voice (when you talk, as if you were making a regular phone call) into a digital signal that can travel over the Internet, and then turn it back into an analog signal so that the person on the other end can hear and understand it.
Basically, all that you need on your computer for VoIP to work is a microphone, speakers, a sound card, and an Internet connection. Most modern computers have all of these things, as do many modern portable electronic devices (such as smart phones). The only thing missing is a program that can take care of the back-end technical stuff easily... a program like Skype.
Open your Skype desktop program and log in.
Click on a person in your contacts list to select them, and then click the call button () in the top-right corner. (As a shortcut, you can also hold down the "Ctrl" key and press "R" after selecting the contact whom you wish to call.)
The "Call" interface on Skype is quite a bit different than the "Messenger" interface. Click on the yellow buttons () in the screenshot below to learn what some of the different features do.
This shows you who you're talking to, and how long the call has lasted.
Click here to hide all other windows in Skype and make the call window take up your entire screen. Click it again to go back to a normal-sized screen.
Click here to show or hide your contacts list on the left-hand side.
Turn Camera On/Off
You can click here to quickly switch between a normal phone call and a video chat.
See our Skype Video Chat tutorial for more information.
Click here to turn your microphone on or off. This might be useful if you're trying to listen to the other person, and noise in the background at your location is being picked up by the microphone and making the other person difficult to hear.
This button brings up a menu that lets you do some advanced things, such as:
Send a computer file to the person you're calling
Send a person's contact information on Skype to the person you're calling
Share your screen with the person you're calling (so that they see what you see)
Add other contacts to the current call
When you're done talking to this person, click here to hang up.
Call Quality Options
If you're having trouble hearing the other person, or the other way around, click here for some options that can help fix that, such as adjusting the volume on your microphone or speakers.
Click here to show or hide the "Messenger" window on the right-hand side. You may want to keep it open in case the call stops working, or one of you wants to share something like an Internet link with the other.
(See our Using Skype Messenger tutorial if you need a refresher on how Skype's "messenger" function works.)
To make a group call on Skype, you must first create a group, and then place contacts in that group whom you wish to call, and then make the call.
Start by clicking on the Contacts menu at the top of the screen, and then clicking Create New Group.
Next, click the add people button () in the top-right corner to make a menu appear. Click the check boxes beside the names of the contacts whom you want to add to the group, and then click Add to Group.
Now that you have a group with some of your contacts in it, click the call button () to have a phone call with all of them at once.
NOTE: You can only have up to 25 other people on one call at a time. (However, we're guessing that won't be a problem, unless you're having a REALLY big family reunion.)
The interface for making a group call is pretty much the same as it is for making a call to one person.
As we mentioned above, using Skype to make a phone call to another person who is using Skype is absolutely free. You can also use Skype to make a phone call to a regular home or mobile phone number, but this will cost you money. How much money it will cost you generally depends on where the phone number you are trying to call is located in the world.
To see the general rates for using Skype to call home or mobile phone numbers, go to www.skype.com in your web browser, move your mouse cursor over Prices to make a drop-down menu appear, and then click Rates. Click inside the box labelled "Search for the country/region you want to call", and type in the place that you're going to be calling from Skype most often. Then, click one of the suggestions that appears in the drop-down box to select it. This will display phone call rates (among others) to that area in the window below the search box.
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