Using Skype to make free telephone calls
Skype is a program that allows you to make free telephone calls from your computer to other people who have Skype anywhere in the world. It also runs on some mobile phones. You’ll sometimes hear people call this ‘Internet telephony’ or use its technical name ‘VOIP’ (Voice over Internet Protocol). There are several programs that can do this, but Skype is the most popular, and it’s free!
Free alternatives to Skype
There are other free online phone services available they include:
- Google voice
- Facetime: available only on some Apple products
- Viber: a free app for smartphones
Download the print version
Watch the Skype overview video
Is it really free?
- The Skype software is free and you can download it from Skype’s website.
- Calls between people who have Skype on their computers or phones are free.
- Calls from Skype to normal telephone services cost the caller money. Costs vary depending where in the world you are calling, but it’s generally much cheaper than using standard telephones.
What do I need?
- A computer with Skype installed.
- A microphone and speakers attached to your computer and properly set up. For best results use a computer headset which has a microphone and headphones built in.
Step 1: Run Skype
Click on the Start menu, then select Skype.
The Skype application launches, showing the Welcome screen.
Step 2: Logging in to Skype
Type in the Skype name and Password you created when you signed up earlier in this tutorial.
The Skype main window displays:
The picture of the Skype main window above shows a list of contacts that have already been added to Skype. Since this is the first time you’re logging on, there will only be one contact in this list.
Step 3: Testing Skype
- In the contacts list you’ll see a contact called ‘Skype Test Call’. A test call allows you to check your microphone and speakers or your headset to make sure Skype is properly set up.
- Right-click on Skype Test Call and select Call.
- Skype dials its test number, and an automated voice answers, asking you to leave a message. Leave a short message to yourself and then wait to hear it played back.
- If you hear your message played back clearly, then you are ready to use Skype!
Step 4: Add a Skype contact
Click on the New button, then select New Contact:
The Add a Contact window displays:
- Type in the Skype name, full name or email address of the person you want to call, then click on the Find button.
- Skype searches through its database to find matching contacts. If the person you are looking for displays, click on their name and then click on the Add Contact button at the bottom of the window.
Step 5: Call your new contact
- In the Skype main window, look for the name of your contact. The icon to the left of their name shows their current status. If it shows an arrow in a green cloud, then they’re on-line and ready for your call.
- Right-click on the name of your contact and select Call. It’s that easy!
Adding Skype credit
If you want to make calls to people who do not use Skype, you need to add credit to your Skype account.
Step 1: Check your current credit
Your current Skype credit is shown on the Skype main window:
Step 2: Click on the ‘Buy more’ link
- Next to your Skype Credit, click on the link labelled ‘Buy More’.
- The Buy credit window displays:
Step 3: Choose an amount and a payment method
- In the Buy credit window you can specify the amount of credit you want to add to your account, and a payment method. You can pay using your credit card or Paypal.
- Follow the on-screen instructions to finish adding credit to your account.
Calling someone who isn't on Skype
Step 1: Click on the Call phones button
Click on the Call phones button at the bottom of the Skype window:
The Call phones window pops up, showing a key pad, just like the one on a telephone.
Step 2: Dial your number
- Use the keypad to enter the telephone number.
- If you are calling an overseas number, click on the flag to the left of the phone number to select the country you are calling. This automatically adds the correct overseas dialling codes.
- Click on the Call button to start dialling.
- A new window pops up showing the details of your call.
Step 3: Rather send a text?
- You can also send text messages to mobile phones anywhere in the world from this window.
- Use the keypad to enter the telephone number.
- If you are sending a message to an overseas number, click on the flag to the left of the phone number to select the country. This automatically adds the correct overseas dialling codes.
- Click on the SMS button. A new window pops up which has a space at the bottom for you to enter your text message:
A standard SMS text is 160 characters long. You can type a longer message than that, but it will be sent as more than one text message and cost more.
To the right of the texting area you’ll see two pieces of useful information. One is an indication of how many more characters you can type before another text message has to be sent. The other is an indication of the cost of sending this message to the country you have selected.
What else can you do with Skype?
Skype has many more features we haven’t covered here. Here are just a few of them:
- You can set up voicemail so that people can leave messages for you if you miss a call.
- If you have a webcam on your computer you can make video calls with other Skype users.
- You can make conference calls and video conference calls.
- You can purchase an on-line telephone number in another country so that people in that country can call you from their standard telephones for the cost of a local call.