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Seeing What Skype Can Do for You

Skype can dramatically alter how you exchange information, how you meet new people, and how you interact with friends, family, and colleagues. Although you can make calls on Skype, there is oh so much more to it. For starters, here are some things you get or can do with Skype:

  • Call to or receive a call from a regular telephone, a cell phone, or a computer on the Internet.
  • Send or receive files over the Internet to and from fellow skypers.
  • Search your Outlook contacts and call them within Skype.
  • Search the Skype database of all Skype users on the planet.
  • Hold a conference call with a group of people. Besides participating in audio conferencing, you can "simul-chat" with your conference participants — exchanging text, live Web links, and files.
  • Make live video calls.
  • Initiate a group chat.
  • Hold a Skypecast for as many as 100 people at a time.
  • Transmit secure and encrypted voice conversations, text, file transfers, and video.

To use Skype, you need only three things:

  • A computer with access to the Internet: Your Internet connection should be faster than dial-up. Just as Web access with dial-up does not work very well, the same is true of Skype with a dial-up connection. You're best off using a high-speed broadband connection DSL or cable
  • A microphone and headset: Plenty of audio device options are available, ranging from inexpensive ($20 or so) to a little more pricey.

That's it. To be able to make your first call, you just download the Skype software from the Internet, create a Skype Name for yourself, test your audio connection through Skype, and you're good to go. You can talk to fellow Skype users around the world without any time limits and without having to pay anyone.

If you want more than just the basic service, however, you will have to pay. Skype is free when you talk to another Skype user on a PC. But what if you want to call, say, your grandmother, who doesn't have a computer? For a small fee (as low as two cents a minute or even free), you can "SkypeOut" from your computer to a conventional phone. The cost depends on whether she's in the same country as you are and how long you speak. Similarly, someone who doesn't have Skype can call you using the "SkypeIn" feature.

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