Tech Tips: How to Use Skype Like A Pro

Meet Tekspert Lorne. A technical specialist with Senior Planet-OATS, Lorne is the resident “tekspert” among his friends. Look out for his bi-weekly Tech Tips.

lorneIt’s easier than ever to talk to — and see — family and friends across the world with videophones. Skype is one of the simplest and most popular videophone solution out there, but even if you’ve been using it successfully, there probably are still ways that you improve the experience by making the sound clearer, turning off video when you don’t feel like being seen, letting people know when you’re up for a call and sending pictures or other files to your contact while you’re talking.

Try these Skype tips:

Use Skype’s Sound Tester to Change Volume Settings

Never say “I can’t hear you” again. With Skype’s simple sound tester, you can make sure you are loud enough and that you will be able to hear the caller on the other end.

Accessing Skype sound settings on a PC

Click on the Tools menu and choose Audio Settings. You should then see this page:

skype windows audio settings

Accessing Skype sound settings on a Mac

Click the main Skype menu and choose Preferences. From here, click on Audio/Video. The Mac sound settings page looks like this:

soundtest

Adjusting your sound settings in Sound Tester

Whether you’re using a PC or Mac, in the Sound Tester settings you can select your microphone and speakers, and check the levels for each. To make sure your voice is being picked up, try speaking toward your computer screen. You should see the volume meter in the microphone meter react as you speak.

Make sure not to turn your speakers up too loud, or they may start causing feedback.

If you have trouble hearing, you can also connect a pair of headphones to your computer.

How to Turn Off  Video in Skype

Yearning for the classic phone call experience or having trouble with your connection? Skype allows you to disable your video camera so that your voice will be heard but the person you’re talking to won’t see you. If you have a slower connection, disabling the video may also help improve sound quality and prevent drop-outs.

To disable video, click the camera icon in the lower left corner of your screen.

hidevideo

This will disable your video camera while your audio connection remains loud and clear. You can always click the camera icon again to turn your camera back on.

Logout and Change Your Availability

If you’re using Skype in a public setting, such as a library or senior center, you will want to make sure to log yourself out. At home, you might prefer to stay logged in, but you might want to let friends and family know when you are available. You have several options for availability settings on Skype:

  • Online (this is the default setting when you are on Skype; your contacts will know you are available to connect)
  • Away (this shows when you’re away from your computer — your contacts can still try to call you)
  • Do Not Disturb (your contact can try to call you, but  you won’t be alerted with the ringing sound)
  • Invisible (this will make it appear as if you are offline, even if you’re on Skype)
  • Offline (the default setting when you’re not online or logged in to Skype)
How to log out of Skype and set availability on a PC

In Windows, these options are available from the Skype menu.

status change windows

How to log out of Skype and set availability on a Mac

On a Mac, these options are available from the File menu. You can choose Sign Out to log off, or Change Status to select a new status.

statuschangemac

Send Messages and Files During a Skype Call

In addition to video chat, Skype also offers text-based chat tools and lets you send images and other files during a conversation.

To do this, look for the icon in the lower right corner of the Skype window during a call. When you hover your mouse pointer over the button it will say “Show Chat” or “Open IM.”

Next, you’ll see a chat box where you can type messages to your contact. You can even click the icon(s) in the lower right corner to send images, video and other files. Your call will stay connected, so your conversation will not be interrupted while you send files.

showchat

sendchat

Happy Skyping!

4 comments
  • David
    REPLY

    I am starting to look at how Senior Seniors can use Skype. You know someone who is in a home, limited mobility, limited hearing, eyesight and memory.

    Thoughts?

    • Barbara Aria, Senior Planet editor
      REPLY

      Hi Emily, Erica is still writing for Senior Planet — you’ll see a new tech piece from her on the website very soon. Thanks for your feedback on this Tech Tip, which is part of a new series of how-to’s we’ll run alongside Erica’s more general tech articles. We’re listening, and will be responsive as we add more Tech Tips to the site.

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