I am a big believer in using encrypted chat programs such as Signal, but not everyone is rocking the tin foil hat like I am. A lot of people, such as your parents and maybe even your grandparents, are using Skype. Some may not care that the NSA is listening to their conversations about last night’s America’s Got Talent. So you are forced to continue using Skype with them if you want to stay in touch.
Skype is not a bad app but it has definitely undergone some changes, for better or worse, since Microsoft took it over. Still, for keeping in general touch with family, friends, and business colleagues, Skype is still one of the good ones.
10 Skype Tips & Hacks
In all of my years of using Skype (and I have been using it right from the very start), here are the Skype tips and hacks I have found most useful. Be aware though that some may not work if you are using the Skype app from the Windows 10 store. The Windows 10 store app varies in some subtle ways from the version on the Skype website.
Run Two Instances Of Skype At The Same Time (Mac Only)
Once upon a time, I used to work for an online call center that used Skype numbers. This meant running multiple instances of Skype on my desktop so each number would always be available for someone to call me. But how do you get more than one Skype to open at the same time?
I haven’t been able to find a way for Windows computers yet (if you know of one, let me know please). But on a Mac, it’s a simple case of opening the Terminal, and typing in the following :
#!/bin/bash rm ~/Library/Application\ Support/Skype/Skype.pid sleep 1 open -n "/Applications/Skype.app"
Once you do that, a second Skype instance will open and you will be asked to log into the second account.
Use Skype As a Covert Security Camera
This involves having a second account (which is easy enough to do) and also having a second device (such as a smartphone or tablet).
On the second account which will be the “spying account”, you need it to answer all incoming calls automatically (so it doesn’t ring and alert anyone. Besides, who will pick up?). On Windows devices, you can find the setting by going to Tools–>Options–>Calls–>Call Settings–>Show Advanced Options. You will then see an option for Answer Incoming Calls Automatically. Turn that on.
On macOS, click on your avatar at the top left, and in the menu that comes up, choose Calling–>Advanced. You’ll find the option in there. Switch it on.
Now make sure the webcam works as well as the audio.
When you use the first Skype account to call the second account, the call gets answered immediately, and the webcam and sound kick in. You can then use it to keep an eye on your pets, kids, or the babysitter while you’re out.
Transfer Files Without Any Size Limits
Skype enables you to send files to your chat contacts, but what differentiates it from say sending files by email, is that there is no file size limit on Skype. Email typically has a 25MB file size limit and many other file transfer services such as WeTransfer also impose strict limits. But Skype does not and a further advantage is that the file transfer is fairly secure.
If you make a second Skype account belonging to yourself, you can technically transfer files to yourself by passing the file from one account to another.
Disable File Transfer (Windows Only)
If you have a company and are using Skype as your phone line, you may wish to disable file transfer, to stop customers from passing your infected files. Or to stop employees from intentionally or unintentionally passing infected files.
I have only found a Windows method (if you know of a MacOS method, please let me know).
- First, open the Registry Editor by going to the Start Menu and typing in “Run” (without the speech marks). When the Run box appears, type RegEdit. You will be asked if you want to open the Registry Editor. Click “Yes“.
- When the Registry Editor is open, add this new key – HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Policies\Skype\Phone.
- When the key has been created, add a new DWORD value with the name DisableFileTransfer.
- Setting DisableFileTransfer to 1 will disable Skype file transfer. Deleting the key will re-enable file transfer again.
Replace Your Landline Phone With a Skype Number & Voicemail
Call quality has got to the stage now where you can feasibly get rid of your landline and replace it with Skype. The only downside is that Skype still does not support calling the emergency services. For that, you would need to use a mobile phone.
You can buy a Skype number which is a regular phone number that anyone can dial and it will ring your Skype app. The number can be from any part of the country in any country that Skype supports, and if the person lives in that country/area, then they merely pay local rates. A few years back, I had a New York number for a client, and they only paid local rates to call me here in Germany.
Some countries though will only allow you to have a Skype number in that country if you are a resident there. Germany is a prime example, and the last I checked, the Netherlands too. In those instances, you would have to provide proof of residence which would be checked.
Carry Skype On a USB Stick (Windows Only)
If you need to take your Skype on the move with you, then the portable version is your best bet. It’s only for Windows and it is not official in the sense that it is offered by Skype. But it is still a high-quality version which you can trust.
Made by John Haller’s Portable Apps page, you can put it on a USB stick and run it on your Windows laptop.
Back-Up Your Skype History (Windows Only)
This one doesn’t work with the Windows 10 store app. But if you have the installable version from the Skype website, open up the Run box and type in the following :
This then opens up a folder containing a database (“main.db”). Copy the main.db file to a secure backup location as that contains all of your conversations, contacts, and more.
Transfer Skype Contacts From One Account To Another (Windows Only?)
If you are setting up another Skype account, you can transfer over all of your contacts en-masse. This saves you the time and hassle of entering each one individually. Each contact will still have to approve you on your new account though. But if you have hundreds of contacts, being able to transfer them all over to a new account in one go is a great time hack.
However, it only seems to be a Windows feature. I was unable to find the feature on macOS. On Windows, go to Contacts–>Advanced–>Backup Contacts To File. You will then get a VCF file with the contacts inside. To import the contacts to the other account, go to the same menu and choose Restore Contacts From File.
Rename Your Contacts
There’s no way (as yet) to upload your own avatar photos of contacts, but if you dislike what the contact is calling themselves on Skype, you can rename them on your list.
On Windows, just right-click on the name and choose Rename. On a macOS, click on the contact then on their name at the top of the conversation window. This opens up their profile window with a little pencil icon on the right. Clicking the pencil icon will enable you to rename the contact.
Access “Hidden” Emoticons
Skype provides plenty of emoticons to cover every possible conversation but not all of them are widely publicized. Above are some of the ones which you may not know about. Simply type the code and press enter for the code to be converted into the emoticon.
This is obviously nowhere near everything you can do with Skype but they are the ones I think are the most useful ones. Which Skype tips do you know that we should also know? Tell us about them in the comments below.