Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Forwarding calls when you can’t answer

Skype’s call forwarding feature is very simple to set up and operate. It works like this: If someone calls you on Skype and you’re not able to answer, the call is routed to the first Skype ID or SkypeOut number in your call-forward list. If the call receives no answer there, it is routed to the next number on your call-forward list.
You can call forward to as many as three Skype IDs or SkypeOut numbers. Skype-to-Skype forwarding is always free. Forwarding to a landline or to a cell phone incurs the regular SkypeOut charges and requires that your account have SkypeOut credit. The account that does the skyping out pays for the call, which makes sense. Suppose you’re in the United States and, from your PC, you skype someone located in France. If that person has enabled call forwarding to his or her cell phone, then he or she (and not you) incurs the SkypeOut charges.
For basic call forwarding, follow these steps:
  1. Start Skype and choose Tools>Options from the main menu. The Skype Options dialog box appears.
  2. Click Call Forwarding & Voicemail.
  3. Select (check) the Forward Calls When I Am Not on Skype check box, enter the Skype name you want your calls forwarded to in the Enter Phone Number combo box, and click Save.
For call forwarding to more than one Skype name or SkypeOut number, follow these steps:
  1. Start Skype and choose Tools>Options from the main menu. The Skype Options dialog box appears.
  2. Click Call Forwarding & Voicemail.
  3. Click the Advanced Settings link, select (check) the Forward Calls When I Am Not on Skype check box, and enter the Skype names you want your calls forwarded to in the Enter Phone Number combo box.
  4. Enter the additional Skype names or SkypeOut numbers (see Figure) as appropriate in the remaining Enter Phone Number combo boxes and click Save.
If you are uncertain how to enter a SkypeOut number, click the Get Help Entering Phone Numbers link, which takes you to the Web page at www.skype.com/products/skypeout/rates/dialing.html. This page provides assistance on correctly entering SkypeOut numbers, including looking up the appropriate country codes.
You must have Skype credit to forward a call to a SkypeOut number. Interestingly, Skype Voicemail does not record forwarded messages. Systems such as Pamela (described later in the chapter) do, and they add some other very cool features. Skype Voicemail and call forwarding offer basic functionality, but other messaging features in Skype (such as SMS messaging) and add-on products that work with Skype (such as Skylook and Pamela) offer you more.

Taking messages with Skype Voicemail

Skype supports an easy-to-use voicemail system. One convenient benefit of using Skype Voicemail is that your audio messages — both your greeting and the incoming messages people leave you — are not stored on your computer but instead are stored remotely on Skype’s central servers. As a result, you don’t have to worry about missing calls when you turn off your computer. Before you can use Skype Voicemail, you have a bit of setup to do. The following steps show you how to start your setup and record the Voicemail greeting that your callers will hear:
  1. Start Skype and choose Tools➪Options from the main menu. The Skype Options dialog box appears.
  2. In the list on the left side of the Options dialog box, click Call Forwarding & Voicemail, as shown in Figure. The right portion of the Options dialog box changes to show the settings related to these two services.
  3. In the Voicemail section on the right, select the Send Unanswered Calls to Skype Voicemail check box to activate your voicemail. Below the Voicemail section of the dialog box, you find the Welcome Message section containing the three buttons you’ll use to record and play back your Voicemail greeting.
  4. In the Welcome Message section of the dialog box, click the Record button (the button with the triangle) and speak the Voicemail greeting you want callers to hear (see Figure). Your greeting or welcome message may be up to 60 seconds in length. If you have a SkypeIn number, don’t forget to use part of that time in your welcome message to tell your callers to leave their phone number.
  5. Click the Stop button (the button with the dot) when you’re finished recording.
  6. Click the Replay button (the button with the arrow) to listen to the message you just recorded. If you don’t like what you hear, you can return to Step 4 and re-record your greeting.
  7. When you’re satisfied that you recorded the perfect message, click Save.
Skype Voicemail has an advanced setting that you can use to avoid being interrupted by additional calls if you’re already speaking on a call. To select this setting, click the Advanced Settings link in the Voicemail section of the Options dialog box (refer to Figure) and select the I Am Already in a Call check box in the resulting Advanced Voicemail Settings dialog box . You also find settings for other situations in which calls are sent to your Voicemail, as follows:
  • When you don’t answer: In the appropriate text box, enter a number (of seconds) that tells Skype how long to wait for you to answer the phone.
  • When you reject an incoming call: Select the appropriately named
check box if you want to send rejected calls to Voicemail. You can easily sign up for or renew your Voicemail service by going to your Skype account log-in page and clicking the Buy Now button under Skype Voicemail. If you are already using the Skype Voicemail service, you should see an Extend button instead of Buy Now. The URL for reaching your login page is generally https://secure.skype.com/store/myaccount/ overview.html.

Staying Connected via Skype

Voicemail is nothing new, and Skype comes with basic voicemail capabilities as an optional feature that you can choose to purchase. If you decide to buy the SkypeIn service, your voicemail costs change from fee to free! That’s because Skype Voicemail is bundled in as a free service when you get a SkypeIn number.
Skype offers two other familiar features for helping you manage your messages:
call forwarding and SMS (Short Message System) messaging, which is a standard used for text messaging. You may incur associated fees if you forward calls to a landline or cell phone, and fees for sending text messages depend on the message length and the number of recipients. But the best part about these three messaging features is that they’re easy to use.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Redeeming Skype Credit from a Voucher

Many third-party products include vouchers for services such as SkypeIn, SkypeOut, or Voicemail. If you have a voucher, you can redeem it by following these steps.
  1. Go to the following Skype Web page: https://secure.skype.com/store/voucher/redeem.html Enter your Skype Name and password. If you are already signed in (you may have recently looked at your My Skype Account Overview page, which requires that you sign in), your Skype Name automatically appears in the form and you are not asked to provide a password. No sense in logging in when you’re already logged in! The Skype Web site is constantly undergoing changes, so the URL for this page may change.
  2. Enter your voucher number in the Enter Voucher Details text input box. You don’t have to specify the kind of Skype credit you are redeeming. From your voucher number, Skype can automatically tell whether you are redeeming SkypeIn credit, SkypeOut credit, Skype Voicemail, or any other type of Skype-related service or product.
  3. Select the I Agree to the Skype Terms of Service check box and then click the Redeem Voucher button.
Depending on what you are redeeming, you can get an instant confirmation (such as for Voicemail or SkypeOut, or to extend existing SkypeIn service) that your voucher was successfully redeemed. Other types of services may require additional processing. For example, you may be purchasing SkypeIn for the first time. In this case, you need to specify the country code, area code, and so on. Rather than pay with a credit card or something similar, you can use your voucher.

Buying SkypeIn

The process of buying SkypeIn works much the same way as buying SkypeOut credit:
  1. Go to www.skype.com and click the Sign In link. You should see this link at the top of the page.
  2. In the text input field, enter your Skype Name and password and click Secure Sign In. The My Skype Account Overview page opens, which allows you to buy all the different Skype services: SkypeIn, SkypeOut, and Skype Voicemail. This page also provides account information settings that you may have, including details on your SkypeOut calls.
  3. Directly under the topic SkypeIn, within the Skype and Ordinary Phones section, click the Buy Now button. There are several Buy Now buttons. Make sure that you click the correct one immediately underneath SkypeIn! In the Payments section of your My Skype Account Overview page, you can choose a form of currency. If the currency is set to euros and your currency should be U.S. dollars, you can change it by clicking the Change link, choosing the currency type, selecting the appropriate radio button, and then clicking the Change Currency button. You can buy SkypeIn credit with any of about 15 different currencies. The My Skype Account Overview page is divided into various sections: Call Phones within the U.S. and Canada for Free; Skype and Ordinary Phones; Account Settings; and Payments. Within the Payments section, you can set your preferred currency. Make this choice before you buy SkypeIn credit or any other Skype credit, because if you change your currency, you will incur an exchange fee on your available Skype credit. You set the currency by clicking the Change link in the Payments section.
  4. Select the country from which your Skype phone originates. You can pick from at least 14 countries: Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong S.A.R. China, Japan, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Clicking the country flag or name takes you to a new page.
  5. Select the area code and choose a local phone number from a list of available numbers within the area code. Depending on the country you choose, you may or may not be prompted to select an area code (some countries have only one area code for the whole country). Skype generates a list of available numbers for you to pick from. Although Skype provides you with a computer-generated list of numbers, you can pick a pattern, and Skype sees whether it is available. The pattern can include letters and the asterisk (*) wildcard character. As a pattern, you can enter ***Mary and you might get numbers like 367-6279, 123-679, or 333-6279. When you buy SkypeIn, Voicemail is included at no extra charge with your SkypeIn subscription.
  6. Click Buy Selected Number. An invoicing page appears, and you can choose between a 3- or 12-month subscription. You’re also prompted to provide billing information, including your name and address.
  7. Select your payment method. Payment options include PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, regular bank transfer, Moneybookers, and JCB.
  8. Verify the accuracy of your order, complete your payment information, and click Submit. If you are charging your SkypeIn credit to a credit card, you need to enter your credit card number and expiration date. Some countries may require you to pay a Value Added Tax, or VAT. When payment is complete, you see a confirmation page with your order number and order details. It’s always a good idea to print this confirmation page.
For each SkypeIn phone number you get, you pay a set fee for either a threemonth period or a full year. You can have multiple SkypeIn numbers but you’re currently limited to 10 such numbers. Suppose you work for an aerospace firm with offices in San Jose, California, and Denver, Colorado. You may be doing a lot of work in Washington, D.C. You can get SkypeIn numbers for the area codes 408, 303, and 202. This way, your associates in those same area codes can reach you without incurring charges no matter where you are.You might be attending a conference in Toronto, Canada, or visiting family in North Carolina.

SkypeIn is a practical service to have. If you have a small business and want to establish an international presence, SkypeIn is a great way to leverage your resources.
When you list your SkypeIn number on your business card or company letterhead, you can identify it as a tie-line number (that is, a phone number that you set up through Skype), but be sure to indicate the time zone people are calling into. Otherwise, you may be getting calls many hours earlier or later than you are prepared to receive them!

Understanding SkypeIn

With SkypeIn, people in a given region or country can call you by dialing into a local phone number that you set up through Skype. It is just a local call for them, but they can reach you anytime and anywhere in the world you are, as long as you are logged onto Skype. When you get SkypeIn, you also get free Skype Voicemail, so if you’re not connected to Skype when people try to reach you, you can receive messages.
When people call you using SkypeIn, they don’t pay for anything other than the normal charges for calling your local SkypeIn number. If you set up a SkypeIn number that is based in London (with an area code of 207 and country code +44), anyone in London can dial the local number you give them. They pay only the cost of a local call. You can then be anywhere in the world — Madrid, Paris, Nashville, and so on. Anyone can call you from a regular telephone and can talk for hours, and all the caller pays is the cost of the local call in the London. The telephone companies are happy because they get to charge for a call. Skype is happy because you just rented a SkypeIn number for the year. Your caller is happy to talk as long as he or she wants, very inexpensively. Now if your friend Ian from Edinburgh, Scotland, tries to reach you using your SkypeIn number based in London, he pays whatever it costs to place a call from Edinburgh to London. The cost from Edinburgh to London is not a local call, but if you are currently visiting Melbourne, Australia, it’s certainly much less expensive than calling to Australia.
It’s really that simple.
SkypeIn phone numbers can be acquired for Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong S.A.R., Japan, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and United States. This list of countries is expanding, as are individual area codes with the countries, so check www. skype.com from time to time for updates.

Keeping track of your SkypeOut accounting information

Another nice feature of SkypeOut is that you can easily review all your SkypeOut calls in a clearly organized Web-based table.
The steps involved in retrieving your accounting information are as follows:
  1. Go to www.skype.com and click the Sign In link. You should see this link at the top of the page.
  2. In the text input field, enter your Skype Name and password and click Secure Sign In Your Account Overview page appears.
  3. Click the Calls & SMS history link.
You can view a list of your latest calls and SMS messages You should be aware that SkypeOut credit needs to be kept “alive.” If no SkypeOut activity occurs for 180 days, any of your remaining credit is wiped out. This does not mean that you must be using up your credit; it just means that you need to have some level of activity during any 180-day interval.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Navigating touch-tone and voicemail systems

Some of the SkypeOut calls you make may be to automated services that require you to press the touch-tone keypads of your phone. Because you’re calling from a computer, what do you do when the automated voice says, “Press 1 for Yes and 2 for No”? No problem! Skype provides you with a virtual keypad called a dial pad (see Figure 8-10) found on the Dial tab. If your Dial tab is not visible in the main Skype window, choose View➪View Dial from the Skype main menu.
To make dialing on a SkypeOut call even easier, you can copy a phone number residing in any document, such as an email, and paste it directly into the Skype Dial tab. Sometimes phone numbers have parentheses surrounding the area code. These will not cause you any problems. SkypeOut lets you call vanity numbers, which are phone numbers that have a matching word or acronym on the dial pad of a touchtone phone. For example, to order tax forms from the Internal Revenue Service, you can call 1-800-TAXFORM (1-800-829-3676). On the Skype Dial tab, you can enter 1-800-TAX-FORM and click the green call button. Skype then places a SkypeOut call to the phone number 1-800-829-3676. The next time you need a tax form, you know whom to call!