Thursday, December 31, 2009

Skype’s Call Panel

When you make or receive a call, Skype adds a new tab panel, as shown in the following figure. In the center of the panel is a picture of the other party of the call, if they have set up their account to show their own picture; otherwise a default picture provided by Skype is shown. In the case of a conference call, pictures for all other parties to the call are tiled in the call panel. The duration of the call is displayed at the bottom of the call panel.

Skype's Tabs

When there is no call in progress, Skype usually has three tabbed panels—Contacts, Dial, and History—in its main window. Only one is displayed at any given time, and you can switch between panels by clicking on the tabs.
Clicking on the Contacts tab displays your contacts list panel, as shown in the following figure. In this panel you can select an existing contact to call, chat with, or send a file to. If you have contact grouping feature turned on, you can quickly filter your list of contacts by category. As a further aid to finding a contact, in this mode the address bar acts as a filtering tool, so that as you type a Skype username (or the name you have assigned to a user for display purposes) the closest match in your contact list is highlighted.
Clicking on the Dial tab displays Skype’s dialpad, which is shown in the next figure. The dialpad emulates the functions of a keypad that you might find on a regular or mobile phone. Clicking on the buttons of Skype’s dialpad enters the digits and symbols (*, +, and #) into the address bar. You can also use the keyboard to enter names and numbers into the address bar.
Clicking on the History tab displays a history of Skype events (missed calls, incoming calls, outgoing calls, voicemails, transferred files, and chats), as shown in the following figure. When the history panel is displayed, a small pulldown menu (next to a small picture of a magnifying glass) appears on the far left of the address bar. Use this pull-down menu to filter the event history to show only those events of interest.

Skype's Graphical Interface

Skype’s main window, as the next figure shows, contains quite a few graphical elements. In brief, here’s what each of Skype’s major graphical elements does:
  • Window title: Displayed in the title bar of Skype’s main window is the Skype username for the person who is currently signed in to Skype. In the accompanying figure, the name is “tcigtskype”, which is short for—no prizes for guessing correctly—The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Skype! This is the Skype username that will be used throughout this book. Yours will be different.
  • Main menu: The main menu is what gives you the most control when using or configuring Skype.
  • Toolbar: From the toolbar you can do things quickly and efficiently by clicking on an icon.
  • Notification bar: This bar is divided horizontally into four parts, from left to righBulleted Listt: Online Status (as a small pulldown menu), Full Name (if you’ve set one up, otherwise your Skype name is displayed), Events, and My Account. Clicking on the status portion of the bar drops down a menu from which you can set your online status. Clicking on your name drops down a text box, into which you can enter a short message that others will see when you are online. Clicking on Events drops down a box that shows all events, such as missed calls, that happened while you were away from Skype. The portion of the notification bar to the far right is labeled “My Account” if you are not yet a SkypeOut subscriber; if you are already a SkypeOut subscriber, it displays the value of your remaining SkypeOut credit balance. Clicking on this portion of the notification bar drops down a box that shows your subscription status to Skype services.
  • Tabs: The three tabs shown can be used to display the Contacts, Dial, and History panels, respectively. These three panels are dealt with in more detail in the pages that follow. When you make or receive a call, a new panel (and tab) will appear; again, this will be described in more detail in the following pages.
  • Contact groups: For your convenience, you can group your contacts into either predefined categories or categories you define yourself. Using this feature, you can quickly filter your contacts list to isolate only those contacts of interest. Moreover, by using contact groups, rather than individual entries in your contacts list, you can communicate more easily when you need to interact with many people at once. Note that contact grouping has to be enabled from the main menu: go to Skype: View and check Show Contact Groups.
  • Selected contact: When you select a contact in your contacts list by clicking on it, it expands to show additional information.
  • Other contacts: Contacts that are not selected show only their Skype username or a name you have assigned to them for display purposes in your contacts list. You can also show additional information about any contact by letting your mouse pointer hover over that contact.
  • Address bar: You can enter a Skype username or toll-free number or a regular telephone number (if you are a SkypeOut subscriber) in the address bar to start a call.
  • Call & hang-up buttons: Use the green call button to start a call; use the red hang-up button to end a call.
  • Status bar: On the far left of the status bar is a pull-down that enables you to set your online status. The number on the far right of the status bar indicates how many users are signed onto Skype. This number has grown, and continues to grow, at a phenomenal rate. This list is meant to give you an overview of Skype’s graphical user interface. Appendix D lists the names and the purpose of all Skype buttons and icons. For now, let’s take a closer look at some of the elements you’ll be using frequently.