You already know that Skype can keep you in touch with your grandparents in Arizona, your boss in midtown, and that impossible-to-understand soulmate you met while studying abroad in Paris, but Skype boasts tons of less-touted features that can make your life easier and help you indulge your guilty pleasures. Here's a roundup of a few you'll soon wonder how you ever lived without.
1. Finally Get the Local Phone Number of Your Dreams
Back in the barbarian times, your area code was determined by where you actually lived. Skype Numbers lets you break free from the primitive confines of geography — now you can opt for a posh Manhattan area code even if you're operating out of a garage in Long Island. You can also make it cheaper and easier for people abroad to get ahold of you, or indulge your fantasy of becoming a distant relative of the royal family by pretending you live in London. Now all you have to do is perfect your accent.
2. Share Big Files Without Getting Stuck in Download Purgatory
Having trouble dropping that giant, high-res video of yourself lying on the beach into an email attachment? Never fear: Skype's file-sharing capabilities let you drag and drop files of any size directly into your Skype chat, so you can make all your friends jealous about your vacation without waiting eons for cumbersome uploads, downloads, or third-party file transfers.
3. Save on Calls to Mobile Numbers and Those Landline Thingies
You may know that Skype is the gold standard for low-cost calls to other Skype users, but did you know that you can also call mobile phones and landlines from your Skype account? Yep, that includes international calls. And at an incredibly low cost. Oh, and you'll never get burned by peak or surge pricing. Satisfied? See a list of (really reasonable) rates here.
4. Dial Numbers Online to Fight Cellphone Distraction
This nifty browser plug-in lets you instantly Skype numbers as they appear on webpages, saving you the time and hassle of having to stop, find your phone, get distracted by Twitter or Instagram, and then re-type the number into your phone after spending twenty-five minutes stalking a celebrity pet. As an added bonus, many numbers are free to call because businesses pick up the cost. You'll know which numbers are feeling generous because they'll appear as FREE on your screen.
5. Get Up to 25 People on the Line... If You Dare
Connecting with people around the world just got easier. With Skype's group-calling feature you can add up to 25 people to a single call, and even conference in key players who don't yet use Skype. Warning: just because you can get 25 of your old college classmates onto Skype at one time doesn't mean you should.
6. Share Your (SFW) Screen with Anyone, Any Time
Everyone knows that a picture can be worth a thousand words, but it can also save you the agony of trying to explain what you're seeing on your screen to a remote pal who has absolutely no idea what you mean by "that bluish-green-graph whatchamacallit." Skype lets you share your screen with the person on the other end of the line so they can easily make tweaks, ooh and ah over your vacation photos, or help you map out your next trip. Just make sure you've purged all your, er... exotic photos from your desktop before you try to share your screen with your mom.
7. Get Your Wifi Fix Almost Anywhere
When you're on the move, working wifi is the Holy Grail. (Well, that and a clean, private bathroom with a toilet that actually flushes.) Did you know that Skype Wifi lets you get online at over two million hotspots worldwide? If you did, wow that's impressive. If you didn't, now you do. Here's how to find a hotspot near you so you can nail down tonight's date, dial up your friends on the fly, or stalk that other celebrity pet.
8. Avoid Death by Email With Skype for Outlook.com
You've spent the last two hours wading through an endless email chain, and you and the rest of your fellow bridesmaids still haven't managed to reach a decision about the upcoming bachelorette party from hell. You could waste the rest of your day typing out feverish essay-long arguments with the Maidzillas, or you could nip all that cross talk in the bud by quickly getting everyone on a Skype session and hashing it out face-to-face, right from your email account.
9. Enhance Your "Life Updates" With Video Messages
You finally got your cat to wear a beret, and you won't rest until all of your friends know it. Spare the agony of waiting for Facebook likes by instantly sharing the video with your entire friend group all at once, and let the positive reinforcement wash over you. You can even pre-record video messages to use as a reply to their glowing compliments. Skype Qik has a whole slew of video features you and your fashionable kitty will probably want to take advantage of — learn all about them here.
Skype has come a long way since first introducing the concept of computer-to-computer calls. These features make it easier to work, play, and share your world (with discretion), all from a single account.
Anna Schumacher has written for Cosmopolitan, Refinery29, Esquire, and more. Her debut novel, END TIMES, is out now from Penguin/Razorbill books. Follow her on Twitter at @SchumacherYA.