Use Skype From Your Browser in Outlook.com

Microsoft purchased Skype back in May of 2011, but has been rather slow to integrate the communication service into its software. That, however, is beginning to change. For instance, the latest version of Office, 365 Home Premium, comes with 60-minutes of Skype credit and the there is a Modern-UI version available for Windows 8 (its built into 8.1), as well as Xbox Kinect integration, that will likely grow when the Xbox One finds its way to market later this year.

The latest Microsoft property to get the Skype treatment is Outlook.com — the web-based email client that recently replaced Hotmail, regardless if customers wanted it to or not.

The web-based version of the Outlook app produced by the software giant, and trading off of the name of its desktop-based brother, is a much cleaner and sleeker email than Hotmail or, for that matter, Gmail. It has a built-in calendar app and SkyDrive cloud storage integration.

While other Outlook.com features can be accessed from a drop-down menu at the top of the page, Skype is a bit more hidden, and there are some tricks to it.

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Steps to Prepare

First things first — you will need to make sure that Skype is available to you in Outlook.com. The rollout should be complete now, but some regions may still lack the access. Its easy to check — simply click the message icon at the top right and check the bottom of the pane. You will see an icon for each available service and, if one of these is Skype, then you are good to go.

outlook.com connected services

You also need to make sure that you have merged your Skype and Microsoft accounts. The communications service has instructions for doing this, and it varies depending on your operating system.

Multiple Ways to Access

There is more than one way to access the Skype option within the Outlook.com service — through the email homepage (such as your Inbox) and also through the People hub. The person you are calling from within Outlook.com does not need an Outlook or MS account, but of course, they do need to have a Skype account.

Once everything is set up on your end, you can use either the Microsoft web-based email service, the Skype desktop app or the Windows 8 Modern-UI Skype app. A word of caution here — this can lead to a bit of confusion. During a conversation from within Outlook.com I noticed that, not only did every message appear there, but it also popped up on my desktop app.

The good news about that last part is that both were retaining all messages, so a conversation started on one can be picked up from within the other.

How it Works

We are now heading back to that chat icon at the top right, which we visited earlier to verify that Skype was an option. Click it again and the pane will now display a list of your contacts. Not all of them, but only the ones you have within your messaging services. If you are using more than one — say Skype and Windows Messenger then you can choose shich you wish to use by clicking the “…” icon.

chatting on

Tap Chatting On and a list of your services will appear. To choose Skype you can simply click it. If you have only one service that you use then Chatting on will not appear.

Names and the last line of each conversation appear down the list. Simply choose one and to pick up the previous thread (or begin anew).

contacts

If you would like to invite more people then, from the bottom of the list, you will spot other contact lists that are available to you — in my case this was Google. When I clicked on that icon then an option to connect with my Gmail account appeared. However, if you have a contact who is not a current Skype user, you can not send an invitation through Outlook.com, you will need to continue to use the desktop app for this. That is a feature that will likely arrive in the near future.

If you wish to switch from chat to either voice or video, then click on the name of a contact on your list. At the top right of the conversation, if there has been one, you will spot two small icons, one for phone and one for video. Click whichever you choose, otherwise, simply continue with the chat from the typing area at the bottom.

Skype contacts can only contact you through Outlook when you are logged into the service. Otherwise, messages, calls and videos will come through the desktop app. Even when you are on Outlook, you must also be signed into Skype as well.

Finally, all Skype users should know that the service takes security and reports of abuse very seriously. If you are being stalked or harrassed then you should visit this support page and report it.

Conclusion

While many long-time Hotmail users were less-than-thrilled with the forced change, most would have to admit that the new service is certainly much cleaner and more modern looking than the past iteration of web-based email. With the integration of Skype, the added communications option gives what was just email, an entirely new dimension. It is now a completly updated way of contacting friends, family and business associates.

Given that all of this is free — though you can buy your way out of ads being displayed on Outlook.com — it is certainly the next-generation of all-around communications services.


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