Thursday, August 13, 2009

Skype Chat tips and tricks

Skype Chat (some people call it "Instant Messaging", but doesn't "chat" sound much nicer and cleaner?) is the hidden gem of Skype. True, Skype is first and foremost about calling. But there are many times when you'd want to use text chat instead of, or together with, voice calls. So we went to great lengths to make it useful for ourselves -- there are probably thousands of Skype chats going on among the Skype staff and our friends and partners at any given time -- which hopefully means its useful and fun to you too.

Chat button

There are some things in the chat feature that are not obvious, but once you get to know them, you'll love them.

First, there is a [user guide]( for chat. True, you can get by with Skype without ever reading user guides, but this one contains several useful and not-so-obvious hints. I'm not going to retype all of it here, so head over to that guide and study it.

Some highlights.

### Drag and drop

Drag-and-drop works well in Skype chat. You can drag and drop people between your contact list and chats, or between chats. Want to add someone from your contact list to a chat? Just drag him/her from the contact list to an existing chat. Want to move people between chats? Drag them over to the other chat. The user objects in the chat participants list are large and easy to grab.

If you have an ongoing team chat and want to distribute a file to several people at the same time, there's no need to do separate File Transfers to everyone -- just drag and drop a file onto the chat window and it's sent to everyone in the chat (they have to accept it, of course).

### Die popups die!

Preferences differ. If you're not the busy type, you surely enjoy a window popping up every time someone wants to say hi. But if you're busy and engage in conversations with tens of people during the day, which is often the case if you use Skype at work, there's nothing more annoying than all those windows and notifications popping up. So do yourself a favour, go study the Options where you can turn things on and off as you like.

If you go to the "Advanced" section in Options and uncheck "Pop up chat window", all of those chat windows popping up suddenly disappear. When a new chat message is received, it is placed in the Events panel that provides an extremely handy overview of things wanting your attention, but lets you do your own choices as to which chats needs your attention in which order. Chat topics are useful, but if a chat doesn't have a topic, Skype automatically uses the first few words from the chat as the topic in the Events area. So the Events area becomes an inbox of sorts. (See also ["How we (don't) use e-mail"](

See also the "Notifications" section that lets you enable or disable various types of event notifications -- those small windows appearing and disappearing when someone comes online, starts a chat/call with you or does any of the other things you can do in Skype.

### Small is beautiful

For minimalistic chat experience, try going to Advanced in Options and set chat style to IRC-like style, and hide the user list during the chat. Suddenly, much more text fits in the window since those "bubbles" between messages are no longer there. Of course, some people like bubbles, so you can give both styles a go and see for yourself which of the two is more useful to you.


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