Using Skype on Surface Tablets

Using Skype on Surface Tablets

In this post, l’m going to go over some tips and tricks for using Skype on Surface tablets.

The Modern (or Metro) version of Skype comes pre-loaded on every account created on a Windows 8.1 machine (like your Surface) and it works both with the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 3 lines. As a result, it’s likely that when you start using Skype on Surface tablets, this is the version you’ll use.

For the most part, using the Modern version is pretty easy because it’s a somewhat simplified version that doesn’t quite offer the full functionality that the desktop version does.

To give you an idea of just how simplified it is when compared to the desktop version, below is a list of things you can and can’t do with the Modern version of Skype that you can with the desktop version.

You can…

  • Make Skype calls (video or voice-only)
  • Find and add contacts
  • Send & receive Instant Messages to and from your contacts
  • Send Video Messages
  • Send files
  • Have a group call

You can’t…

  • Rename contacts
  • Make lists
  • Sort your contacts into lists
  • Share screens
  • Use a different Skype account (without signing out of your Surface and signing in with a different Microsoft account)

There are other things you can’t do with the Modern version that you can with the desktop version but the list above points out most of the things people seem to notice.

Using Skype on Surface Tablets: Modern Version

Now that you have an idea of what you can do with the Modern version of Skype, let’s cover how to actually do some of those things. For this walk-through, I’m assuming you have never used the Modern version of Skype before but that you have used Skype in the past so that you’re familiar with the concepts.

That way, I should be able to cover the bases without making the walk-through too simplistic to be useful. Sound good?

How to: Add Contacts

Before you can call someone, you have to have them added as a contact. If you don’t already have them in your contact list from an earlier version of Skype, it’s likely you’ll need to search for them so this section will cover searching for them as well as adding them to your contact list.

  • Start Skype
  • Tap the Search button at the left top of the Skype home screen

  • In the Search screen, type the name of the contact and tap or click the Search icon.

  • If you don’t see the person you’re looking for in the list, tap the Search Directory button to search the online Skype Directory

  • When you find the person you want to add as a contact, tap the contact’s name. I had no idea there were so many Tim Rolstons out there…

  • Next, tap Add Contact to send them a contact request. You can edit the message if you desire but don’t have to. After you’re happy with the message, tap Send

  • You’ll end up back at the home screen and you’ll see that your new contact is visible

You can simply keep repeating the process until you’ve added all the contacts you want.

How to: Make a Skype Call

Now that you have your contacts, the next thing you’ll probably want to do is call one of them.

To do that just follow these instructions:

  • Start Skype
  • Select the person you want to call from the Contacts or Favorites area of the Home Screen. The contact needs to be available (if they are, a green icon will be displayed next to their name) for you to call them. If they’re not available, your call will fail but you could send an IM or video message.

  • In the screen that appears, you have to make a choice, you can either select the Video Call or Voice Call button in the lower left of the screen (we’ll touch on the Send/Add button in a bit)

Using Skype on Surface Tablets - Call

  • As you might expect, the Video Call option will try to transmit/receive video and sound during your call and the Voice Call option will only send sound. If you’re on a low-bandwidth internet connection or haven’t showered yet that day, this is a good option.
  • The screen will change color and some call option icons appear near the bottom of the screen and you’ll hear ringing until the other person answers or the call fails. The illustration below outlines what the call option icons do

Now that you have the basics and can call someone from Skype, let’s move onto some of the other things you can do that you might not know about.

How to: Send an Instant Message

Now let’s say you don’t want to actually call someone but, instead, you just want to send them a quick text-based message. Just do the following:

  • Start Skype
  • From the Home screen, select the contact you want to IM then enter your message in the conversation box at the bottom of the screen and tap Enter

If the person is online, you can have a back and forth conversation via text.

If the person is offline, your message will be queued up and will be delivered when he/she comes online. So, this is a nice way to have asynchronous communication with your friends and family.

How to: Send a File

This is where that Send/Add button I mentioned comes in. You can use it to send files to someone via Skype. As you might imagine, this can be handy for sending files, like pictures or videos, to distant friends and family.

  • Start Skype and make sure the other person is online.
  • Select the person you want to call from the Contacts or Favorites area of the Home Screen
  • When the contact screen appears, select the Send/Add option

  • Next select the Send Files option and select the files you want to send

Technically, the person on the other end does not need to be online for you to send the file. However, the file won’t be sent until both you and the recipient are online at the same time; so, you can send it to someone who is offline but it won’t be delivered until you are both online.

How to: Send a Video Message

You can also send up to a 3 minute video message to someone. It works a lot like sending a file except the contact doesn’t have to be online at the same time to receive it. Think of it as a video voice mail.

To send a video message just do the following:

  • Start Skype and make sure the other person is online.
  • Select the person you want to call from the Contacts or Favorites area of the Home Screen
  • When the contact screen appears, select the Send/Add option

  • Next select the Send Video Message option and you’ll get the following interface

Yikes!!! maybe I need to hire a model for these screenshots?

Anyway, the video message interface is pretty straight forward as you only get 3 buttons (switch camera, record, and cancel) so I won’t do a step by step for it. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, you do get a chance to review and re-record the video before sending it.

So, that’s it for the basics of using the Modern version of Skype.

Using Skype on Surface Tablets: Desktop Version

If you happen to have a Surface Pro tablet, you can install the full desktop version of the Skype client from here that doesn’t have the limitations of the Modern version.

With the desktop version, you can do all of the things I listed under the “you can’t” section above.

So, If you have a Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2, or Surface Pro 3, I would highly recommend you install the desktop version in addition to the Modern version. I say in addition to because, I think the Modern version is much easier to use with touch but the desktop version let’s you fully manage your Skype experience.

I hope this post helps you get started using Skype on your Surface tablet so you can easily connect with friends and family anywhere in the world.

If you’ve been using Skype for a while, I know this post was a little too basic but, remember, not everyone is at the same level. In my next post, I plan on covering how to troubleshoot common Skype issues so check back soon.


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