Slash your long-distance bills

VoIP technology makes it possible to place and receive phone calls directly from your computer. Skype is a top-rated application for doing just that.

Getting in touch with friends and family is easy with this Internet telephone software, but the functionality is conditional. Skype offers a graphically pleasing interface that's much like a chat program. To make calls, you'll need to create a contact list of friends and family or use the phone-like interface to dial people directly. You also can access a pull-down menu for painless conference calls of up to four people. To make free calls, both parties will need to have the Skype software installed. To call regular phones, you'll need to sign up for a plan with SkypeOut, the developer's paid service that offers cheap by-the-minute calling. We like the intuitive chat-like interface of Skype and were surprised at the excellent sound quality, even using regular desktop speakers. Similar to a chat client, you can set your availability status, but we also would like to see a missed-call indicator or, better yet, some form of voicemail. Overall, we think Skype is a strong contender in the Internet Telephony category, and anyone who's interested in talking for free should give it a try. For international callers who have computers, this program is a no-brainer solution for long-distance bills.
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