The Way We Work

Gotta love Batman’s utility belt. I mean, that guy has almost everything he’ll need for any probable (and improbable) event. I’d love to put it as tops on my Amazon wishlist. But sans that, I can always turn Skype into the VOIP version of the belt. Yes, using third-party apps, I can trick out Skype in some pretty nifty ways that might give even the Joker pause.

Skype recently launched a 3rd party app store with the goal of encouraging developers to make the Skype experience a better place to be for its 30 million plus users. At this point, there’s not a lot listed, but what’s there is definitely useful for power users. Hopefully, the app store will attract more developers and will make Skype the swiss army knife of VOIP software. Here are five apps to check out for small businesses and freelancers:

  1. IDroo (Non-commercial version/free; Business/$12 per month) – I’m just a hands-on kind of person. If you describe something to me, I have a hard time visualizing it. If you show me a picture — boom! I got it. That’s why I love programs like IDroo. This app provides an online whiteboard feature for Skype. Now you can do more than just show a schematic — you can illustrate its flow by drawing on it. Or do some hands on brainstorming. Or even do some tutoring for clients that aren’t too tech savvy.
  2. Group Screen Sharing (Once a month/free; Multiple meetings a month / $5.00 per month) – Currently Skype only allows you to do group screen sharing with Skype for Mac, and even then you must have the premium version. Well, now there’s an app for all the rest of us. Aptly named Group Screen Sharing, this app allows you to show your screen to up to 50 Skype contacts at once. Another great choice if you have a client that needs some extra hand holding. Also useful for making web presentations to a large group.
  3. Clownfish (Free) – Need to speak to a Skype contact in Arabic, Danish, Hindi or Slovak but don’t know how? Enter Clownfish. This translator currently works with 23 languages and has more in the works. If Clownfish is running, it will automatically detect the native language listed in your contact’s profile and translate your chat session with them into that language. It will also encrypt your conversation for those hush-hush chats … but your friend must have Clownfish running on their end to decrypt it.
  4. Pamela for Skype (Basic/free; Professional/$25.91) –  As a freelance journalist, I sometimes conduct lengthy phone interviews. I need to quote my subjects accurately, but my notes just aren’t reliable enough. That’s why I use Pamela for Skype to record my calls (with the subject’s permission, of course!). The software was a snap to set up, integrates with Skype beautifully and enables me to capture my interviews without a second missed. I use the professional version which has no time restrictions. There’s also a free version, but it can only record 15 minutes at a time.
  5. Virtual Call Center ($49.95/user per month) – Need a low-cost call center software? Then check out On State’s Virtual Call Center app. This program features analytics, auto-call back and support for SIP, Skype, Google GTalk and XMPP. You can also prioritize calls based on why the customer is calling and route to the appropriate agents based on their skill sets. It’s completely cloud based, so there’s nothing to install (which translates into no headaches on your end).

Even aside from these third-party apps, Skype is being used by innovative companies to make the customer experience more personal and relevant. If you need some inspiration, check out Glaser Design’s virtual, Skype-powered showroom or Hendricks Park’s personalized shopping and style services made possible by Skype video chats.

Have you used Skype apps? If so, which ones have you found to be the most useful? Which ones have you hated? Share your Skype stories in the comments section.

Julia Camenisch

Contributing Author

Julia Camenisch is a freelance technology and business journalist. She also works as an editor and copywriter for a wide range of clients, including national magazines, small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Julia brings to Upwork a passion for empowering small businesses through the innovative use of technology.