Hack 29. Skype Your Outlook Contacts
Place Skype calls from Outlook, and even log your phone calls.
If you spend much time using Microsoft Office, Outlook is likely your email program of choice. And if you're an Outlook user, you can leverage Skype directly within Outlook, allowing you to use your Outlook address book to contact Skype buddies. All of this Office-integrated goodness comes by way of the Skype Toolbar for Outlook add-on, a program that combines Office and Skype APIs to turn your emailer into the world's coolest softphone.
The hardest part of the setup process is the download, which you can grab from http://share.skype.com/directory/skype_toolbar_for_outlook_(beta)/. I think it's safe to assume that once this software is no longer in beta, you can remove the _(beta) from that URL. Once you've downloaded the software and stepped through the installer, you'll be eager to press buttons and turn knobs.
3.3.1. Your New Outlook Toolbar
The first thing you'll probably notice when you launch Outlook is that it has a new toolbar that looks like the one shown in Figure 3-1. The first button on the bar launches Skype, and the second button provides a drop-down menu that lets you change your Skype status (very handy) and export your Outlook contacts to Skype's buddy list.
Figure 3-1. The Skype Toolbar for Outlook
This export process, pictured in Figure 3-2, is a little shaky, but it does its job of matching users from the global Skype directory to your existing Outlook contacts with passable accuracy, though at a snail's pace (it took my batch of only 48 contacts about 10 minutes).
The next toolbar item changes depending on the contact of the message or the contact selected. Say you're navigating your Inbox and you open a message from somebody whose phone number is in your address book. This button changes to show the phone number of the person who sent the mail and enables you to Skype-call that contact (via SkypeOut) with one click. If the contact is in your Skype buddy list, this button will call the contact via his Skype name. If you have neither a phone number in your address book nor a buddy list entry for this contact, the button will attempt to look up the contact's Skype name via the Skype directory. So you're covered in any event, unless your contact doesn't have a telephone or a copy of Skype installed. The last button on the toolbar, an A, lets you launch a text chat with the current contact, too.
Figure 3-2. Exporting your contacts to Skype
3.3.2. Journal Your Skype Calls
What could be more useful than tracking when and whom you Skyped? This capability is actually built into Skype, via its call list feature. But using Out-look's Journal feature to track the whens and whos of Skype is far more useful. The Journal puts Office events (and now Skype events) in a chronological, searchable view that resembles a timeline and provides a sort of audit trail for changes made to files, messages, and contacts within Microsoft Office. Long after a particular message, contact, or Skype call has been deleted, the journal still retains a record of itwhen it happened, who called (or who you called), and how long. But the Journal option for Skype isn't enabled unless you tell it you want itan option you'll find when you click the Configuration option located in the drop-down menu on the Skype Toolbar for Outlook.
If you'd like a slightly different approach to saving a log of calls made and received with Skype, try Avantlook (http://share.skype.com/directory/avantlook/view/), another Skype toolbar add-on for Outlook. Instead of using the Office Journal, it actually stores Skype events as items in its own searchable, sortable message folder.