Have you ever:
- wanted to call someone using skype directly from within Outlook
- wanted to record a skype call
- wanted to setup skype as an answering machine and for it to store the messages in outlook
- wanted a reminder service that will SMS or CALL you if you are about to miss a meeting
- wanted an alert if an important email arrives while you are away from your desk
Well, look no further, Skylook v2 has it all. I was introduced to Skylook about a month or so ago when I took over hosting The Microsoft Developer Show and have found it to be an invaluable tool. In this post I hope to show you a quick overview of the product.
Firstly, after installation the first time you go into Outlook you will be prompted to activate the product. The product will operate fully for a short time period without activation, after which some of the features are restricted until you do activate the product. After the activation prompt, you will be prompted to configure Skylook. This process is relatively painless and it pays to go through this process as it does provide a mini-tour of the feature set.
After initially configuring the product the Outlook toolbar will appear as follows (this is illustrated in Outlook 2007). Note that the names in the toolbar are fictitious and the names depend on what matches the addin can make within the currently selected item. The drop down against each name allows you to call them on Skype, use Skype out to call a real phone number, chat with them or send them an SMS.
If you select to call someone from the toolbar Skylook will open Skype and automatically call the number/contact you have selected. Depending on the options you have selected it will also launch the recording window, as shown below. This window will also be launched when you instantiate a call from within Skype. As you can see the recording window provide an easy to use interface that allows you to monitor the call and recording progress.
The Advanced tab gives you more information about the status of the call recorder. At the time of writing the file size indicator doesn't do a very good job of indicating the size of the recording. In contrast the other indicators, in particular the Buffer % Full, lets you monitor the reliability of the recording. For example if either the Buffer % Full reaches 100% or the Seconds Dropped increases from 0, you are likely to have noticable audio degradation on the recording. In the case of a slow computer you may need to adjust the recording format to decrease the sampling rate.
From the Tools icon on the Toolbar you can open the Options window, on which there are five tabs. The General tab, shown below, lets you adjust settings that are specific to the whole application such as the default country code and where to save recorded conversations.
The Answering tab lets you enable the Answering Machine functionality within Skylook. Skype already has a built in answering service (ie VoiceMail) so this feature isn't a particularly good reason alone to go out and purchase Skylook.
The Toolbar tab allows you to configure how many contacts are displayed and whether captions are visible for toolbar buttons. This is particularly useful if you have a number of Toolbars open in Outlook
The Recording tab allows you to configure the audio format of the recordings and which voices are record. In the case where you are having issues with the recording process you can select "Store raw audio...." which is useful if you need to work out where any issues may be. While trialling this version of Skylook I was also using the beta version of Skyle 2.6. Unfortunately these two versions did not play well together and resulted in distorted audio. By looking at the raw audio it was evident that the voice being recorded through Skype (ie the remote party) was being corrupted which led me to try version 2.5 of Skype, which works great.
The last tab is Alerts which allows you to configure a number of basic alerts, or to go into the advanced alerts where you can configure an alert based on your parameters. An alert can be used to SMS, Call or forward messages to your mobile, making use of your Skype Out credits.
I hope this summary proves useful as this truly is one of the simplest yet most useful applications I have come across in the past couple of months.