Microsoft has rolled out a few useful updates lately, the best being the ability to use Skype without an account. If you use Microsoft Edge, you can make Skype calls without logging into Microsoft or using the Skype app. No sign up needed for you or anyone joining the call. This is an Edge only feature and won’t work with Chrome, Firefox, or any other browsers.
How does Skype without an account work?
I was surprised with how uncomplicated the process is. After 3 decades of troubleshooting software that claims, “it’s so easy to use”, I’ve become cynical. It’s nice to be surprised occasionally.
To use the “no account Skype”, start by opening Edge and typing in Skype.com
If you have an account, feel free to sign in. Although this isn’t required, this step will give you access to the address book connected to your Skype account. Your choice. If you don’t have an account, and don’t want one, click on Create a free meeting, to start the call.
Skype.com landing page
Creating a free meeting with Skype
The page will click over to the Host a video meeting page. Look to the right of the page to the Generate your unique link with one click. Click in the box that says Meet now. Give the meeting a unique name then click the Create a free meeting button.
Click on the Meet Now to start the process
A new meeting link will be generated. Click on Share Invite button to send the invitation out.
7 ways to send out invitations
You can send the meeting invite out via Messenger, Facebook, WhatsApp, Outlook, Gmail, Telegram or copy the link. If your email program doesn’t auto start, click Copy link, open your email, and create a new email. Paste the link into the body of the message and send it to whomever you want to chat with. You can invite up to 50 people to your Skype call, although, I don’t recommend that many.
One quick word of advice on using Facebook to promote your meeting. Use common sense. Don’t post it unless you want people you don’t know crashing your meeting. Nothing says professional like having a racist troll scream through your call. It could quickly get out of hand. Stick with sending links to individuals and control your communications.
One minor problem is the fact you can’t schedule a call using the Skype for Edge. Unlike Zoom or Microsoft Teams, you are restricted to creating meetings on an as needed basis. This is easily resolved by arranging the meeting time with everyone and set up the Skype meeting 5 minutes before the start time. Once the meeting is created, send out the links and begin the meeting.
Ready to talk? Click Start Call
Here comes the tricky part. Using your browser instead of the app if it’s installed. It’s important that all participants understand the next step.
Ready for the meeting? Just press Start Meeting
If the site is trying to open Skype, click Cancel. Then Join as guest. Create an online name when prompted and click Join. Once you’ve joined, as host of the meeting, don’t forget to click Start meeting, or everyone will be sitting around waiting. Not sure how many can safely join without suffering from a permanent case of the lags. It depends on your internet connection and computer power.
Make sure everyone knows to cancel the open Skype app option if they don’t want to use it. Same goes for prompts to download the app. Once cancel is tapped, you will be directed to the Edge login page.
Basic Skype meeting features
Click Start Meeting and you’ll be taken to a full browser sized video screen. As with the app, the controls are pinned to the bottom of the screen. On the left, Record the meeting, middle shows the typical Skype icons to control mic, camera, and hang-up. The right hand shows Chat, Share Screen, Raise Hand, React and a few options to control settings.
Share and record your meeting
You can record the session by clicking the little record button, bottom left side. This is handy if you are watching a tutorial or event or you want to review the meeting you just held to improve your performance.
Another nice feature is Raise Hands. This is an efficient way of conducting a tutorial or Q&A with multiple people. Instead of the usual chaos of everyone talking together or being too polite and no one talking, a click of the button flags the host with little icon “X raised their hand”.
Share screen is like other online meeting apps. Click Share Screen and choose what you want attendees to see. Close any unneeded windows or tabs, especially anything with confidential information or photos. Prepare what you wish to share ahead of time and have it open and ready to use.
Overall, Skype without an account is a suitable alternative for people who don’t want to sign up for a Microsoft account but still need the option to host a meeting with more than one person. There is no cost to use the Edge Skype site, and as pointed out, you can host up to 50 people. This is a good workaround for organisations or people who cannot afford the fees for the more popular online meeting apps.
If you use Skype for Microsoft Edge, let me know. I’d like to hear how many you managed to host before the system gummed up.
Last time I looked at Microsoft Store’s extension offerings, it was a forlorn and desolate place. Not a lot available, much to my ever loving annoyance. I like playing around with extensions, even silly useless ones. Today I decided to see if there’s been an increase and what do you know, the offerings have grown to 42! Still not a lot of choice, but a marked improvement since Christmas.
I decided to test drive an extension called Web Developer Checklist by Mads Kristensen. It turned out to be anything but silly and a potential boon to web designers.
It’s the only offering in the Microsoft Store by the developer, and is available also for Chrome and Firefox. It’s a kickass little extension designed to help web developers check that they are using best practices on their site. Everything is compact and easy to use with a lot of helpful information, quickly accessible with a mouse click.
Handy little extension to have. It tipped me off to a couple improvements I should be exploring.
My sole complaint is a minor, quirky one. The screen on the left is from Firefox and the one on the right is from Edge:
It took me a few minutes to figure out the ace was a misinterpreted check mark. Like I said, very minor issue. Other than that, there are no real issues. I was interested in seeing it snagged a few different issues with each browser. That’ll be a project to look at tomorrow.
I’m always poking around the Microsoft store looking for Edge browser extensions. Until now, the offerings have been a wee bit slim. But… huzzah … a few new extensions have found their way to the store. I tested out two and, well, I’m impressed. You get one today, maybe the other on the weekend… depends on my mood. Read & Write, from TextHelp (https://www.texthelp.com), gets a nod for the single most useful extension I’ve seen to date. It’s also available for Firefox and Chrome if those flavours suit you more.
Read & Write is an excellent piece of assistive technology that reads webpages. People with vision issues, reading or learning disabilities or learning English will find this immensely useful. Once installed, you have a number of options that include reading a page or paragraph, simplified page layout, definitions and reference lookups. The voice is fairly easy to listen to and understand. The odd word is not quite right, but mostly above par for pronunciation and enunciation. One mildly amusing aspect with any software like this is they read literally – if there’s a typo on the page, that will be read.
It’s easy to use, just click the speech button on the toolbar and then hover the mouse over the text. The software does the rest. I put together a short video of Read & Write in action so you can hear what the voice is like:
It offers a couple of options handy for day to day use, including a built-in dictionary and Simplify. The dictionary is self explanatory.
The Simplify feature is outstanding. It converts the page to a high contrast single page of text only. It strips out the clutter and makes the speech to text option run flawlessly. It’s also handy for anyone who want to print a page, without all the images and ads. As a bonus feature, tap the minus/plus signs to increase the text size for easy reading.
The little picture dictionary is embarrassingly fun to use. If a person is unfamiliar with English, the simple pictograph images are a perfect way to show the meaning of the word. A stroke of genius. Not all words have pictograph definitions and once in awhile it throws up a cryptically funny one:
Not sure why the little stickman looks so angry but he looks like his blood pressure is through the roof.
Occasionally the extension stutters and doesn’t start reading immediately, but by and large, it’s reliable. At worse, all you have to do is turn the extension off and back on again. I was a little disappointed it didn’t read my Outlook email. But there are some pages that simply won’t work with the extension because of the way they are designed, such as Twitter. However, for the majority of webpages, the extension does the job.
If you know someone who might benefit from this extension, pass along the name to them – Read & Write extension for Edge, Chrome & Firefox. I have a number of customers I’m going to install it for. It’ll make some pages – the ones with itty bitty type – far easier to manage. Download it direct from the Microsoft Store or use your browser’s extension feature to install it.
Although the offerings for Edge browser extensions are sparse at the moment, there are a couple worth looking at. One to consider is Mouse Gestures. It enables a series of right click actions that make speeding about web pages and tabs easier. The extension loads 16 preset flicks that allow you to move forward and back between webpages, hop from one tab to another and improve scrolling on longer pages.
Once installed and enabled, all you need to do is hold the right mouse button down and move the mouse in a specific motion. To go back to a previous web page, hold the right mouse button and flick to the left. Go forward, right mouse and flick right. If you are a Surface Pro user, Mouse Gestures supports pen gestures. My favourite gestures are the ability to hop from one tab to another or closing a tab when you’re done with it and refreshing the page with a quick flick of the mouse:
Another feature worth noting is the ability to scroll to the top or bottom of an article quickly. Using a combined down and up gesture will move you to the top instantly. A quick up and down gesture moves you to the bottom of the page. It doesn’t work that well on those endless scroll pages though. Something about them confuses the gesture. It’s okay flicking down, you go about a page length at a time, but if you try to scroll to the top of the page, you end up further down the page or somewhere random. This didn’t happen on all sites, but the majority I tried behaved a bit funky.
There isn’t a lot of customisation available, but you can turn off features you don’t want such as the visible mouse trail as you flick. You can also deactivate gestures you don’t use. Hold the right button down and start gesturing slowly will pop up a handy tool tip window to remind you of what gestures are available. Once you’ve memorized the gestures you need, you can shut tips off and not be bothered by them.
If you are using a track pad mouse, give Mouse Gestures a pass. It seems more work than it’s worth. To get the features to work, you pretty much need two hands. What is missing is a sticky feature for track pads. It would be great to double tap the top left or right corner to activate a sticky right button key so a gesture could quickly be used and then double tap to shut it off. One other complaint is the length of the gestures to trigger them. They should significantly shortened to speed up browsing.
All in all, a decent extension well worth installing.
To get Mouse Gestures, go to the Microsoft store and search for Mouse Gestures or click on More (three dots top right of your browser) and click on Extensions -> Get extensions from store.
Here’s the full list of gestures currently available:
Microsoft’s anniversary edition includes an update to the Edge browser that allows the installation of extensions. Omitting them was one of the more irritating “features” of the original Windows 10 release. Pickings are incredibly slim with only 13 offered. Kind of …. maybe …. confused? So am I. In the Extensions category, there are 13 listed. However, some aren’t categorised correctly and are available instore. Microsoft’s Personal Shopping Assistant is available, but doesn’t show up under extensions, nor does a search specifically for extensions produce any results. Sigh …
How do you install them? Look up at the top right corner and click on the 3 dots:
Slide your mouse down the list and click once on Extensions -> Get Extensions from the Store. Wait a few seconds and the Microsoft Store will open to the extensions page. Or open the store app, click on Collections and scroll down to Extensions. Click on the one you want and it will install automatically.
To view, change or delete an extension, return to the Extensions menu. Right clicking on the extension will allow you to delete or change the options. Pretty straight forward, but we’ll have to sit around twiddling our thumbs waiting for the category to fill up. I’ll add extension reviews here on the App Reviews section when they start showing up.