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Video chatting with family: How to use FaceTime, Skype, or Google Hangouts to keep in touch

Christopher Breen | Jan. 2, 2015
You can't always be with the ones you love, particularly over the holidays. Thankfully, free video chat services get us closer than a quick phone call.

Should you wish to capture a particularly meaningful call you make on your Mac, you can do so with the help of Ecamm Network's recently released $30 Call Recorder for FaceTime. It couldn't be easier to use. After you install it, when you launch FaceTime you'll see a small Call Recorder palette. With a call in progress, click the red Record button and you'll capture the call's audio and video in split screen as a movie playable on all your devices.

The scoop on Skype
Skype is the free, cross-platform audio/video chat client that is both the friend and frustrating foe of podcasters and businesses everywhere. When it works, it's an amazing tool. And when it doesn't, it's maddening with its distorted audio and frozen images. But, again, it's free, it's available on all worthy desktop and mobile platforms, and, unlike FaceTime, it supports more than two participants if you use it with your Mac.

To use Skype for video chatting, everyone participating in the call must have a Skype account, which can be had by visiting Skype's website. If you plan to lead the call, be sure to add your family and friend's Skype IDs by clicking Add Contact and entering their information. (You needn't do this with each Skype app you use. Skype keeps track of your contacts and automatically populates your contacts list when you log into your Skype account.) If you don't have a friend's contact information you can try searching for it. When you find it, send a message that you'd like to be added to that person's contacts list.

To create a group call within the Mac app, just choose File > New Conversation and in the window that appears, choose contacts from the list that appears. Click the Add button and then choose to place a video or voice call. (You can add other participants later by clicking the Add Contact button.)

Ecamm Network has a Call Recorder for Skype as well. If you'd like to capture your conversation, pungle up the $30 they ask for it.

Skype on an iOS device is more limited in that you can't start a group video or voice call, although you can participate in a group video call (but with audio only on your end).

Hanging out with Google
Google has its video chat service as well, in the form of Google Hangout. In order to participate, everyone must have a Google+ account (a simple Gmail account won't do). It's not difficult to get as all you have to do is sign into your Gmail account with your web browser and Google shoves you toward Google+.


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