Integrating Skype Into Mozilla Thunderbird

Clicking On Names Or Numbers In Thunderbird To Place Calls

The concept of presence in unified communications aims at putting your contacts within reach, wherever you might be. It is very convenient to just click on a contact's name or any personal information about them in their email messages or contact details to call them, without actually requiring to launch a softphone that initiates an Internet call. And the call can be free. This can be achieved by integrating a VoIP softphone service like Skype into your Thunderbird email client. 

How it Works 

There is a piece of software on your computer that is called a protocol handler. A protocol is a standard that governs how things are done (how calls are initiated, how data is transferred etc.) over the Internet. The handler on your machine handles them in a way to invoke the right protocol when need be. Each application work with a protocol which is represented with a prefix, like http: for web pages, sip: for session initiation protocol, and skype: for Skype calls. The integration app identifies phone numbers in email messages and elsewhere and uses the protocol handler to map the number to the respective identifier in the service. Thus, a click triggers the calling app to call the contact. 

Here are some apps for making Skype calls by simply clicking on contacts in Thunderbird. There are not many of these apps around. Of the few that exist, these two are the most up to date, with continued support and deliver the goods satisfactorily. 

You can call directly from an email
You can call directly from an email. Herro Images / GettyImages

This add-on works both on Thunderbird and Firefox, which means that you can use it to click on numbers and contact information in email messages as well as web pages. It identifies numbers and gives a context-sensitive drop-down menu upon click allowing the user to choose which service to use for calling. It works with several calling services including of course Skype, but also a number of SIP clients, Netmeeting, a couple of third-party VoIP clients and snom phones. ​ More »

This app adds toolbar buttons and gives context-sensitive menu options on phone numbers. It also links directly to your Thunderbird address book. TBDialOut works exclusively with Thunderbird which is why it is better integrated than the former, which is more general.  More »

This app is an open-source project that enables you to see the presence of your contacts through their numbers that appear on their emails in Thunderbird. It as well works with the address book as it is just for Thunderbird.  More »

Notes on Configuration

These apps work roughly the same way. You will need to do some configurations. You can use just any service as a calling service, but you will need to do some configuring. You need to get hold of a URL that calls a number whenever requested. An example is this: http://asterisk.local/call.php?number=%NUM% When you request this URL, it calls the number that replaces the identifier %NUM%. If you want, for example, to use Asterisk for your call, enter that URL in your configuration panel and each time, it will replace the number and give you an option in the context menu. You will then be able to call on one click. Say you click on the number 12345678 (which is of course fictitious), the actual URL will be http://asterisk.local/call.php?number=12345678. Skype does not make calls to numbers without an international call. Even if you are calling a local number, you need to provide the number with the international and area call, in an absolute manner. You will therefore have to edit the phone numbers to this effect, and fortunately both apps have easy ways of doing it.
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