Tech Time #2: Capturing Skype History

Wow, it’s been a while since our first Tech Time … oops?  I guess technology is everywhere around us now, and a lot of long distance relationships rely so heavily on technology, that, well, it’s all second nature to us.  But one of the troubles we knew we’d have to face eventually with Migrationsverket was how to prove that relationship and document our online history which was harder than one would expect.  We were asked in July to provide evidence of flight stubs and photos and phone calls but we’d been looking into how to extract our Skype history for quite a while before we received that email (preparation is key).

Hopefully this will help some of you going through the same process of proving your relationship and your history with your partner.  In the end, none of these options worked 100% for us, but that was probably due to the extent of our history.  We eventually came to an almost-complete history with which we would have to make-do, but that was after quite a bit of trial and error!  Just because something didn’t work for us, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you, particularly if you have less of a Skype history than we do … at the time of running these applications, we had been using Skype daily for 3.5 years and had retained the complete history.

Tip About Using Skype

First things first, if you use Skype on a daily basis like we do, you’ve probably built up quite the chat/call history, particularly if you look under Tools > Options > Privacy > Advanced Settings > Keep History for … Mine has always been set to “Forever”.  Even when I reinstalled Windows and Skype, I made sure to back up our chat history, instructions for which can be found here.  This means I have our entire (very extensive) chat and call history since we first started talking in October 2012.  If you have reinstalled the app at any point without backing up those files, or if your chat history is set to something other than “Forever”, unfortunately you won’t be able to retrieve any of that older history so that’s something to look out for.  Also, as far as what we sort of looked into it, we couldn’t find a proper way of extracting any of the Skype call history from our phones or tablets easily (which would differ from those made on the PC – notice how when you answer a call on one device it will hang it up on the other, so that call time will only be recorded on the one device) so that’s another thing to consider if you do rely heavily on phone or tablets for calls, you may end up tearing your hair our trying to take screenshots of everything.  In the end, we omitted these calls from our evidence, but we felt we had enough else to make up for it.

Below is a list of our recommended software. And remember, just because we didn’t succeed with a particular one, doesn’t mean that it won’t fit your needs better or that you won’t have luck using it. Try them all!

4.  Skype


For most of us, the first place we search when trying to pull up a history will be the original source – aka Skype.  Wrong.  I guarantee for most of you trying to obtain a call log, Skype will not be your answer.  This is because they will only offer up a call log for those using the paid service.  So by all means, scroll up through your conversation, screenshot every call you make… or, you can copy and paste your entire conversation, trying to copy and paste each call entry which will look like this:

[9:09:47 PM] *** Call from Johan ***
[9:37:51 PM] *** Call ended, duration 25:37 ***

But there are better ways to go about it.  Read on.

3.  Skype Log View


This is a nifty little program which creates a log of all your calls and messages and uses the help of command-line prompts to organise the search results by a range of dates, or contacts, or whatever the case may be.  This list can then be saved as a HTML or XML file.  And I’m sure people have had success with it, but it wasn’t for us.  From memory, it took around six or more hours to run the export, and by the time it finished and I looked at the log, it was all over the place.

Over 3.5 years of chat history and calls, it showed half a dozen (maybe a dozen at most, but that’s being overly flexible) calls, the rest was simply our message history, and I ran it several times changing the commands and removing them, and I just could not get it to work.  For whatever reason, it was just skipping over whole sections of months and years of our calls because it might have one in 2016, and 5 in 2012 or something crazily disproportionate.  It would probably be a good program if you wanted a condensed scale of messages (as it shortens them to one-liners) but it just did not work as a call log for us, and honestly, after the hours I bothered with it I decided screenshots from Skype would’ve been easier and a more trusted source for the migration board.

2.  Skype Export

Screenshots_0002_Skype Export.jpg

This one is a little more complicated, as unlike Skype Log View, there is no graphical interface, and you use it solely through the command prompt in Windows or Mac Terminal, which might discourage more casual computer users.  But don’t worry, there is good documentation on the above-linked GitHub page. That said, if you’re unfamiliar with the Windows command prompt (or Mac Terminal) you might want to read some basic guides.

This was probably one of the fastest exports we tried, however, it was once again more of a full export … which is great if you wanted a log of every message you’ve ever sent and every call you’ve ever made (twice – once for receiving and once for ending).  But once again, too long for our needs.  It was basically like copying and pasting our entire Skype history into a HTML file instead of a Skype window.  It was a little neater, but still just as long and unnecessary.

1.  Skype Exporter


Skype Exporter ended up the winner, in our case, although it still wasn’t as perfect as we would’ve liked, but close enough to it.  Very easy to use, at the click of a button this program took around 1.5-2 hours to run an export, and I ran it several times because I found a problem with the export freezing on the same date in late-April 2016 (it was July).  It would come up with a pop-up error which unfortunately prevented me from saving the log, because I couldn’t click out of the pop-up error without it forcing the program to close.  In the end, we decided to work around this error, because despite this, it was exactly what we wanted.  A full and complete Skype log, detailing our call date and time with each other, omitting all our millions of chat messages for just a straight out call log.  In an ideal world, the export would finish successfully and you’d be able to save it as some sort of text file, however because of the error we ended up screenshotting the lot, because the one thing we were still able to do was scroll through the log.

We ended with 108 screenshots, which we cropped and downsized 4-to-a-page, across 27 pages and saved into a single PDF.  And that’s how we condensed 42 months or 3.5 years of our communication.  Or, part of it, as mentioned at the start of this post, this only detailed the calls made and received on my PC, not those on the phone/tablet as well.  The one thing with this program is there is no way to search through just one contact’s history, however as Johan is the only one I have any major contact with on Skype, this wasn’t a big deal for us.   Indeed if you successfully obtain a text log, other contacts could also be easily omitted, or crossed out in a paper print out. We decided against screenshotting any of our Skype message history, because with that amount of calls, you could imagine the accompanying message list.  We did, however, take some photos of our other communications – text messages, handwritten letters, etc.

Capturing Other Applications

As we were missing the last 3 months of our most recent call list from the Skype log, we turned to screen capturing the other applications we used to make calls – FaceTime, and Facebook Messenger.  Both of these have an easy option for viewing your call log, however again no way to extract them from the phone or tablet without taking individual screenshots.  I am also fairly sure both of these had a cut-off point, because they rely on “recent” call lists and “recent” will only go back so far.  As we only needed the last three months worth, this worked out okay for us, but for anyone else that uses them as a more regular means of communication, you may run into troubles later down the track.

As I mentioned earlier, we didn’t provide a Skype message history, because there was just too much and where do you begin with that?  What we did do, however, was take one screenshot of our Facebook Messenger chat history – but this method no longer works! 😥 But it was such a great method because you could go into the full-page conversation history on a PC, and if you scrolled up, it will say “Loading Older Messages …” with a number.  Ours was 43138.  Highlighted that number for their reference.  Obviously, it would be insane to provide them that chat history, but one screenshot would tell it all.

In addition to this, we also provided screenshots of the folder properties of our shared Dropbox and Google Drive folders, showing the amount of files and folders shared between us – which we thought was an excellent indication of the way we share photos and documents.  We also took screenshots of other couple apps we used to share photos and drawings; screenshots of our shared Etsy store; our blog; and my progress in Swedish-learning programs.  We captioned everything with short explanations, and all in all, we’re confident we’d given them enough evidence to work with.  Then it was back to the waiting game…


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