I have to compliment Blizzard on paying attention to the tools the players are using. They've made many changes to the User Interface to integrate those tools into the World of Warcraft. Unfortunately, like the voice chat interface, many of those changes have had bugs and have not been widely accepted by players. As you progress through the levels you will find that you will likely have to download third party programs to facilitate your play.
Ventrilo and Teamspeak are some of the most widely used third party applications used in WoW. These tools facilitate voice chat which is necessary when quickly coordinating activities. In most cases you will find yourself excused from a raid or premade battleground if you do not have the proper tools.
Both of these programs are free to download. Usually guilds have access to a server for one of these applications. Members are expected to make use of these servers during raids and many people join the chat channels for company and information.
Ventrilo can be downloaded for PCs running Windows XP and Vista or Macintosh OSX 10.3 or better. Once you have downloaded and installed the client you will need server information to get connect to your team. You will need a server, port, and password for your guild's vent server.
Click on the arrow button next to User Name. Here you will enter a user name that will be displayed. Once the window is open, click on "new" to enter your name. It's useful to sign in with your WoW screen name so that your team will recognize you. When you log in, a computer voice announces your presence to teammates, if you have a name that is difficult to pronounce, type in a phoenetic spelling of your name. Once you're satisfied by the way your voice sounds click on "OK" this brings you back to the main screen.
As with the in-game chat client, I recommend using a push to talk hotkey. To assign this key, click on the "Setup" button. Check the box marked "Use Push to Talk Hotkey (PTT Mode)." Then click in the window marked Hotkey and push the key you want to assign to talk. I use the "`" over the tab key on the left side of the keyboard. Click OK on the bottom of the screen. You will not be able to open to use the hotkey to talk while the Ventrilo window is active.
From the main Teamspeak window, click on quick connect. Again, you will have to enter the server name and password as you are given it. Enter your nickname as you wish to be known, in most cases your screen name is your best option.
You can adjust your sound options in Teamspeak by clicking on "Sound Input/Output Settings" from the "Settings" drop down. Teamspeak is being updated to version three. For information, check out the Teamspeak FAQ.
Public Service Announcements
Ventrilo is usually shortened to vent and Teamspeak is usually abbreviated to TS. The servers for these two programs are not interchangeable, if your guild uses TS, so must you. Since both programs are free, I recommend downloading them both.
You can listen in to the server without a microphone, but obviously can't speak your responses. If you don't have a microphone, remember to put one on your shopping list next time you're at Best Buy, Circuit City, Fry's or any other electronic store.
For smaller groups who you are closely acquainted with, you may want to use Skype for voice chat. It has a similar functionality, but rather than having someone maintain a host server, you dial your friends directly. Skype is a handy program to have for free computer to computer voice connections.
I ask this special favor of you. I make a solid effort every week to bring you interesting tips on how grow accustomed to the nuances of WoW. Please, for me, never (ever ever ever ever) press down your push-to-talk button to utter the phrases "L O L." Fair trade, thank you very much!