Yesterday Skype released Skype for Windows 5.6 continuing the process of new releases every two to three months. This release incorporates several incremental changes that modify the user experience. And expanding on the recent incorporation of advertising into other Skype clients (Mac/iPhone/iPad/Android), Skype for Windows now has advertising for those who do not have one of Skype credit, a Skype Calling Plan subscription or a Skype Premium subscription.
The changes involve:
- Screen sharing improvements
- New “getting started” experience
- Moved “Call Phones” button into the frame at upper left with Skype Credit
- Call monitor window widget with call controls when in another application
- Compact mode viewing does not launch Skype Home window on startup
Installing this version from the file download (automatic update was not available at time of writing) takes one through the startup process to set up audio and video devices as well as the profile picture:
Of course for a new user, the Skype account creation process precedes this setup wizard.
If you are in a call and move to another application window a “Call Monitor” widget pops up on the desktop, as shown on the right, with call control buttons for mic muting and ending the call. This is one feature that had been on Skype for Mac 5.x for a while. Returning to the Skype client’s window restores the full call window with the profile picture or video image.
One major change relates to screen sharing. Whereas previously one could only share a full desktop, it is now possible to select a window to share; this certainly assists with any privacy issues when sharing a desktop.
On selecting the sharing icon from the call management bar, one selects “Share entire screen” which, in turn brings up the Sharing Screen (below, left). (Might the availability of screen sharing options be more obvious if the menu item simply said “Show Screen Sharing”.)
The other party’s screen is shown below where the sharer’s avatar remains; recall that screen sharing takes over the video channel’s stream:
While this change certainly is an enhancement of the screen sharing feature, there is still no screen sharing available for Group Video Calling, a feature that was introduced on the recently launched Skype for Mac 5.4.
Finally there were many complaints from those using Compact View about having Skype Home coming up when they logged in. This has been addressed; now when a user logs in and has selected Compact View they will not get a Skype Home display.
Bottom Line: Several “incremental” changes but combined they are significant enough to improve the overall user experience. Lack of screen sharing for Group Video calling is a disappointment; let’s hope it’s in the next upgrade. On the other hand the Call Monitor window is very handy allowing some level of call control while in other windows/applications. And I would still like to see the Call Quality Information feature over in Skype for Mac; it’s the handiest tool for ensuring a caller has the appropriate hardware and Internet connection.
At the time of writing the automatic update to Skype 5.6 had not been triggered; this will occur within a few days. In the meantime download Skype for Windows 5.6 here.