This morning Skype released, for public feedback, Skype for Mac 5 Beta 1 with a range of new features and modifications of the legacy user interface. My first experiences with it over the past couple of days generate some interesting questions (that I’m sure many developers face when developing applications for both Windows and the Mac). Keep in mind that this is a beta and Skype is looking for user feedback; I’ve already reported a couple of minor bugs encountered in my normal use of the application.
First, what’s new? Many features from Skype for Windows 5 and then some:
Bringing it up to Skype for Windows 5 features:
- Multi-party video (beta with the 28 day free trial; no mention of charges)
- Dan York: Skype 5.0 Beta for Mac OS X: A First Look at Group Video
- Speaking caller’s name turns green (instead of a blue halo)
- Offline IM: so you can send and receive chat messages while the other party is offline
- Improved experience with network-compromised calls
- Recovery of dropped calls (A most useful feature in Skype for Windows 5)
- Scroll up the bottom of a conversation window to expose the chat window for the conversation
- Join an ongoing conference call
- Add phone numbers to a Contact’s Skype profile (been very handy in Skype for Windows 5)
- Integration with the native Mac Address Book (vs the native Outlook Address Book)
- A significantly different User Interface (which is supposed to be more Mac-like)
- A Call Control Bar that stays above any documents or other application window that you have open
- Maintain a set of Favorites in the Contact Sidebar for frequent Contacts
- Contact Profile also contains all recent conversations with the Contact
- A Contact Monitor that lets you see a list of Online Contacts (upper left corner of the above image)
Dan York has a second post that covers much of the above: Skype 5.0 Beta for Mac OS X: A First Look with Screenshots.
- Call Status Bar from Skype for Mac 5 Beta 1
- Call Status Bar from Skype for Windows 5.0:
- I would really like to see the DialPad, Screen Share and Add to Call, as well as the Call Quality Information icons included in the one primary Call Status Bar as done in Skype for Windows 5.
- at the moment they tend to be scattered around the conversation screen and not easy to find. For instance the Dial Pad is buried obscurely in the lower left corner of the call window.
- And, talking about the Call Quality Information, the new version of this in Skype for Windows 5 is a very handy tool for determining the status of hardware and network connections with a readily accessible single click:
This is one other “would-like-to-see” in Skype for Mac 5 as it has really helped with determining the cause of any call issues in real time.
The User Interface:
With the introduction of Skype for Windows 4.0 (and enhanced in Windows 5), we had to get accustomed to a new User Interface algorithm. Once I caught onto its separation of Navigation (Contacts, Conversations Directory) and Content (Chat content, call History, File transfer history, etc.) algorithm, it turns out to actually be very efficient for dealing with all my Skype conversation activity. I can easily find previous conversations, Search old chat sessions, check out Facebook New Feed, and find other content. (And if I don’t want to look at the FaceBook News Feed, I don’t have to.) Most significant is its use of Tabs to help maintain focus on the task at hand:
I still need to spend some time using the Skype for Mac 5 beta user interface; there’s something not quite so simplistic about it. There’s an attempt at separation of Navigation and Content but it’s not so obvious. Fundamentally Skype for Windows 5 has figured out how to use Tabs effectively; the lack of Tabs in Skype for Mac 5 beta is what I feel is hindering the ease of user operations. Whereas Skype for Windows 5 “hides” what you do not need, Skype for Mac 5 beta appears to be totally ‘in your face” and cluttered. I would strongly suggest having some discussions with the Skype for Windows 5 product management team along with an investigation of the use of Tabs.
In another post I ‘ll have more to say about Tabs in the Skype interface as they can be used to address another issue that is arising at this time as well (but not discussed here).
- Video call quality; in the few video conversations I have had, the video quality has been excellent
- Multi-party Calling and the way it is presented; very “Mac-Like” (acknowledgements to Dan York for the image on the right)
- The Floating Call Control Bar
- The Contact Monitor
- Mac Address Book integration
- Handling of Favorites
Finally, Dan York made a video this morning where he demonstrates many of the features of Skype for Mac 5 beta, including a multi-party Skype video call; an eight minute training video to learn about all the new features in action:
Bottom line: it’s a beta, there are a few minor bugs but it needs feedback from the general Skype user community. And I really think a usability review would be in order along the lines suggested in this post. On the other hand, finally Mac users can take advantage of many Skype for Windows 5 features; it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
P.S.: Did I mention that Dan holds a copyright on requesting upgrades for Skype for Mac?
Two posts from Skype:
- The Big Blog: Introducing the new Skype for Mac, now available in Beta
- Skype Garage Blog: Skype 5.0 Beta for Mac (including Release Notes)
Download it here.
- Skype For Mac: The TNW Complete Review [TNW Apple] (thenextweb.com)
- Skype 5 Beta for Mac Now Available (macstories.net)
- Skype Group Video Calls Come To The Mac In Beta (techcrunch.com)
- With Facetime Looming, Skype Outs a Better Mac Client (gigaom.com)
- Skype 5.0 for Mac Beta is now available — includes group video chat (tuaw.com)
- Skype Group Video Calling Comes to Mac (mashable.com)
- Download: Skype for Mac 5 Beta (skypejournal.com)
- Skype 5.0 for Mac beta gets group video chat, redesign (macworld.com)
- Facetime for Mac: Adding Millions to the FaceTime User Base (voiceontheweb.biz)
- Skype 5.0 Beta for Mac Arrives…But Where’s Facebook? (readwriteweb.com)