Skype for Mac 5.x where x=7,8: Still Needs Two Small But Important Skype for Windows Features

Skype.Mac.logosTwo weeks ago Skype released Skype 5.8 for Mac whose main feature was restoration of the Contacts window such that users could occupy minimum desktop real estate while maintaining ready access to their Skype contacts.

In mid-April Skype released Skype 5.7 for Mac on the day I went into hospital for a critical procedure. It had several tweaks to improve call control and call quality but no significant new features. Sometimes it helps to tweak the underlying infrastructure to improve the calling experience.

When I went to Skype 5.8 for Mac I found several changes but not sure when they occurred. And, while Skype has addressed some of the issues identified by users on the launch of Skype 5 for Mac in January 2011, some still remain outstanding.

The Call Navigation Bar

Whereas earlier versions of Skype 5.x for Mac had two call navigation bars these have been reduced to one bar that is similar to the navigation bar appearing in Skype for Windows, Skype for iOS and Skype for Android.


While providing a more consistent navigation bar, it lacks two features:

  • A Skype chat icon to open up a chat window. You can still do this by dragging up the bottom of the call window but that’s not intuitive to the consumer user. Too often I hear complaints about the lack of access to chat during a call but navigation to a chat window must be more obvious to the user.
  • Lack of the Call Quality Info available on Skype for Windows. This is one of the most helpful features for diagnosing problems with a call, yet for some reason the Skype for Mac team continues to overlook its incorporation into Skype for Mac.

On the other hand one continues to have access to desktop sharing and file transfer during a call. When in another application while on a call the Call Monitor window continues to appear. Desktop sharing during a Skype Group Video call is also now supported.



Call Monitor Window

Desktop Sharing

Note that only full desktop sharing is an option in Skype for Mac; there is no option for sharing individual windows. Check out Skype Screen Sharing – Free or Premium? for more details on desktop sharing, especially during a 1:1 video call and Group Video calls.

Contacts Monitor Window

S4M5_8.ContactListsNote: in the most recent versions of Skype for Windows and Skype for Mac, some confusing terminology associated with Contacts was cleaned up. Basically what were called Categories in Skype for Windows and Tags in Skype for Mac are now called Lists in both. Lists basically allow you to create a custom set of contacts who have some common association. And you can filter your Contacts pane to only show members of a List. This is different from a Group which is the set of Contacts participating in a Group Chat, Voice or Video conversation.

Previous version of Skype 5 for Mac included a “Contacts Monitor” window. In Skype 5.8 for Mac this window has been modified to allow it to be the only Skype window on the desktop to minimize the desktop real estate required for accessing Skype. The displayed Contacts can be filtered by List. Most useful is to select “Online” as it only shows those contacts who are online at the time. The window can also be repositioned and resized as desired.



Original Skype 5 for Mac Contacts Monitor

Skype 5.8 for Mac Contacts Monitor

While there is no name entry window for search, one can type in the first few letters of a Contact’s name to jump to that Contact.

Other Changes

When talking to someone using Skype on a mobile device and the mobile party rotates their smartphone or tablet from portrait to landscape (or vice-versa) Skype for Mac now detects this rotation and automatically reorients the video display on Skype for Mac. I was able to confirm this using Skype for Android as the other device.

While we’re still a few weeks away from the availability of OS/X Mountain Lion, Skype 5.8 for Mac is ready for its arrival.

Skype has also announced that, in response to user feedback, a forthcoming release of Skype for Mac will restore the ability to have multiple chat conversations in separate windows.

Bottom line: Skype 5.8 for Mac restores a feature requested by users; however, as discussed originally in Skype for Mac 5: Returning to Ecstasy – Step 2 – The Conversation Pane, the ability to easily access a chat window and call quality information would significantly improve the user experience during a call. While it now has most of the features of Skype for Windows (and note it was released the same day as updates to  Skype for Windows and Skype for Linux), it still is a somewhat different user experience for managing Skype activity.

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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