What’s New in Skype 5 for Mac?

The end of 2010 saw the release of the new Skype 5 Beta for Mac. While a lot of the functionality has already been available in the PC version for a while now, it’s the Mac version that matters to us, right?

The initial beta wasn’t unanimously well-received on account of the unusually spaced interface and clunky changes, but it’s improved significantly between the original beta and the full version now available.

I got my hands dirty with the build for about a month, testing the pros and cons, and I have to say, Skype’s now-out-of-beta release has a pretty strong ‘pros’ list.

Interface

The first thing you’ll notice about the new interface is the consolidated window. I’ve noticed interfaces for Mac software trending away from vanishing toolbars and fragmented windows in favor of consolidated main windows and floating panes for more pertinent or context information, and Skype is no different.

The main window not only houses your contacts list, but also your text conversations, video conferences, address book changes, and chat logs.

For when you would like to have the bulk of Skype’s functionality hidden, but would still like access when you need it, there are floating panes in the oh-so-gorgeous style of the smokey glass bezel for your online contacts and dial pad.

Functionality

All of the essential functionality for which you rely on Skype has remained intact. Voice calls, text chats, and video conferencing are still simple tasks to execute.

The biggest functional change that Skype made to version 5 is undoubtedly the ability to have group video calls. Skype 5 allows you to connect up to three other Skype users at once for a video conferencing call. Unfortunately, while this was included in the beta, group video calling has become a premium feature in the final build.

Group Video Chat

Group Video Chat

One particularly useful feature I noticed is the “push to talk” option. When enabled, this feature allows you to designate a keyboard key to activate your microphone when held down. This feature causes Skype to behave much like a walkie talkie, allowing you to hear the conversation between the other participants, but restricting their ability to hear you until you press the designated hot key.

This is useful if, in the middle of a video call, you needed to take a phone call, speak to someone in the room, or any number of other similar situations.

Workflow

I was honestly surprised at how easily the new version fit into my daily workflow. The new interface takes almost no time at all to learn, and the new consolidated window is fantastic for when communication is what you’re focusing on.

I found it very handy to have “command center” (so to speak) when dealing with text chats, extended calls, or address book edits.

My favorite feature (and perhaps most useful to my workflow), however, is the floating panes for the dial pad and online contacts. I personally enjoy keeping a column of communications windows on the left side of my screen (Twitter, iChat, etc) and I had always found the old Skype contacts list too bulky and feature bloated to fit over there. The new bezel pane, however, fits wonderfully (and even matches the aesthetic of Twitteriffic!).

Modular Windows

Modular Windows

Conclusion

Despite the unfortunate realization that group video calling is a premium feature in the new Skype 5, the build continues to do a wonderful job of connecting me to friends, family, and peers.

All of the functionality I’ve come to expect from Skype remains present and useful, albeit with a more attractive user interface.

Given the complicated nature of dealing with cell carriers and data plans, the idea of entirely replacing my phone with Skype on my laptop is looking more appealing with each release…


  • Seb

    From Skype website: “Group video calls can be between three or more people (up to a maximum of 10). For the best quality, we recommend calls with up to five people.” So why did you write “Skype 5 allows you to connect up to three other Skype users at once for a video conferencing call.”?

  • http://www.perezfox.com Prescott Perez-Fox

    Also, it no longer works on G4/G5 Macs, so be careful before instinctively clicking “update.” Learned this one the hard way, of course.

  • Yeti

    Also, it no longer works with firewire cams (external iSight) or other firewire equipment. The beta does but they removed firewire support in the final version.

  • Mike

    I don’t know how anyone can say the new Skype has a lot of “pros.” The new interface is god awful and a complete failure. The fact that they place the contacts list on the right, which gets covered by other items at times, and a useless history feed on the left says it all. A bunch of useless flash with little thought to useage. If only they put the same thought that goes into devising premium paid features into the apps interface they would have made a new version that doesn’t suck so bad.

  • http://twitter.com/giannivt Gianni

    I both appreciate the new unified interface and the floating panels, but there is an annoying aspect regarding the cpu usage when Skype is idle.
    I’ve noticed a normal processor load (0-0.5%) when the main window is closed, but this value rises up till 15-16% when the unified view for contacts and chat is displayed…it happened on various Mac I tried it on.

    I would like to know if it is a “widespread” behaviour.

    • http://www.ijapps.com Ian Joyner

      Yes I’m seeing the high CPU at idle too.

    • Robert

      Yes I see this too, very annoying. Q/C fail.

  • Erik

    I don’t like Skype 5 for Mac. The only improvement is the look of the HUD’s. The main window/contact list is just hideous. It’s too big, clunky and comes with ‘features’ that really aren’t usable – such as (the bad implementation of) coverflow. For now, I’m sticking with the more minimalistic 2.8 version of Skype.

    Gianni: I get the same behavior.

  • Emil Zakhariev

    This is not a review. This is a love letter.
    The new interface is HORRIBLE. It takes almost all the screen of my 15″. And what’s the use of the online contacts pane? If you click on a contact it just opens the big, ugly sheet of an interface. Pfew…

    • Robert

      Maybe it’s a paid review? :-/

  • http://www.avistudios.tv Mike

    I tried the beta and uninstalled it, horrible layout. We tried video chat with three people, it crashed the app and or OS for all three people. Based on the comments here I sure wont be trying the full release I can tell you that.

  • mcdevy

    Where exactly do you activate the push-to-talk feature? In other words, what’s the command?

  • Serenak

    Skype 5 has another nasty little surprise lurking – the enable Skype video option has been removed from the preferences and once Skype launches (and most users have it launch on Startup) it takes control of the camera and unlike the previous version holds it even when it isn’t actually using it (or least it seems to be so for me) and all other applications report the camera as “in use by another application”.

    V 5 was an improvement over the Beta… but it is still way to gappy and clunky and takes too much space – too have reverted to 2.8

    Oh and btw – conference video calls are a premium feature, not available for free afaik.

  • Timmy

    LMAO!!! Did someone throw up on my screen?? This thing is hideous!!!

    If the interface worked for everyone for the couple of years it’s been available, you polish it….you dont change it!

    This thing is so ridiculously ugly that for the first time in years the thought of looking for an alternative to Skype finally crossed my mind.

  • Fred

    I don’t like skype 5. Now my creative hd webcam is showing me disproportioned. In fact, it does take a 16:9 webcam picture and squeeze it in 4:3 instead of simply cutting it as it was doing in version 2.

    Big failure! :(

  • Quine

    The interface is terrible, it’s buggy still, and it uses more memory. It eschews simplicity in favor of excess.

    Skype 5 is a total failure. I’m not sure why you felt it was such a good fit.

  • digitalmonkey

    Personally, I think Skype 5 UI is a mess, hated it the first time I saw it and still don’t like it now. Horrible functionality, takes a lot of screen space unnecessarily. It’s like photoshop 5 upgrade. FAIL

  • EG

    Agree with everyone.
    Although I like the unified window, the design is way too big then it should have been!

    Skype crew for Mac should listen more to the users.

    • Robert

      Ah, c’mon, they ARE listening to users! After all there are hundreds of millions of them *not* complaining, so what’s the problem of some handful of them saying “it’s UGLY”?

      • Mark

        I have to say bull. Name 5. I have read numerous reviews and read countless forum posts on the topic, and the consensus is OVERWHELMINGLY that it sucks. In fact, I would go so far as to estimate a 50 to 1 ratio negative to positive. Hundreds of millions? I doubt even hundreds of thousands. I would find hundreds even a bit surprising.
        The new UI sucks.
        Tell 80/20 directly:
        http://8020.com/#skype

  • http://ganar-buen-dinero.blogspot.com dinero

    Although I haven’t used it yet, there’s a new fork of CI called CI Reactor, which is a community-driven version of the framework

  • http://therankmaniac2011.blogspot.com/ Nihar

    I really think the main window needs a makeover. The persistent ‘recent’ column is a nuisance.

  • abab

    Tried the v5beta for several weeks, when going back to 2.8 it was like… upgrading!

  • Grap

    Skype 5: The champion of all is wrong.

  • Simon

    Is there no way to get the contacts to display sensibly now – ie. like the previous version? We seem to have lost the compact tree control that allowed you to have Skype in the corner of your laptop screen and yet still see who’s online. Who on earth thought I need enormous chat/call buttons next to every contact? Why do I need vast space between each entry? Either the designers of this interface have no friends or an extremely tall monitor. Either way they need a new job.

  • Joe Bangle

    Fantastically unbelievably incredibly ugly. Disgusting is not too strong a word for it. That half-baked attempt at cover-flow is so bad it is embarrassing. It makes you wonder if Skype ever read anything about user interface design, or any kind of design. What in the world were they thinking?

  • Lael Odhner

    I use a MacBook Air 11″ and the new user interface is completely unmanageable. Even at its smallest the monolithic window is far too large. The chat text is ugly and has far too much whitespace, and it is no longer possible to place a video chat in a small “stay on top” window so that one can see the video while working. Although the video and audio quality seem to be higher, I really don’t think it’s worth it to upgrade.

  • George Bonk

    Just made the BIG mistake of accepting to upgrade after being prompted to by Skype.
    How much real estate do they think I have on my 13″???
    This must be the most insane “upgrade” ever!
    But now I am f****d. I want my old version back but the download for the old version is gone from the Skype site. Trawling the net now looking for other options. No way can I live with this monster taking over my laptop.
    THINK TWICE BEFORE YOU PRESS UPGRADE!!!!!

    • Robert

      Followup question: how to downgrade?

      • http://www.yahoo.com/ Mccade

        I tohguht finding this would be so arduous but it’s a breeze!

  • Carol Smith

    For goodness sake! This new interface is ridiculously big! What kind of narcissist decided that he should be this in your face? I wish that I had not upgraded. If this problem is not fixed quite soon, I will solve my problem by ditching Skype.

  • Miley Cyrus

    Does anybody know how to start a “public chat” with this new version? Dude, I’m not impressed with this!! If anybody knows how please share =]

    xoxoxo Miley

  • paperbackwriter

    What is it with devs these days? Do they think that unless something looks like a primary school colouring book the poor, unintelligent plebs won’t understand it? My bank did something similar recently, too – took a perfectly good, clean, simple interface and filled it with buttons and icons, half of which duplicate processes and thus serve no useful purpose at all.This interface is a shocker; I downloaded it less than 24 hours ago, and I’ll be uninstalling it within the next 24 hours and reinstalling the older version.

  • http://dogtor nasserjanood

    I whant donlowd skype 5

  • dinadana

    I don’t feel to update the oldest Skype – it works great and i don’t have a need to change it for something which works unstable!

theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow