Skype 5 for Mac, Final: The Windows-style threat went real
As seen in the beta of Skype 5 for Mac, the final version 5 of Skype for Mac OS X does not only enable the video conferencing feature on the Mac, but brings also Windows look and feel. While one has to admit that many things have improved since the beta version of Skype 5, nevertheless the change in style did not happen for good – a lot of useful Mac features were laid off. For a lot of users, the option of choise is to stick to their Skype version 2.8.
Skypes version number jumped from 2.8.x to 5, but what else is new? After installation, a tour promises to show improvements, but the three information screens that follow are just underwhelming: the “compact view” featuring only one window surely is no achievement. In contrary, the restrictions of the new user interface compared with the flexible, multi-window-based Mac version were one of the main reasons for our “A better Skype 5 for Mac” campaign.
Skype promised to take its critics seriously and to implement improvements into the Final. Even in its press statement following the release of Skype 5 for Mac, the company assured that users criticism were a central issue in the final optimisations of the new Skype 5. Nevertheless, only a few concerns were adressed.
- Space usage: By default, the “compact sidebar” view is activated. The overview on chats and dialogues remains ok. Deactivated “compact” view turns the sidebar into a scrolling orgy – but you do have the choice. Likewise, the main chat window can be modificated up to a certain point. Using a smaller font, quite the same amount of text fits into the window as it did in version 2.8.x. Dialogues still remain large enough to be read comfortably – but you *should* like whitespace.
- Single Window View: Skype 5 is *not* the end of separate chat and contact windows. There is still a separate contacts-window in semi-transparent HUD look. Same goes for the number pad.
- Drag and Drop: mostly history, and one of the the most annoying “improvements”. Contacts are joined into a chat via button / selection. Same goes for the chatlist in the siedebar: no more drag and drop-arranging for people, topics, group members. Skype thinks the chronological list view is the best for all of us.
- Shortcuts, scrolling: You still can use tne Alt-Apple-Arrow key right/left-combinations to navigate through the chats. Switching the focus from chat window to input search box via Apple > -combination is gone. Page up/down scrolls quickly through the chat history (again), the cursor remains in the text entry window.
Conclusion? Well… some painfully missed features were reintegrated since the beta, some larger failures concernng UI and useability were fixed, others are still present – lacking chat sorting functionality and deactivated drag/drop functions are just extremely annoying, especially when considered that file transfers via drag/drop into the chat window still work.
Benefits of the new version? Probably the most exciting feature of the new version is the group video chat, although being a paid service. Anything else? Even Skype itself has problems to find new features to promote and has to praise non-improvements like a single window view as great news for users. Last item featured in the “Skype 5 Tour”: the “simple search”. Yes, there is a search function. Yes it works, and yes, its easy to find. But again: bad or missing search functions may be annoying, but nevertheless: at least on the Mac, a working search tool is just no “killer feature” anymore. Its simply standard.
So, do we still need a better Skype 5 for Mac? Our opinion: definitely.