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In this article I will try to tell you about all the new functions and describe in short the software and its capabilities. The Beta versions of Skype 5 became available a while ago, but all of them at the end were a little different from the final version, which makes sense. These are the main updates as declared by the developers themselves:
And so we’ll talk about the way these improvements are realized.
User Interface Update
To those who use Skype 4, the UI of the fifth version will look almost the same. In short, it is new logic introduced in v4.0, the idea of a full screen Skype. After the installation, Skype 5 offers you its own interface, where the program window takes up about half of the screen, with contacts on the left, chat with the selected contact as well as various controls (call, SMS, etc.) on the right. In the fifth version interface just added new tabs. When you click on Home, to the right you may choose Skype home page, edit your personal information in two modes (open to everyone and open to your contact list only) and open Facebook account. Later about this though.
The new feature in the contact list is the possibility to see an avatar to the left of a contact. The majority of instant messengers have the same function. You can turn this Off in your Settings.
Small changes in the chat window and notification system. Now, when you have new developments, the Conversations tab is all lit in Orange (before, you only saw a number of new chats there) and the new messages in the contact list are marked with orange points next to the contact. The same system is implemented for the Facebook updates feed, if there is anything new the Facebook tab has an orange dot next to it.
In the contact window during the conversation (call or chat) you can add more phone numbers to the other party information. In other words, if before you could call a particular person only using the numbers he or she added to his contact information or dialing a new number in the dial pad, now you can do it this way. You enter the new number into a contact window, tying it to this person in your Skype yourself. A convenient feature for people who use Skype to call out a lot.
The cosmetic changes affected the buttons looks and colors, but it makes little sense to discuss these minor details separately. Separate windows with contacts and chats can be created to the sheer happiness of old Skype fans – this functionality was a part of v1.0 – 3.X. For me personally this way is more convenient.
Integration with Facebook
The company believes the main feature of the new Skype version is integration with Facebook. How does it work? In Skype you can add your Facebook account and in the appropriate tab you will be able to view the events (news and messages) of your Facebook friends, call or write them from the Facebook address book directly in Skype.
In the old display mode all info from your Facebook account will be shown in the separate window resembling another chat window. If you want to stick to the new interface a la Skype 4 then all information will be located to the right from the contacts list. To my mind this Skype innovation is not useful in Russia, at least at the moment. On the other hand Facebook becomes very popular in our country and in several years the phrase “Skype with integrated Facebook” will become more meaningful. At the moment the only payoff is that if you are registered in this social network and have many friends there you will easily call or send them messages from Skype.
Group Chat (Voice, Video and Text)
I have to beat around the bush a little here. For almost 5 years I have been using Skype as the main text and voice computer based communication tool and I have not found friends with web cameras (apart from myself), so I cannot describe the joys of group video conferences. The video connection between two callers is straightforward: to the right from the contacts list or in a separate window at the top you see the video from your caller and below in a smaller window you see the picture from your web camera available to the caller.
If both cameras offer high quality a full screen video connection is possible. If you want the video screen can be stretched or changed in any way.
Group chats have not witnessed any visible change. Everything is traditionally convenient and the voice call window differs from the video only by the fact that instead of the video you see the user icon of your caller.
Now I will mention advantages and disadvantages of the application
I cannot see the bear on my avatar! In the interface where before I could see my user icon and the current mood status now only the name and the online status (online, invisible, etc,) are available. There is no user icon or mood status here. It’s a pity.
In the chat panel you have haunting dark colors when you talk or call a contact.
An opportunity to see contact’s avatars in the list is a welcome addition, which should have been done earlier.
Skype 5 allows viewing all your chats history filtered by the latest message. The same message is displayed in the chat list. Moreover you can search inside the list by contacts names and latest messages for every chat. Some will find this feature useful.
Similarly to the chat history display you can view the list of sent text messages and files.
In two years after release of the previous Skype version, the online audience of Skype 4 judging by this review increased from 12 to 18-22 million. Is version 5 a revelation? No. Did you expect it? I think, not. To my mind the interface changes in 4th version were not the best solution, but I understand that for new users it was convenient and intuitive. In Skype 5 the new interface is almost perfect, while you can still benefit from the boosted old version. Besides, there are the first attempts to display additional information. I do not want to say that Facebook integration is not enough, but may be in future Skype will not be merely a VoIP client, but a news aggregator? Anyway, developers have many roads to choose from and luckily Skype has no advertisements or unnecessary add-ons prominent in rival products, which definitely sets it apart. Version 5 is the right step forward. It is slightly more beautiful and logical and that’s all we need.
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Published 14 October 2010
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