Skype released a new version of its client for Mac this morning and the changes are not as small as the company implies in its announcement. The new version enables full or partial screen sharing through video chat, allows you to receive a chat notification when a contact changes their mood status, lets you purchase wifi connectivity at public hotspots with your Skype account, allows you to write notes on your contacts' profiles and more. It's a pretty impressive upgrade.
Release notes are here, download is here. To be honest, we had some trouble in testing a few of the new features, though they'd been present in the beta version. If you haven't been using the beta, you'll want to upgrade now.
- Screen sharing
- The screen sharing feature is enabled between any two users with video enabled. Partial screen share is quite graceful. This feature has been in the works for awhile but could disrupt competitors large and small that have focused on it as a primary function. Screen sharing has been too difficult for too long - making it a feature of Skype will make the practice accessible to a far, far greater number of people than have shared their screens before.
- Mood messages
- Prioritization of chats
- Buy wifi connectivity
- Notes on contacts
You can now receive a notification whenever any of your contacts change their mood status. This is turned on by default but can be opted-out of in preferences. About this Skype says "It's a bit like Twitter, but don't tell them we said that." That's true, it is a little like Twitter. Delivery of notifications really could provide incentive for people to change their status messages more often, though it would be nice to be able to opt-out on a person by person basis.
You can now assign one through three exclamation points to the chats in your chat drawer. We couldn't tell what that really does other than add a visual symbol though, so it's not clear how useful this will be.
Mac users now have beta access to a feature called Skype Access, which is said to allow purchase of connectivity to public wifi hotspots through your Skype account. We haven't been able to test this yet but if it works at Starbucks, that's going to be hot. Connectivity is purchased at 19 cents per minute, or about $10 per hour, which might seem high but could really come in handy in a pinch.
The ability to write notes to go along with your contacts' profile pages in your account is something that all social networks ought to offer. Each Skype contact now has a blank notes field that you can flip to with a click. That's very nice.
The chat management interface and options have changed substantially as well. All in all, this is a very nice update to the Mac client for Skype. It's nice to see Mac users getting some love; Skype users on Windows have long received more development attention. The fact that Skype keeps moving forward is just one more reason this hugely valuable tool deserves more credit than it often gets.