Skype 5.0 for Mac
Review by Frederico Cerdeira - Feb 21, 2011
Skype 5.0 for Mac is the latest version of this famous software that allows us to establish communications with our co-workers, friends and family through the Internet. This latest version has many new features and improvements over the previous version (2.8). This version is also an evident growth of the beta version that was released in late 2010.
This version has a new User Interface, which is quite different, yet more user friendly than the previous one, however, I think there are some aspects that can be improved. There was a clear effort by the Skype UX/Design teams, in order to concentrate the key features in a main window, instead of having several windows and panels for the different functionalities. This main window is essentially to accommodate features like the list of contacts, history actions, active conversations and video calls.
This main window concept provides a better and intuitive interaction, because all the userʼs attention is on this main window. This window is split with two sections, a left side and main area where everything occurs. There is always the possibility to activate two extra floating panels - the online contacts and the dial-pad. These floating panels can be activated via the respective buttons on the main window, alternatively, via the menu “Window” or through shortcut keys. Although there are 3 ways to enable these panels, is not exactly intuitive to the user how to do it, for some users (specially the inexperienced ones) may take some learning time for this purpose, since the key functionalities (and the userʼs focus) are over the main window. One example of this fragile intuition can occurs when a user have an instant message conversation active and needs to see what contacts are online. Also, the dial-pad needed to be slightly bigger in order to see more comfortably the number that appears in the input box.
When establishing a video call, we have a possibility to activate the full-screen mode and easily return to the window mode, which is a great experience. Another interesting feature happens when we minimize the call window (or if we click in any spot outside de application): automatically we have a mini control bar that stands on top of any other window. From this mini bar we can quickly put the call on standby, turn off the microphone, or even hang up easily. However, returning to the window call (maximize) is not so intuitive in the first experience. We need to double click the mini control bar or click on the Skype icon attached in the Dock to return.
Another useful feature present in this version is the system address book integration. Thus, we can easily communicate with our contacts (through Voice Call or SMS) that are not even in our Skype contact list. If we have the mobile.me service, we can easily synchronize our contacts with other devices such as the iPhone or the iPad. That is interesting because these devices are fully capable to deal with Skype. Also, the search box of the application delivers results that include the address book contacts, which demonstrates the full integration of this feature.
One of the best features in this version is the ability to establish group video calls (conference calls), up to 10 simultaneous users. Still, in order to guarantee a good experience, Skype recommends calls with 5 people maximum. Unfortunately this is not a free service, a premium account is necessary, but only one person on the call needs to have a premium subscription. Yet, itʼs free during a 7 days trial, which is good to try and evaluate the experience before buying the subscription.
One of my favourite features of Skype is the Screen Sharing, where is possible to share and demonstrate documents, your browser, or even show how to use an application to the person that is on the other side. This is not a new feature but in this version seems to have an improvement over the image quality and over the full-screen options. Other new feature that is very useful is the support to offline instant messaging. With this functionality is possible to send text messages to a contact that is offline. The messages and their sent time information are flawlessly delivered when the contact come back online.
In conclusion this 5.0 version is the result of 7 years of experience in the design of communication solutions that are aimed to simplify people’s life in terms of work, entertainment, or in the simple human communication. The group video calling is not free but I think the price is reasonable for the companies that have the need to gather several co-workers in a group communication. The User Interface is quite different than the older versions, is not perfect (what is perfect?…) but probably, is the one that was better designed in order to deliver a good user experience.
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A Spetto-és-Zaz Architectural Video Mapping at Nyugati Trainstation / Budapest / Hungary.
Team: Roger S (coding), Phantazma (soundtrack), VJ Zaz (videodesign / concept), VJ Spetto (art direction / concept / script). Staff by Denise Lara.
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