Apart from some minor OS-specific differences, Skype users will be hard-pressed to tell the new Mac and Windows versions of the software apart, according to Microsoft.
The software maker's newly released Skype 7.0 for Mac and Skype for Windows Preview provide a more unified experience. In short, there's less of a learning curve as Skype users switch from one device to another.
"We've made the Skype experience consistent whether you are using your mobile device or your desktop PC," wrote Tom Huang, a Microsoft product marketing manager in a company blog post. "Now, you'll see thumbnail pictures of your contacts, a new bubble-style chat design, and consistent icons for chat, video calls and audio calls."
Skype's developers embarked on a yearlong effort to enhance the software's chat functionality, revealed Huang. The result is an optimized, picture-friendly chat pane.
"Photos in your new Skype for Windows and Mac apps show up as you'd expect, beautifully displayed for your instant viewing," said Huang. "On Windows, there's more spacing between contacts and chats, as well as message previews for unread chats, making it even easier to follow conversations." Shared Office documents and PDFs display as file icons that "make it easier to visually scan for and find different files in your chat history," he added.
Skype for Mac 7.0 also enables one-click, simultaneous video calling and chat. "With the new side-by-side design, you can effortlessly multi-task on a voice or video call," said Huang. "Share messages, photos or files for a more active conversation together, without ever leaving your call."
The Mac client is also now a 64-bit application, announced Microsoft. Other new features include Favorites conversations that roam, and offer support for large emoticons and for limited instant message formatting. A few bugs have been squashed, including a fix for a login crash on Retina laptops with external displays.
Microsoft also issued a handful of updates for Outlook.com's Skype component, the company's webmail service.
A new contact list feature helps users better discover and manage their Skype contacts. "If you have a friend in your address book (People tile), and that person has a matching Skype and Microsoft email address, they will show up as a contact in the 'Messaging' pane," explained Karen Tong, senior product marketing manager at Skype, in an Oct. 10 statement. "Just click on their photo to add them to your Skype contact list," she instructed.
New messaging features include the ability to add people to group chats by clicking the plus symbol ("+") in a conversation. In the chat pane, users can also now pick up conversations where they left off. "Just click on the ':-)' [smiley emoticon] on the upper right and your most recent conversations are listed," said Tong.