Skype 5.0 Beta for Mac OS X: A First Look with Screenshots
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Skype 5.0 Beta for Mac OS X: A First Look at Group Video

Continuing on from Part 1 where I looked at the new user interface in the Skype 5.0 Beta for MacOS X including using chats and making audio calls, let's look at video and the new Group Video.

UPDATE: I now have a video review available on YouTube showing the Group Video feature in action.

Video - and Group Video

Making a video call is very much the same experience as an audio call - make the call with the video button next to your contact or press the video button in a audio call. You get your standard small "preview" screen and you see the person you are calling. You can pull up the video window so that you can see the chat. If you don't move the mouse over the window for a bit, the controls fade away so that you see the entire screen of the other persons video. All in all pretty nicely done:


(And yes, I deliberately covered some of the names of the chats. :-) ) For those curious, the person I'm calling is Chaim Haas who works with PR for Skype.

Adding someone else in launches the Group Video feature where you first have to accept that you are joining a "trial":

Group video and sharing.jpg

No clue what will happen in 28 days when the trial expires... but whatever...

The result is a great 3-way conversation via video - and yes, Chaim had two separate laptops running 5.0 (one Windows, one Mac) so we brought in two different accounts he had:


Just to show that it could work with more people, we brought in a colleague of Chaim's:


I found it interesting to note that Skype 5.0 identifies the person currently speaking with green on their name (although with video I would think it's a bit easier to see who is talking).

Note, too, that at the bottom there is another person, Adam Hirsch, below the line. Chaim mistakenly added him to the call at the same time he added his colleague, but what's interesting is that because I was the organizer, the new person was not automatically added to the call. Instead, I had to approve them joining the call (as I did with Chaim's colleague). You can also do some funky things like minimize some of the video sessions so that you see one larger than the others:


The other video sessions are continuing to stream and you can see by the green that Aziza was the one speaking at the precise time I snapped this video.

My screenshots have shown the group video taking up the whole screen, but you can also expose the sidebar and see all your chats/conversations:


Here is one major difference with the "one window" paradigm. You can switch over to any of your chats to participate in the chat - but you can't see the video any longer. You are still sending video, of course, you can't see it until you switch back to the call window. Previously with the multiple windows you could resize the video to fit in one part of your screen and simultaneously have your chats open in a separate window.

Screen Sharing

Like the previous 2.8 client, Skype 5.0 Beta for MacOS X supports screen sharing, although with one change - you can only share your full screen and not a region of the screen:


I don't know how many people used the ability to share a selection of the screen, but I know that from time to time I did. Hopefully that might be something they'll bring back in a later beta or release.

Flipped Video

One funky thing I did notice in my test with Chaim was that my local video - the image of my myself that I see, turns out to be flipped horizontally. (And this turns out to be the case for the Skype 5.0 for Windows client as well.) I probably wouldn't have noticed... except that when Chaim shared his screen showing my video on Skype I noticed that my direction of viewing was reversed. A subsequent holding up of a book rather directly verified that:


Not a big deal... the recipient of the call is seeing the correct viewing angle. It is only you who see the flipped video.

Wrapping Up

Combined with the first part of this review, that pretty much does it for a tour of the Skype 5.0 Beta for Mac. After two days of usage I'm still getting used to the new UI. I've been using Skype for 5 or 6 years now and using it almost entirely on the Mac for the past 3 years... so I've gotten very used to my certain way of working with Skype... and this new UI fundamentally changes so much of that. I realize, though, that I probably push some of the features and use it more heavily than many people do. I'll try to summarize my overall opinion in another post.

Meanwhile, what do you all think? If you are a Mac user, are you going to give the Skype 5.0 Beta a try? If you have done so already, what do you think of it so far?

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