First look at Skype 5 beta for Mac

Skype have released a beta version of Skype 5 for Mac and I’ve taken a look at what it offers. In a nutshell, Skype for Mac has gone through some significant changes that make it bigger, slicker and with more video conferencing support. Some people will like the new look but until they get used to it, others might find it a bit of a pain.

The first thing you notice when you log in for the first time is that the traditional Skype interface has been replaced with a bigger, streamlined one. By default, your contacts list is on the left, the other basic functions are in the main part of the program window making it more streamlined and slicker than previous releases:

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Scrolling through your contacts has now been made slicker thanks to a new iTunes style Coverflow feature although it obviously looks better if all of your contacts use a photo or profile image:

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Searching for them has also been made easier by integrating them with your Mac address book. This search function also works for chats meaning you can search your conversations for certain keywords. You can also now rename contacts so that you’re not stuck with their default username.:

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Most significant in Skype 5 is the ability to video conference with up to ten participants. Group conferencing has also been made easier thanks to the redesigned call window which means that all distractions (such as other conversations) are minimized and only the participants displayed. Note that all participants must have Skype 5 beta installed:

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Overall, Skype 5 is an improvement on the last stable release 2.8. However, it may take some time to adapt to the new interface but once you have, it feels like a much slicker OS X application. Unlike the Windows version, there’s no Facebook integration in this release and remember that since this is a beta version, it may be prone to instability particularly when video conferencing.

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