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Microsoft updates Skype for Windows, Mac with new chat interface

Microsoft updates Skype for Windows, Mac with new chat interface

Microsoft's Skype app has received a facelift that makes it look more like Windows Phone--which may or not be a good thing.

Chatting in Skype for Windows and the Mac now looks more like the Windows Phone version, whether you like it or not.

Microsoft's Skype announced version 7.0 for the Mac together with a new preview version for the Windows desktop. Both include a number of potentially attractive productivity improvements, including the ability to chat and talk simultaneously in the new Mac version. But there's still an awful lot of white space, which may annoy some.

"For the last year we've dedicated a lot of time to refresh the chat experience in Skype. We've brought more improvements to the desktop," Tom Huang, a Skype exec, wrote in a blog post.

Why this matters: What's good for the goose isn't necessarily good for the gander. On a phone, scrolling is part of the experience. On a PC, it's more annoying. The new chat UI could use some tightening up, especially if spread out across a large, high-resolution monitor, to cut out some of that white space. But while Skype hasn't come out and said it, we suspect the new Skype app (at least on Windows) is intended to be (eventually) snapped inside one of the four corner windows that Windows 10 allows. In that scenario, the UI should (hopefully) tighten up and conserve space more efficiently.

Some useful additions

In general, the new chat UI looks nice, with round avatars representing your friends. Photos can easily be dropped into a chat session, as can documents. Both are useful features when talking back and forth with a colleague or friend, although the layout isn't quite ideal--they sort of dominate the conversation. Microsoft touts this increased spacing as a benefit, although it may prove a bit annoying to scroll back through a long chat.

When chat is tucked into a narrow window, however, it seems to work well. Skype for Mac 7.0 adds the ability to text-chat and video-chat in side-by-side windows, sharing photos and documents alongside the live commentary that you and your friends can provide. And Microsoft also promised that the free group video calls that the company previously announced will work better than ever.

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