Skype for Linux Beta.........
Nate Drake asks whether Microsoft has delivered on its promise of a Skype for Linux that’s as feature rich as those of other platforms.
Nate Drake asks whether Microsoft has delivered on its promise of a Skype for Linux that’s as feature rich as those of other platforms we hear so much about…
Since we last reviewed Skype for Linux Alpha in LXF216, the Beta version 18.104.22.168 has been released. It reflects, in Microsoft’s own words, its “efforts on transitioning Skype from peer-to-peer to a modern, mobilefriendly cloud architecture.”
In plain English this means that Skype for Linux is a web-based app, rather than a fully fledged desktop application. Visit the Skype website to download either a DEB or RPM, depending on your flavour of Linux, and get started.
Skype for Linux Beta now also supports one-to-one video calls to users on other platforms such as Windows and Android. This is a feature that wasn’t included in the Alpha version. For our benchmarking tests we placed video calls from Ireland to a user in Thailand running Skype on Windows XP SP3, and could see no difference in call quality when using Skype for Linux and Skype for Android.
Ubuntu users may also be delighted to hear that the Unity launcher now flags up the number of unread conversations. However, given that Canonical has announced plans to drop Unity in favour of GNOME, it’s not clear how much longer this feature will be supported. Another very welcome addition is that both Away and Do Not Disturb statuses now feature in Skype for Linux’s contact list.
Screen sharing is supported to a limited degree. Windows and Mac OS users running a relatively recent version of Skype can share their screens to your Linux machine, although rather annoyingly, the process doesn’t work in reverse.
The most overt and promising improvements include support for using your Skype credit to call mobiles and landlines. Simply click the dial pad and then select Add Skype Credit to get started. The dialling screen also helpfully reads that Skype for Web (Beta) cannot be used to make emergency calls. This is a stark reminder that, like the Alpha, Skype for Linux is simply a front-end to the web app, which is available from http://web.skype.com. Calling regular telephones is now supported because the web app has added it. Similarly, the option for video calling other Skype users, using YouTube to preview videos or suggesting emoticons all comes on the back of the web app. Sending short video messages in chat is currently not supported in the web version.
Given that Linux users generally need their hands held less than Windows or Mac users, there’s no real useful purpose in preparing specialised binaries for the OS to download when you can simply visit a web address, unless extra features are on offer. During testing the only discernible differences we noticed are that the browser version of Skype doesn’t work well with extensions such as uBlock Origin and that the downloadable Linux version has better support for notifications.
Microsoft has stopped supporting Linux in the past, so there’s no guarantee that Skype for Linux will ever progress from the Beta stage. If it keeps to the promise of developing its web app however, Linux users will be able to call, chat and message using Skype with the rest of them.
Skype now supports sending emoticons, chats and photographs as well as video calls. Top up your Skype credit levels to dial regular phones.