Microsoft’s Skype client has traditionally focused on video and voice calls, but with the rise of mobile it has started to shift to target instant messaging. Skype took over MSN Messenger, and recently picked up some updates to improve its unreliable chat experience across multiple devices. Today, Microsoft is bringing a fresh look to Skype for Mac and Windows. If you’re familiar with the new Skype for iPhone interface, then this latest version of Skype for desktop will look and feel very similar.
There’s a new bubble-style chat design, alongside thumbnail pictures of contacts and big bold icons for chat and video / audio calls. It’s a lot more consistent with the overall look of the mobile clients for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, but it also brings with it some chat improvements. Photos will now be displayed fully inline, and the UI on Windows has been cleaned up to remove spacing between contacts and chats. File sharing overall has been improved, with relevant icons for document types like Word and PDFs to make it easier to spot attachments in a conversation.
Perhaps the biggest changes are subtle ones that improve day-to-day use of Skype. On the Mac side there’s a new side-by-side design for voice or video calls, allowing you to still share photos or instant messages while you’re on a call. Skype’s interface on Mac was rather tedious for transitioning between instant messaging and calls, forcing you to hit a + button to get back to chats. The icons now make a lot more sense so there’s no need to hunt around the interface. Group video calls, which are now free in Skype, work better with the redesign too.
While Microsoft is launching Skype for Mac 7.0 today with the redesign, the company is only previewing the design changes on the Windows side. Both clients are available immediately to download at Skype’s Windows preview and Mac download pages.