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article imageSkype's 'personal' update lands on Windows and Mac

By James Walker     Oct 30, 2017 in Technology
Microsoft has announced Skype's controversial update is now available on Windows and Mac desktops. Built upon the new design language introduced on mobile earlier this year, the update refocuses Skype around informal communications between friends.
In a post on the Skype blog, Microsoft said the update is meant to "make staying in touch easier." It's bigger, bolder and brighter than the outgoing desktop app, featuring a modern design palette and colourful, gradient-filled messages. The new look is likely to prove divisive though as many users are unhappy with Skype's push towards becoming a social platform.
Keeping in touch
You can send Facebook-style reactions as responses to messages, interact with automated bots and share status messages with friends and family. The latter feature is an old Skype capability that has been overhauled for the new update as a way of making ephemeral Snapchat-style chat posts.
New Skype for desktop
New Skype for desktop
Skype's basic design has also seen some attention. The new interface supports theming so you can adjust the colour scheme and background accent to suit the time of day or your mood. The contact list has been improved so you can pin individuals or groups and change the way in which people are ordered. It can be collapsed into a more compact view to save screen space.
Productivity features
In an attempt to show Skype can still be used for work, the update comes with a set of new productivity features aimed at desktop users. These include a dedicated notification panel that lets you check on new messages, mentions and reactions you missed while away from your PC.
There's also a built-in media gallery that lets you pick images, links and files from your PC and add them to a conversation. Additional options can be integrated in the form of external add-ins, letting you access services like Giphy and Bing Image Search from within your Skype chats.
Communicating at scale
Microsoft said the new Skype is also more reliable and robust due to changes to the app's underlying architecture. It's now based in the cloud, giving it more room to scale as the service grows. The "brand-new" technology will help Skype serve millions of people without performance being degraded.
New Skype for desktop
New Skype for desktop
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"The Skype for desktop Preview and the next generation of Skype for mobile improved the way you connect with your contacts and added expanded capabilities such as personalized themes, chat list, and @mentions to the Skype experience," said Microsoft. "The Skype desktop app—now out of preview and rolling out today—brings all these exciting new improvements and features to your desktop. It’s all built on brand-new technology that scales to billions of people on a reliable platform."
The new Skype experience is rolling out now to desktop users on Windows and Mac. However, Windows 10 users are still advised to use Microsoft's separate Skype app from the Windows Store. This is less feature-rich than the desktop client being relaunched today and doesn't yet include all the new Skype capabilities. Microsoft said it will be updated "shortly" to add them in.
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