Skype 4.0 has finally come out of beta and is being offered as a fully-fledged release. This is great news for anyone who is growing tired of the dated-looking previous version. Although some people have moaned about the new interface for being much bigger than in version 3.8, personally I think it makes things much easier to manage. But of course, it’s not just the cosmetic changes that make Skype 4.0 an essential upgrade. Here are five neat new features that will make your chats more enjoyable:
Video calls – Undoubtedly the biggest enhancements to Skype 4.0 are to its video capabilities. A huge section of the new user interface has been given over to displaying webcam video. You can resize or move the video within this window, comfortably send instant messages with video open at the same time, and there’s now a ‘Video call’ button next to each of your contacts (provided your webcam is plugged in).
Welcome screen – I’ve introduced a lot of my friends and family to Skype recently and almost all of them have had some kind of problem with setting up either the sound, video or speakers. This has been extremely irritating for all concerned. So, thank the Lord for the new welcome screen in version 4.0, which provides tests and clear assistance for these three areas of the set-up process.
Conversation management – It’s logical that the more people you have in your Skype contacts list the problems you’re going to have keeping track of all your chats, missed calls, messages, group conversations, etc. Skype 4.0 addresses this with features such as the ability to mark conversations as unread, play answerphone messages directly in the main window, drag-and-drop contacts into conversations, and more.
Personalization – I’m the kind of person who loves twiddling around with avatars, emoticons, backgrounds and the like, so I was delighted to see Skype has ramped up its personalization options in the latest version. You can now add video to your mood, whereby you can insert a clip from Metacafe or Dailymotion into your profile window for all to see, or even insert a link to your MySpace profile.
Sound quality – The call quality in Skype has always been superior to most of its rival VoIP apps, and now it’s even better. As well as having generally sharper audio quality, the new bandwidth management and sound helper tools let you really refine the sound to make sure you can hear and be heard much more clearly. For me, this is the thing that really separates Skype 4.0 from the other free voice chat tools out there.