Skype has now officially released version 2.0, which includes video. Skype users can now easily see each other while they communicate if they plug in a webcam (web camera). Naturally, showing, or viewing video between users is a choice that can be made in addition to the other modes of communication, voice, phone, text chat and file transfer.
The quality of the video is excellent. Skype-News has tested it extensively with great results, Skype video is easy to use and fail safe. You can choose whether you want to automatically send and receive video, or press the start video button on a case by case basis. Privacy issues are also well catered for as well as other settings for the webcam.
However, for most users, there would be no need to make any changes. Simply plug in your web camera after you have Skype 2.0 and away you go. Just call anyone on your contact list, if they also have Skype video, it is as simple as pressing a button to start. On the Skype website there is also help and information for those who need it, however under Tools/Options in the Skype menu you will find on the video tab anything you need, including testing your camera before going live and changing settings.
Skype video can be switched with one click of the mouse between your Skype window, a new larger and resizable window or full screen. Additionally you can choose whether to show your own image in the corner. The size and usability of these windows as well as the picture quality with the low-cost 520R webcam tried and tested by Skype-News*, are outstanding.
Other great improvements come with Skype 2.0 especially with contact groups, filtering of quick search for contacts or past calls made or received, voicemails, chats, multi-chats or files sent, some layout improvements and a 'mood message' that can be seen by your contacts.
However, at this point, one has to wonder about the wisdom of swamping the new Skype colour Cyan, with 8 other different blues, all in one interface. There are surely many people out there whose favourite colour is not blue, branding with a particular colour if that is the idea, for example cyan, is a good idea, but where it belongs.
The nice pleasing look of the Skype interface has thus degraded somewhat through overuse of different contradictory fonts and poor colour choice, and hard to read contact names which are - wait for it - white on light blue! It can only be hoped that Skype will see sense and bring about a more balanced, legible and less boring set of colours, allowing its brand colour of Cyan to stand out appropriately.
A small victory has already been won by Skype users for the ring tones of Skype 2.0, in the first beta release they had been replaced by awful odd bubbly sounds, that would likely not go down well with serious communicators, and received a bad review. These tones can now easily be replaced with 'classical' Skype tones in the sound options. A whole new range of events can now also optionally trigger different sounds, and notifications.
The history tab now also has immense use: you can easily just start typing and find a past chat, file sent, or contact called, as well as find missed calls, and other events with speed and ease. The same is true of the contact list, however, for some strange reason Skype felt that their users would not be able to correctly use these features and so disabled them by default. We strongly recommend switching 'filtering' on in the advanced options.
Additionally one can now add any number of groups to organise your contacts in, as well as default groups for SkypeOut contacts, online contacts and so on. This is a great feature for those with a large number of contacts and who wish to organise them into friends, family, or any other category of your choice.
Overall we are very satisfied with Skype 2.0 after reviewing it these past weeks, aside from the terrible overkill of the use of blue in almost every window.
*) We have purchased a quantity of web cameras after searching the world for the lowest-cost camera that delivers good quality video images on Skype. These tried and tested "520R" webcams are approved and recommended by Skype-News for use with Skype 2.0 and can be purchased at the below URL: