The ‘radical’ redesign of Skype that most of the internet seems to hate is now available on Linux — hurrah!
But before you get anxious about upgrading I should say that the redesign is not being forced on you — not yet, anyway!
Instead, to try what Microsoft calls “the most expressive Skype ever” on Linux you have to opt-in to a new desktop preview.
Microsoft debuted its ‘next generation’ Skype back in June. The colourful, trendy, mobile-first redesign has attracted harsh criticism from both fans of the service and tech pundits alike.
Now, having brought the Skype redesign to Windows and Mac in the form of desktop previews, it’s Linux’s turn to don the colourful garb and trot out the trendy buzzwords.
“Skype Preview puts chat front and center—making this the most expressive Skype ever. You can also do more together in group calls, with real-time screen and photo sharing,” they say of the release.
“We’re committed to providing a Skype experience you love, enhancing the way you talk, text, and experience the world—all from the comfort of your desktop.”
‘The Redesign Reimagines What Skype Is’
Far more than a lick of paint, the new Skype redesign fundamentally reimagines what the service is — or, to word it more cynically, what it wants to be.
Through the use of bold colors and strong iconography the app certainly appears to have more life to it. Strong emphasis is placed on messaging, media sharing, and reactions through mentions, gifs and emoji.
Other changes include new-look group calls; a notification panel for keeping track of mentions in group chats; and there’s a handy media gallery for each and every chat, making it easy to quickly find a shared file or image.
Mercifully (for now) the Snapchat-like ‘Capture’ and ‘Highlights’ features available in the Skype mobile preview are absent here — and long may that continue!
If you choose to opt-in to the preview do keep in mind that everything you see, touch and tap is a work in progress. Skype is encouraging feedback through an in-app mechanism.
Finally: Skype screen sharing works
If the striking new design isn’t quite to your tastes there is another reason to be geed up by this release: Skype screen sharing from Linux works.
The last time I tried to screen share in the regular Skype for Linux app I …Well, there was no way to share a screen from Linux!
This preview rectifies that. You can share your entire screen in any group chat or a one-to-one conversation. Just tap the overflow button in the call toolbar and select ‘share screen’:
Do keep in mind that the screen sharing feature will not work under Wayland. If you’re already rocking Ubuntu 17.10 you will need to log out, select the Ubuntu on Xorg session from the GNOME display manager, and then log back in.
Download Skype for Linux Preview
“Since this is a preview, it’s critical that we hear from you; simply click the heart on the menu and send us your thoughts,” Microsoft’s ‘JonasSkype’ says on the Skype support board.
Skype retired its legacy Qt app at the start of July. It now herds users to its anaemic Electron-based ‘Skype for Linux’ replacement.
This app builds on the latter. It’s still an Electron app (with all the benefits and pitfalls that entails) but the UI does at least give the app more presence, and the improvements to group chat especially are commendable.
Whether you opt-in to the preview right now or not you should expect to see bits of the ‘new’ UI roll out and trickle down when feedback from the preview is