Skype is owned by Microsoft, so it was no surprise that the all-important Skype app made it on the Windows Store in time for the launch of Windows 8. Only just, however. We gave the Skype app for Windows 8 a spin on both a Samsung Series 7 Slate and our primary desktop PC, both running Windows 8 Pro.
One of the oddities of Windows 8 apps is that they exist only in the Modern UI. When using a tablet this is less of an issue, as you’ll spend most of your time in that environment (the Desktop part of Windows RT devices such as Microsoft Surface RT is a barren wasteland).
But on a desktop or laptop it means you really need to have the desktop version as well as installing the app, or use Skype only in the Modern UI. You’re unlikely to do the latter, as it means you can’t use Skype and any other desktop apps simultaneously.
So in Windows 8 at least Skype – like Firefox – becomes a game of two apps. There’s one difference, however. Firefox for Windows 8 is installed as a single app, then works differently in both environments. If you install Skype for Windows 8 and the original Skype you’ll have two separate apps: search for ‘Skype’ and two identical icons will appear. Our advice – if you’re using a desktop or laptop PC, mainly in the desktop environment, don’t bother with the Windows 8 Skype app. Unless the following is of interest…
The potential killer aspect of this app is the Windows 8 split-screen functionality, and the ability to snap in Windows to a portion of your screen. So with Skype for Windows 8 you can continue a Skype call with the righthand panel of your display, and get on with something else with the rest. (You could, for instance, watch a program on iPlayer whilst chatting about it with a friend, or work collaboratively on a document.)
Using Skype for Windows 8
Importantly, apart from giving the interface a Modern UI facelift, the core video and audio calling functions have been left largely alone. By default video calls take up the full screen. You can select to have text chat on the right, too. In our tests on all devices audio and visual quality was good – exactly as it is on the existing Windows version of Skype.
But that facelift is worth the price of admission for tablet users and Modern UI fans. the new-look Skype is great. The design is typically Windows 8: big square panes of simple tones. Chunky icons are plonked just where you’d expect so that the Skype app is – like much of Windows 8 – comfortable to work with regardless of whether you are using touchscreen, touch pad or mouse. Of course, if you are using mouse and keyboard, you’ll probably use the desktop app anyway…
Bespoke Windows 8 touch gestures include dragging down from the top of the screen to see recent conversations, and dragging down and holding in order to move and snap your Skype pane.
Skype for Windows 8: new features, bad points
Windows Messenger is integrated into this Skype app, which is a nice touch. And the app is coded in such a way that if it is running but not actually doing anything, it doesn’t take any of your processing power. That’s right: zero draw on your CPU. It should be the standard.
There are some minor niggles. The notifications acan be annoying. If you aren’t using Skype, getting a message from the app when you are not using it is useful. If you have just finished a conversation you probably don’t need to be notified about it all over again – but that’s what happens as soon as you leave the app.
Also, presumably in order to prevent power and CPU draw, the app doesn’t really run in the background when you are doing other things. Switch back to Skype and the messages pour in. Finally – and this may just be us being stupid (stranger things have happened): but let me know if you can work out how to use two different logins to Skype for Windows 8 without logging out of the OS. You can, of course, have multiple Windows accounts, each with their own Skype logins.
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