updated 05:45 pm EST, Tue March 6, 2012
Automatic updates, full screen mode, more
The Skype Group at Microsoft has updated Skype, its VOIP calling, chatting and video-conferencing application for the Mac, to version 18.104.22.168. The new release primarily adds automatic updating to the program, along with an improved user interface for group video calls, the ability to delete conversations, a new full-screen mode for Lion and the ability to disable Audio Gain Control. The new release also fixes several minor bugs and issues.
Users can now disable the automatic adjustment of mics in the preferences in order to reduce background noise, and can also delete messages from within a conversation or remove conversations outright from the sidebar and the history. While no major changes in the much-criticized large general UI for Skype have yet been made, group video calling now offers a "dynamic" mode where the person who is speaking is automatically moved to the top of the screen (users can also stay with "non-dynamic" mode if they prefer). The app now also has a Lion-compatible full-screen mode for video calls or chatting if desired.
Skype will now automatically upgrade to newer versions as they are released, allowing the company to quickly fix bugs or patch security issues as well as keep users on the latest version. The upgrade also fixes a handful of issues, including choppy audio with USB headsets in group calls, selecting contacts in the contact list, a bug where the call toolbar failed to appear after a call is ended, and an issue where chat messages weren't shown after clearing recent conversations or closing the previous conversation.
The Skype program itself is free, as is chatting, audio or video calls to other Skype members, along with beta support for Facebook IM, audio and video chat. For a fee, users can also use Skype to send text messages even to non-members. The company says it is seeking further user feedback on call quality and other issues via its member forums. Technical issues should be reported via the company's public issue tracker.
Subscriptions that range from $30 to $60 per year add the ability to be assigned a US phone number so that users can receive inbound calls from regular and cell phones, and unlimited calling in North America from Skype to regular and cell phones. Other plans offer calling to other countries, or users can store money in their account to use for occasional international calling or texting.