Skype for Windows 2.5 BETA — SMS, Shared Groups, other improvements
Skype for Windows 2.5 BETA is now available. [Download it here.](http://www.skype.com/download/skype/windows/skype25beta.html)
Following are the highlights of this release.
### Shared groups
Shared groups are an interesting new feature. [Read this for more](http://blogs.skype.com/sites/en/2006/05/shareg_groups_in_skype.html) or see the [starting guide](http://www.skype.com/help/guides/sharedgroups.html).
You can now send [SMS text messages](http://www.skype.com/products/skypesms/) to mobiles with Skype. Just right-click on a contact who has a mobile number entered in their profile, or on a SkypeOut mobile contact, and select “Send SMS Message”. [See the guide for more.](http://www.skype.com/help/guides/sms.html)
]]>SMS is available globally. If the message is longer than the standard 160 characters (less when you use non-Latin characters), the text is split up into several messages and you may be charged for more than one message.
The price of the message varies according to the destination country. The exact rate is displayed when composing the message. [See the rates.](http://www.skype.com/products/skypesms/rates/)
SMS sending is outbound only: you cannot receive SMS messages in Skype. However, there’s a cool trick which lets the messages look like they have been sent from your mobile number. This way, you can send messages to your friends from Skype, and they can respond to your mobile, and it works seamlessly. To do this, you have to send an authentication code to your mobile and then enter it in Skype. See “Tools”, “Options”, “SMS Messages”.
### Easier SkypeOut calls and dialling
We want to make SkypeOut as easy to use as is humanly and alienly possible, and then make it easier still. This release has many improvements to serve that goal.
First, you no longer need to enter the number always in full international format when dialing within your current country. You can enter numbers in local format, and Skype figures it all out for you. Also, we have reworked the Dial tab for the exact same reason. You no longer need to learn all those country codes — Ecuador is +593, Germany is +49, Luxembourg is +352 and all that. Instead, you can just select the country name from the dropdown and enter the number in local format, and the behind-the-scenes magic does all the rest.
Prices have been hard to figure out — the only way to check them until now was to confirm them on the web. Now, when you are making a SkypeOut call, the current active minute price is displayed right on the call tab.
We’ve also made it easier for you to call your existing contacts using SkypeOut by allowing you to view and call all of your Outlook contacts directly from Skype. To see your Outlook contacts in Skype, just go to the View menu item and select “View Outlook Contacts”. Skype displays all of your Outlook contacts immediately. Best of all, they’ll stay up-to-date as Skype refreshes your Outlook contacts everytime you make a change or add a new contact.
### Video no longer limited to Windows XP only
We limited video for Windows XP in the previous release to ensure maximum quality and stability. In this release, we have removed this limitation — video calls now work on all the platforms where you have installed the latest versions of DirectX, your webcam driver and fulfilled other dependencies. This certainly includes Windows 2000 where it works fine, plus naturally Windows XP continues to be supported. We have actually not put much work into checking whether it works on Windows 98/ME, as those platforms are heading towards being made obsolete. On Skype side there are no limitations why it should not, so if you are running one of those systems (or any other version of Windows not covered here), please try it out and let us know how it goes.
### Call quality helper
Call quality remains one of our highest priorities. There are many components to call quality and Skype software is just one of them. Other important factors are your network and hardware configuration. If any of those is not optimal, your call quality may degrade, even though it may be easy to fix.
To help you achieve the highest possible call quality, Skype now monitors the related factors and displays help info if it finds anything that could be improved. The call quality indicator sits next to the call duration meter. Just click it to get more help.
### Improved Conference Calling with voice meters
Instantly see who is talking on a conference call as the participant’s picture flashes when they begin to speak. This happens during all calls, but it’s especially handy in conference calling.
### Easier to buy Skype Credit
One of the many suggestions you have given us is to make payments easier. Currently, you need to go through about ten screens on the web to complete your first payment if you wish to buy Skype Credit. To make it easier, 2.5 contains an integrated payment feature and most of the payment flow happens right on your desktop. Just click “Buy Skype Credit” in the Skype account area and follow the on-screen prompts. This is much handier than clicking through a bunch of web screens, even though you are taken to the web for final stages of your payment. (The last bit happens because Skype works with numerous payment providers and banks, and getting them all to support the integrated payment flow would have required considerable re-engineering of numerous web-based systems, which was not realistic for this release. More simplification will surely follow in the future releases.)
### Easier upgrades
A big grievance with Skype was that it was difficult and tedious to upgrade — you had to check a menu item and go to some website and then manually download and install the update. No more — Skype now does it all for you. By default, it downloads the new version automatically and just prompts you for final installation. You can modify this behaviour in Options menu, Updates section.
To check if there is an update available, just open the Help menu and select Check for Update.
### Please tell us what you think
We’re eager to know what you think of this new version. Please [sign up to receive the survey](http://ecustomeropinions.com/popup/survey.php?sid=909839823). In a couple of weeks, we will then e-mail you a survey to fill. This will be of great help to us. Thanks.
Apart from the survey, please post comments here or in the forum and on your own blogs and any other places you can think of. Let’s get the word out there.