Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Skype for Mac sucks.

I got a message on my computer today. There's a new version of Skype! It's only been 6 months since their last developer's blog post. I should know, I check every few days to see if, by some act of God or Management, they're forced to actually post something.

It seems even a new version of their product doesn't warrant a post. Nice to know they care.

Anyways, what's new with the new version? Why, it's a list of items that were new last July! How useful. They can't even post a changelog for the last two versions of their software. Why should I download the new version, exactly? Oh, yeah. Because I'd asked if they could fix a really annoying 'feature'.

On to why the software itself sucks:

The Drawer is a software feature that Apple put into OS X way back at the beginning, but stopped shipping years ago. I don't remember an exact date, but it's been at least since OS X 10.5 that it hasn't been a standard GUI element. That means Skype goes out of their way to include this horrible bit of code that everyone agrees sucks. Let me show you what it looks like:

Screen shot 2010-03-10 at 10.40.43 AM

Want to see what that window should look like? It's possible!

Screen shot 2010-03-10 at 10.42.40 AM

All you have to do is press a button every single time you open a new chat window. You open a chat, the drawer opens. You then click the button and the drawer disappears. Your conversation loses focus, you close the window. Then a new message appears, but before you can respond to it the window opens, and then takes the time to open up a new drawer. It's not like the computer itself is slow, the drawer is actually programmed to take time opening for maximum annoyance effect.

As an added bonus, the overall Skype app ends up taking up a huge amount of space on screen. How much? Here's an image of it (click for full-size):

Screen shot 2010-03-10 at 10.44.03 AM

Notice that I'm told I'm chatting with 'archerjb' no less than three times in that screenshot.

Okay, so, why don't I just send a message to Skype and ask them to add a button to disable the drawer? I have. In fact, I've done it several times. I've seen that several other people have as well. It's one of the most commonly asked features on the Skype forums. It's a simple bit of code to either disable it by default or make a button for it. I've seen other Skype employees even write messages saying they'll 'forward that request to the developers'.

Why haven't we seen any progress?

I suspect it's because the Skype for Mac programmers seem to love the drawer. They have posts on their forums praising how useful it is. They're the only people saying it's awesome. That tells me they have very little oversight. That's not a good thing.

In case you're wondering why I chose to post this rant, it's because blogs have a really nice habit of getting picked up by search engines. Maybe if it gets seen, it might force them to fix their piece of crap. I have no delusions that my individual opinion matters, but bad press is bad press. I like to think that somebody at Skype Googles 'Skype' once a day, and they'll come across this and tell someone to get them in line. I'm not horribly hopeful, though.

Oh, yeah, one bit of sad praise: At least this time the main Skype download link has the updated version. Last update, they didn't include it. So anyone downloading Skype got an outdated version right off the bat. On top of that, the 'check for updates' feature in the app itself didn't find the updated release. You had to read their biannual blog post to get it. How convenient.

The saddest part about all of this? Skype is still the best VoIP client available.


  1. I couldn't agree more. The Mac Skype client is terrible. Every time I work from home and open skype I'm reminded how much worse this interface is than my work PC version and start googling to see if there is a third party client I can use instead. Today I found your post.

  2. I found this article by Googling "Skype for Mac Sucks", it seems about on par of what I was looking for. I was wondering if I was the only one who found the user interface be horrible. I wish it were easier to use.

  3. Hehe, in fact, I found this via google while searching for a way to disable said drawer permanently. It's horrendous!

    I'm using Skype and it's still not possible to get rid of it. Bah.

  4. I completely agree. I thought Skype for Mac would be amazing! Was I ever wrong. So many things that could be done to improve it. I get annoyed with the various windows. Being able to take video snapshots is a big con as well. I find myself checking for updates constantly hoping that they'll add or fix things.

  5. Either Skype doesn't care or the developers at Skype just don't have the chops. Who knows... Their are a lot of hacks passing themselves off as legit programmers.

  6. it is terrible, it opens in three different windows, clutters up th screen. the pc version is loads better laid out. for example, if someone has a cell phone attached to their profile it is right there. with mac skype you have to go looking for everything.

    everything takes multiple mouse movements/keystrokes. sending me crazy!

  7. I totally agree with you. everytime, I have to disable the drawer. sucks.

  8. +1
    I agree...
    I found this blog while I was searching for a tip IOT disable that crapy Drawer

  9. The drawer should be CLOSED by default, not open. The drawer capability might be useful but why the Hell should I have to close the damn thing every single time I open a chat window?? It's is a completely annoying pain in the backside. I've just spent half an hour trying to work out how to have it closed by default but to no avail. Thanks Apple, you stink, in so many ways.

  10. And i keep the buttons hidden too, so it's;
    -show buttons
    -close drawer
    -hide buttons
    ..every time i open a new chat. Fuck you drawer

  11. +1 it sux! big time!

    how about switching between the contact list and the recently called list. what a pile of sh!t

  12. Totally agree, the drawer is horrible piece of crap. Functionality doubling with contact list, slow to respond crap.

  13. I couldn't agree more! Well put.