Is Skype for Linux Finally Good Enough for Windows Switchers?
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Since Alexander Graham Bell shared his unbridled excitement with Watson, telephony has come a long way. From the short-range telephone right up to mobile phone which has now become an extension of our personalities, telephony is one technology that has evolved rapidly through the past few decades.

vintage telephone
Image Credit: Nednapa Sopasuntorn via Shutterstock

Certain aspects have not developed at quite the same pace though. Skype for Linux has been one of those developments that has unfortunately drawn the short straw. While the Windows and Mac flavors steamed ahead, the Qt Linux Skype client felt like a narcotic addiction. If you wanted to communicate via Skype you needed it, but it felt so watered down and archaic. The Qt Linux Skype client was deprecated in March 2017 to make way for its slick younger brother.

Skype for Linux is now available for download, but is it as full featured as its Windows and Mac cousins? Let’s take a closer look.

Download and Install

You will obviously need a Linux distribution with a desktop environment to use Skype for Linux. After you’ve opened your favorite browser The Best Web Browsers for Windows The Best Web Browsers for Windows What is your default web browser? Even though we're spoiled for choice, the majority of us stick to the tried and tested major players. What are better alternatives for resource use, speed, and security? Read More , you can head over to the download page. Their current requirements list some of the common Linux distributions that are supported, namely Ubuntu, Debian, openSUSE and Fedora. If you are running Ubuntu or Debian select the DEB download, or RPM if openSUSE or Fedora is your weapon of choice. Once the file is downloaded it should just be a matter of double clicking the downloaded file and clicking install.

First Impressions

At first glance the two applications look very similar. As pictured below, both the Windows and Linux versions can sport the dark theme, which subjectively can be easier on the eyes. Currently the Skype icon and title bar scream the word Beta to assure you that this is still pre-release and you may be affected by bugs and odd behavior. For the time being anyway.

windows skype landing

This is reassuring as many people can be impartial to change 5 Surprising Ways Linux Is Changing the World 5 Surprising Ways Linux Is Changing the World From hosting popular websites to the future of science and space travel, Linux is furthering the development of our world, and our understanding of the universe. Read More . When things are uniform and consistent, in other words we can’t really tell the difference, it makes switching easier.

Feature Comparison

Skype for Linux Alpha had very little interoperability in the sense that video calling was only enabled to other Linux and Chromebook users 20 Tips Every First-Time Chromebook User Should Know 20 Tips Every First-Time Chromebook User Should Know Chromebooks are great, but come with a learning curve, and take some getting used to if you've switched from macOS or Windows. Here are several Chromebook tips and tricks to speed up that process. Read More . That is now a thing of the past. Skype for Linux can now communicate with the rest of the Skype family. As long as you have a functioning webcam you can share that infectious smile with anyone running the latest version of Skype. Regardless of platform or device. Group video calling has also been added which is a welcome addition! The caveat being that this is still experimental so your mileage may vary.

linux skype landing

Skype-to-Skype calls have always been free, ignoring the cost of connecting to the internet of course. However, Skype also provides calls to landlines and mobiles. This feature was also missing in the Alpha release, but it rears its welcome head in the Beta. After you have purchased a calling plan or loaded some Skype credit into your account, calls to landlines and mobiles will work as normal.

Screen Sharing

Screen sharing currently is half-implemented. You are able to accept and view a screen share from someone calling from Mac or Windows. If you’re on Linux however you can’t share your screen just yet.

ubuntu skype screen share

The screenshot above shows a Windows desktop which has been shared to Skype for Linux. The resolution isn’t exactly 4K; that being said, Skype screen sharing should be sufficient for viewing what’s on the other user’s screen. The astute among you would have also noticed the video in the bottom right hand corner from the webcam as well. Trying to share your Linux screen in the other direction, as mentioned, isn’t possible.

skype screen share options

The option doesn’t even exist yet. The screenshot above has the Linux option on the left and the Windows flavor on the right. If outgoing screen sharing from your Linux machine is part of your use case, you may want to hold on to your Windows version until this feature becomes available.

Out With the Old, In With the New

If you’re migrating from the now deprecated Skype 4.3, you can transfer your chat history over. Under the application menu navigate to Tools > Export chat history. This will save your previous Skype text chat discussions. Skype for Linux currently stores the past 30 days of conversation history, with promises of extending this time frame in the future.

Another feature, which arguably is quite an edge case, is running two instances of Skype simultaneously. Simply run with the command line argument --secondary to have a second instance of Skype running side by side.

Skype for Business

If your organisation is governed by Office 365 4 Free Alternatives to Microsoft Office 365 4 Free Alternatives to Microsoft Office 365 Microsoft Office 365 offers the perfect integration of a desktop office suite with its web-based counterpart. Can any of its free alternatives compete? We look at four office suites with both offline and online features. Read More , Skype for Business is one of the communication tools offered in its suite. After scouring the web, there doesn’t quite seem to be any sign Skype for Business being available for Linux. Not in the form of an Alpha, not even a thread from Microsoft. This may come across as being strange as this is the paid option which requires a monthly subscription.

That being said, none of the other Microsoft Office applications run natively on Linux either (only with help from Wine How to Install and Use Microsoft Office on Linux (And Its Shortcomings) How to Install and Use Microsoft Office on Linux (And Its Shortcomings) Your PC runs Linux. How on earth are you going to install Microsoft Office, and use it without running into problems? Read More ). If you’re planning on switching any time soon, with a requirement for Skype for Business, this may be a deal breaker for you. The Skype for Business web client which hooks into Outlook 365 seems to only offer chat functionality. This may have been sufficient for many people if it had the bells and whistles of its desktop application variant.

Has Microsoft Lost Its Mind?

Much of the recent direction of Microsoft seems like such an anti-pattern to its old ways. You can now find Linux versions of SQL Server What Is An SQL Injection? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is An SQL Injection? [MakeUseOf Explains] The world of Internet security is plagued with open ports, backdoors, security holes, Trojans, worms, firewall vulnerabilities and a slew of other issues that keep us all on our toes every day. For private users,... Read More , and even Visual Studio Code — all native to Linux! This new direction from Microsoft is really refreshing. Had Microsoft not taken this path, some would argue that it would have been their downfall.

The wider adoption of Linux desktop machines has also made people aware that making applications available to Linux means going with the flow. Porting of applications may not be as quick as people desire, but there’s no doubt that headway is being made. And if the bigger players are on board, there’s no telling which applications are going to be available next!

Which applications do you wish ran on Linux? What Skype alternatives do you use regularly? Have you thought about switching entirely to Linux yet? Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. imnotrich
    October 22, 2017 at 8:56 pm

    Were those screenshots supplied by Microsoft, or were you actually able to test drive SkypeforLinux? After I was forced to abandon version 4.3, I found the replacements up to and including 5.5 had disabled the DTMF pad during calls. So there's no way to navigate phone trees when you're calling a government agency or business. Trying to fix that I upgraded to the absolute latest but as of version 8.9.76.64297 it's still not compatible with AMD processors. Not sure why any program would care what processor I'm using, the OS is the OS period. After logging in, Skype goes straight to a white screen and none of the menus work except for quit and feedback (which calls a website). Interestingly, the white screen does not come up when my wired network is disconnected but it's not a firewall issue. Another very Microsoftspywareish feature of Skype for Linux? It automatically assumes you want Skpe to load at boot. You can't disable that or delay it from any OS settings menu, Skype just rewrites the settings and boots right back up. Not acceptable. And a pity because SFLphone is dead, Ring is garbage, Ekiga's on life support (is it still being maintained? Been years since any bug fixes or new versions released), Google is trying to kill hangouts, and smartphone apps like viber, whatsapp, line, signal now want to tie your cell # to you if you want to use their web based application. So much for privacy settings.

    • Yusuf Limalia
      October 26, 2017 at 6:14 pm

      Hi there!
      Even if Microsoft supplied the screenshots I would always use something myself, extensively, before writing a review on it.

      That would be really silly if it's incompatible with AMD processors as the architecture is similar if not the same. Have you tried it on another machine yet? In a VM, this will abstract the hardware and avoid conflicting software? These arent's solutions but may help in your diagnosis to ensure it's not just a fluffy version from MS.

      Apologies this is a tough one to try and help diagnose, and you've seemed to have done all the steps I would've taken.

  2. Silvere
    September 4, 2017 at 10:26 am

    I noticed the command line --secondary to run two instances.
    When I do this, it launches on of my two former 4.3 Skype instance.
    Should I uninstall Skype 4.3 to make it work ?

  3. Bob
    August 19, 2017 at 5:52 am

    Made the switch a while ago. It wasn't too painfull for a raw beginner. Windblows 10 was the last straw for me. There is no way I'll ever go back. Unfortunately there are a few jobs I can't find easy Linux substitutes yet. Even my wife has made the switch and won't go back to Windblows.

    Linux put control back in my hands. The power of a CLI interface and the convenience of a Windows GUI. The best of both worlds.

    And It's fast, not wasting CPU time to make fancy windows.
    I recently did a virus and malware scan. Over 100,000 files scanned and not a single issue.

  4. Acer
    August 18, 2017 at 1:59 am

    You can't type HTML markup on Skype for Linux, it just gets escaped out

    • Yusuf Limalia
      August 18, 2017 at 7:43 am

      Ah excellent point. Im just curious to know your use case for wanting to do that? Is that just to style your chat text or to send someone some HTML code?

      • Acer
        August 18, 2017 at 11:53 am

        I am a web developer and we discuss projects on Skype. I cannot post example code.

        • Yusuf Limalia
          August 18, 2017 at 12:04 pm

          Ah i understand! Do you use any other collaboration tools perhaps?
          We use TFS and JIRA combined with git

        • Acer
          August 18, 2017 at 12:12 pm

          MUO won't let me reply to your comment, but I use Git for my FOSS collaborations. On the other hand, I am trying to move these people to Slack, as Skype is not really the tool for the job.

  5. Shane Snover
    August 17, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    If you run top with Skype for Linux open you might be in for a surprise. I tend to leave my computer on for a long time and I have noticed Skype for Linux gets a little leaky on resources after some time.

    • Yusuf Limalia
      August 18, 2017 at 7:43 am

      I hate inefficiencies and memory leaks! I hope they sort that out in the release.

  6. vaz
    August 17, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    The last line way too optimistic..

    • Yusuf Limalia
      August 17, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      Perhaps! I never thought I'd see SQL server running on Linux though. We can be hopeful

  7. fcd76218
    August 16, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    Considering that the Microsoft products for Linux are both closed-source and proprietary, nobody outside of the developers knows what backdoors, spyware and/or trackers is included in them. I prefer to use Linux apps developed by Linux developers. Am I paranoid? Perhaps. But when was the last time a tiger changed his stripes?

    • Yusuf Limalia
      August 17, 2017 at 5:45 pm

      You can never be to careful! And there is speculation that the WannaCry ransomware was because of just that. I can see where you're coming from!