Integrate the aging Skype client into Ubuntu. Skype-Wrapper is a third party program that forces Skype’s aging Linux client into the current decade of Ubuntu’s desktop. With modern notifications, integration with the notification applet, and various tweaks that make Skype easier to use in Unity, Skype-Wrapper is a collection of tweaks the Skype team should have added years ago.
Using Skype on Linux can feel like a trip back in time. While Mac and Windows users see regular updates, Skype for Linux is always functional but never quite in line with the feature set on other platforms. Years sometimes pass between minor updates, and the Skype on Linux blog is seldom updated.
But the Skype team has said Skype for Linux is not dead, and I suppose Linux users should be happy that Skype, owned by Microsoft for over a year now, still works on Linux at all. We should also be thankful Microsoft didn’t rename it “Windows Live MSN Video Conferencing System Powered By Skype Technology”, but let’s not kid ourselves: that will probably happen eventually.
Hopefully someday the Skype team will update this client, so it integrates well with the Ubuntu and other desktops. For now, however, we’ll need to rely on tweaks from the Linux community. Skype Wrapper is an example of what that community can do, and makes Skype feel just a little more modern.
Using Skype Wrapper
What exactly does Skype Wrapper do? It makes Skype work with all of the things it should work with by default.
For example: the indicator applet contains all incoming messages: email, instant messaging and social networks all find there home there. If you use this menu regularly, it may annoy you that Skype doesn’t integrate with it. Skype Wrapper solves the problem:
Even better: your status in Skype is set by your system-wide status. This means when you set yourself as “Available” in the above menu, you’ll be set as “Available” in Skype alongside Empathy, the default IM client in Ubuntu.
Every application on Ubuntu uses the same simple style for notifications. Unless, of course, you use Skype. Want Skype to use Ubuntu’s default notifications? Good news: this is another thing Skype Wrapper does:
Several Ubuntu applications feature a useful menu of options when you right-click their tray icon. Not Skype–unless, of course, you’re using Skype Wrapper:
You get the idea: Skype Wrapper makes Skype behave the way an Ubuntu application should behave. It’s not the most important thing in the world, but if you like your computing experience to feel consistent it’s worth setting up.
Installing Skype Wrapper
So how does one set this up? First things first: you need to install it. Happily, doing so is easy. Just install the “skype-wrapper” ppa, then install the package. Here’s the code for doing so from the Terminal:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:skype-wrapper/ppa
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install skype-wrapper
Once you’re done with this, you should add the Skype Wrapper tray to the Ubuntu dock. Doing so is a touch more complicated than I’d like, but not impossible. Open your file browser, and browse to “/usr/share/applications/”. Scroll down until you find two “Skype” icons, then drag the second icon to your dock.
Click this to launch Skype from now on and everything will be launched within the wrapper.
The first time you do this, you’ll be asked to allow a plugin. Allow it and you should be good, though you may end up doing so several times–there’s a bit of a bug.
Once you get this working, you may notice that Skype is in the tray twice: once in the indicator applet, and again with its own icon. You can remove the tray icon by uninstalling “sni-qt”:
sudo apt-get remove sni-qt
Be warned: removing this package will stop VLC, Spotify and a few other apps from using your tray, so only do this if you’re okay with losing that functionality. Sorry: there’s no other way to do this as of when I’m writing this. Sucks.
OMG Ubuntu offers an in-depth look at installing Skype Wrapper; be sure to check it out.
Configure Skype Wrapper
You will find, in your menu, a “Skype Wrapper Settings” app. Use this to configure how Skype Wrapper works:
I highly recommend turning off the startup notifications about all online contacts–it drove me nuts. Other than that, set things up as you see fit.
Is this selection of tweaks perfect? No, and it times it can seem downright buggy. But if you simply can’t stand the clumsy way Skype works on Ubuntu by default, this plugin goes a long way to make things better. I like it.
Does this hack work for you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, along with any other tricks you know for making Skype bearable in Ubuntu.