What the Skype app for Windows 8 is missing

Martin Brinkmann
Oct 25, 2012
Updated • Oct 25, 2012
Apps, Software, Windows, Windows 8

The Internet was buzzing with news that Microsoft released the Skype app early yesterday during the release of Skype 6.0 for Windows and Macintosh systems. I was not able to confirm that yesterday as the app was not available in Windows Store at that time. Today however it is listed in the store and I decided to install it to take a look at its functionality and more importantly settings that it makes available.

Good news is, you do not need to sign in at all if you are signed in with a Microsoft Account in Windows 8. If you have linked a Microsoft account to Skype, you will automatically see your Skype contacts and last messages on the start screen. I was not asked to do that as I have already done so during one of the beta desktop releases of Skype that introduced the feature. I can't say for sure if you will be asked to merge your Skype account with your Microsoft Account when you first run the app but it is very likely that you will.

You will notice that the Skype app lacks several features that the desktop version of Skype makes available. From what I can see, this includes the following features:

  • You can't group contacts anymore. While you can move some to the favorites, you can't create groups anymore to sort contacts in to.
  • File transfer does not appear to be available.
  • You can't chat with multiple contacts at the same time. On the desktop, chats open in an extra window, since you do not have that luxury in the app, you can't effectively communicate with multiple contacts.
  • You can't hide offline / unavailable contacts automatically.
  • You can't change the interface language, it is always set to the system language.
  • You can't change profile related settings in the app, including changing the password or the profile picture.
  • You can't backup or restore contacts, or import contacts directly.
  • You only can set your status to online or invisible.

I may have missed a few features that the Skype app does not support in its current version.

The always on remark during the Skype presentation caused concern as well. The Skype app asks you during first run whether you want to run Skype in the background all the time, or only when it is active. You can change that setting easily in the options, provided that you find them.

The settings are located in the Charms Bar when you open it while Skype is running. Remember, Windows 8 apps display their settings always in the Charms Bar which may be confusing at first as you do not necessarily come to the conclusion that the settings can be found there.

So, press Windows-C to open the Charms Bar and there on Settings to open the Skype specific settings on the screen.

The options let you make changes to the following features:

  • Microphone
  • Speakers
  • Camera
  • Incoming video and screen sharing (set to start automatically)
  • Who can call you (set to everyone)
  • Who can send you instant messages (set to only contacts)
  • Clear all conversation history
  • Answer incoming calls automatically (set to no)
  • Default location for emergency calls (blank)

skype app settings

The Permissions menu handles app permissions. Here you select whether the app is allowed to run in the background all the time.

skype app permissions

The Skype app lacks several features that Skype desktop users have been working with for years. This includes file transfers, multiple chats at the same time and options to manage the account right in the Skype software.

It is likely that the majority of Windows 8 users (not Windows RT) will stick with the desktop application because of this. It is not clear if Microsoft will implement some of the missing features into the app at a later point in time.


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  1. Paulius said on April 20, 2013 at 8:50 am

    I’ve been using Skype on my Surface RT for a few months now and, after many updates, I must say, it’s not that bad anymore. It is good enough for me to not even think about Desktop alternative at all. This version on a touch screen and the snapping ability currently kicks-ass.
    1. You still can’t group contacts, but nor can you do so on iOS or Android versions anymore. A pity, but at least you can favourite them;
    2. File transfers are now available – you can send and receive any files. What I’d like to see implemented is the ability co chose where you want to save an incoming file and the ability to send files (or indeed links/text) using the Windows 8 share charm;
    3. Chatting with multiple contacts is quite easy, both in snapped or full view – just swipe down from the top of the screen to see all the active chats, sorted by the most recent ones being on the left (you can scroll the list sideways);
    4. You can now filter contacts and see either all or only online ones;
    5. I don’t know if it’s possible to change interface language, never tried to, but I think it’s a good thing that it does so automatically – Win8 is all about straight-forwardness and powerful but simple computing. I don’t think such a feature would make sense at all;
    6. Not sure about passwords (never changed it), but you can definitely update your profile info and picture within Skype for Windows 8;
    7. You can’t backup contacts still, I think, but wasn’t this feature necessary because of the “disappearing contacts” issue? As long as contacts don’t disappear, this feature is obsolete for a consumer. Maybe for some corporate uses when you want to export huge lists of contacts it would make sense, but corporate use is not what Metro UI is about. For pure productivity there’s not going to be anything better than the Desktop;
    8. I think the status system is still like that. And I think it needs improvement. The feature I miss the most is auto-away status. If I choose to run Skype “under lock screen” (Windows 8 term of run in the background even when the app UI is closed), I always appear as online to all my friends even though my Skype app is closed and the screen of my Surface is off. Windows Phone version of Skype shares this awful flaw. I am constantly online, no matter what.
    So, as you can see, most of these issues have been corrected over the months and Skype for Windows 8 offers truly great experience, it’s not yet perfect. I’d like to list a few flaws myself:
    1. While I do like the fact that your Skype contacts automatically merge with your gmail, facebook, etc contacts under People app if they share the same full name (you can still merge manually), there is no way to truly rename your Skype contacts – I prefer to have my contacts named using their full names instead of their nick names, and I only can do so using the Desktop Skype.
    2. There is no way to search within the conversation – no ctrl-f. Also, there is no way to select all chat (ctrl-a) and nor is there a way to go to the very beginning of the chat history without scrolling for an hour;
    3. There is no way to edit or delete sent messages – a feature every consumer would enjoy.

    Hopefully the missing features will be added soon.

  2. Forecaster said on January 2, 2013 at 12:44 am

    When I installed the app it had me merge my skype account with a microsoft account. I was also pretty miffed about the lack of functionality which lead me to this article. I will definitely go back to using the desktop version of skype.

  3. HH said on October 28, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Some other things I personally miss:

    – If a chat has new messages, there’s no way to tell which are new and which are not, at least I can’t see any difference between the messages I’ve already read and which are new to me.
    – The ‘arrow up’ key doesn’t allow me to cycle through the previous messages and/or update them
    – Settings are limited, though not sure how much of the settings of the desktop version I’ll going to miss – but at least the notification settings are such.
    – The app doesn’t work fully in snapped mode – you can have one chat there, but trying to open some other chats (via clicking the back button) changes the app to fullscreen mode (which is also against the platform UX guidelines for a very good reason).

    And the absence of statuses other than “invisible” and “online” is just plain stupid.

    So back to desktop version it is at least for now.

  4. Chohannes said on October 27, 2012 at 7:24 am

    Stupid question … But how do you accept an incoming call?

  5. Dan said on October 25, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Thanks for the info Martin… many changes, the info is much appreciated.

    So many changes we’ll have to get used to. I’m very happy many of the keyboard shortcuts still work though, like alt-tab and windows-D.

  6. Jasnzl said on October 25, 2012 at 9:58 am

    While i never understood the ‘Busy’ status of Messenger (if you’re busy, you shouldn’t have chat open)…but to not have an ‘Away’ option is pure stupidity. This is especially useful when it auto kicks in after a certain time away from the computer.

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