It’s probably no exaggeration to say that no other application has saved more long-term relationships and helped close more business deals than Skype.
Skype was first released in August 2003 and soon after acquired by eBay for $2.6 billion. Today, Skype is owned by Microsoft, who redesigned the application throughout 2016 and 2017 to make text-based messaging more prominent than voice calling.
As a result of the redesign, many Linux distributions, including Arch Linux, let users choose between two different versions of Skype: the latest version and a legacy version. In this article, you’ll learn about some of the major differences between the two versions, and we explain to you how you can install both on Arch Linux and how you can solve common problems that you may run into when using Skype.
How to Install Skype on Arch?
Before you can begin installing Skype on Arch, you need to decide whether you want to install the latest version or the legacy version.
Skype used to be a peer-to-peer telecommunications application before Microsoft transitioned it to Azure, the company’s cloud computing service for building, testing, deploying, and managing applications and services through a global network of Microsoft-managed data centers.
With the transition to Azure also came a radical redesign of the entire application. In a press release, Microsoft said that the new version of Skype “delivers most of the great features of our next generation mobile experience but is specifically designed with the desktop in mind, to take full advantage of the larger screen.” Even though many users strongly disliked Skype’s new look after it went live, the dust has mostly settled now, and the most glaring issues have been fixed.
In summary, there are essentially only two reasons to install the legacy version: you are against the new, centralized model and you dislike the new design.
Skype for Linux
The latest version of Skype, called Skype for Linux, is available from AUR, a community-driven repository for Arch users, as skypeforlinux-bin. You can install it with your favorite AUR helper or manually.
To install Skype (both Skype for Linux and Legacy Skype) manually from AUR, you need to download the appropriate shell script containing the build information required by the package you want to install. This shell script is called PKGBUILD, and every package on AUR has one.
- Locate the package in AUR using the search feature.
- Download the build files, which contain the PKGBUILD, with your web browser by clicking the “Download snapshot” link under “Package Actions” on the right-hand side.
- Extract the build files with the following command:
- Install the base-devel group, which is needed for compiling from source:
pacman -S base-devel
- Navigate to the directory with the extracted build files:
- Make the package:
Installing Skype Using Pacaur
Pacaur is a popular Arch User Repository (AUR) helper that wraps all operations of pacman, the default package manager of Arch Linux, and by extends its sync, search, info, download only, system upgrade, upgrades check, clean, and clean all functions to the AUR.
Before you can install Skype using pacaur, you need to install pacaur from AUR by completing the same steps as are described above. Once you have pacaur installed, you can use the following comamnd to install both Skype for Linux and Legacy Skype:
pacaur -S package_name
What Features Can I Use for Free?
The free version of Skype lets you call anyone else on Skype for free, participate in group calls with up to 25 people, forward Skype call to another Skype account, take your conversations to the next level with Skype video calls, send instant messages, share files, and even collaborate with a friend or colleague using the screen sharing feature.
To discover what else Skype can do for free, we recommend you visit its official website, where you can see a comprehensive list of features and click on any feature to read a detailed description of it.
What Features Do I Have to Pay for That Are Useful or Interesting?
Perhaps the most interesting paid feature is international calling to mobiles and landlines. Skype offers affordable domestic and international calling rates, allowing users to pay for calls to mobile and landline numbers with Skype Credit or a subscription.
Another useful paid feature is Skype call forwarding to a mobile or landline. To use it, you either need a calling subscription that covers the country you want to receive the forwarded calls in or purchase some Skype credit.
Last but not least, you may also be interested in the Skype for Business subscription, which “lets you add up to 250 people to online meetings, provides enterprise-grade security, allows you to manage employee accounts, and is integrated into your Office apps.”
How to Solve Common Problems
Linux versions of Skype aren’t exactly known for their reliability and polish. Things do break on occasion, and you should know how to find solutions to common problems.
For general Skype problems, we recommend the official Skype support page, where you can contact Skype’s official customer support team or join the conversation with other Skype users.
Solutions to many Linux-specific issues, such as the common problem with Skype’s GUI not matching the selected GTK theme, can be found on Arch’s wiki. Of course, you can also ask your fellow Arch users for help on the Arch forum.
Arch users who are already familiar with AUR shouldn’t have any problem installing Skype on Arch Linux, and those who have yet to discover what AUR is all about can approach the installation of Skype as a wonderful learning opportunity.