(Credit: Skype/Microsoft)

With the frequent reorganization of Google's overlapping family of messaging apps, we wouldn't blame you if you started searching around for something that puts a lot of communication methods under one roof. If you're using an iPhone, iPad or Mac, then you're already likely to be in the Apple Messages camp.

But if you're using Windows or Android, Microsoft's Skype platform is looking increasingly straightforward relative to the flowchart required to navigate Google Hangouts, Hangouts Chat, Hangouts Meet, Android Messages, Google Duo, Google Voice and Google Fi. And today, the "Insider" (aka beta) version of Skype just got a couple cool new perks.

SEE: 6 video chat apps to use instead of FaceTime

The first one is an update to emoticons to allow for some more variety, in a way that doesn't clutter the screen. When you open your emoticon menu (on Android, it's the black and white smiley face icon inside the text typing field) and you long-press an emoji, a new submenu will pop up and show you derivatives of that particular emoji.

So if you're using the regular smiley face emoji, the Insider version of Skype also now lets you choose a monkey, robot, koala and other whimsical possibilities. This feature also extends to ribbons, the color of which can mean different things -- like pink for breast cancer or red for HIV/AIDS.

You can navigate through your emoticon tray more quickly by swiping left and right, or by tapping the icons at the bottom to go straight to different sections. To undo an emoticon, just tap the "x" button in the bottom right-hand corner.

If you video chat a lot, though, the other update may be more interesting. The Skype app will now default to showing you no on-screen buttons during a video call -- not even the status bar that usually shows up at the top of your screen on Android. To bring them back, just tap on the screen.

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Tapping the new three-dot menu in the lower right during a call will also bring up your video chat settings. And the video preview window (the one you use to see how you look to the other person) also gotten a size increase. And your volume control has been moved right above the window for easier one-handed audio device switching (like a Bluetooth speaker).

Microsoft's transition from Skype 7 to Skype 8 hasn't exactly gone smoothly, but it's clearly continuing to work on making it a better experience.

If you don't care about the Insider version of Skype but you still want to check it out, the regular version is available for iOS or Android.

Takeaways

  • The "Insider" beta test version of Skype just added two new features: submenus for additional emoticons, and a more streamlined video calling/chatting interface.
  • With the latter update, you can tap your screen during a video call to make all the interface buttons go away; just tap again to make them reappear.

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Tom McNamara is a Senior Editor for CNET's Download.com. He mainly covers Windows, mobile and desktop security, games, Google, streaming services, and social media. Tom was also an editor at Maximum PC and IGN, and his work has appeared on CNET, PC Gamer, MSN.com, and Salon.com. He's also unreasonably proud that he's kept the same phone for more than two years.