In light of both the new coronavirus outbreak and the rise of global business needs, the video conferencing app Zoom has become extremely popular. While there are certainly other video chat applications out there, Zoom adds a suite of tools that, coupled with the company’s renowned reliability, make it the virtual meeting software to beat.
One of the most notable features of Zoom is how easy it is to get started. You simply download the software on any device or platform and provide nothing more than your email address and a password. Start it and you will be presented with four options: New meeting; Join; Scheme; Share screen.
After you start a new meeting, you will be given the option to invite participants. Zoom also makes this easy, as you can either send out invitations as a pre-written email, or you can simply ping other Zoom members in your contact list to ask them to join. Alternatively, you will get a unique URL for your meeting, which you can share any way you want.
The screen sharing feature works in a similar way. Just enter the meeting ID you want to share the computer screen with and the software will do the rest, allowing you to play videos, slideshows, or other content from your computer.
Joining a meeting is as easy as entering the meeting ID you would have received in your invitation.
Finally, the Schedule feature allows you to schedule a meeting at some point in the future. Click on this option and you can choose the date and time of the meeting; decide whether to make it a one-time or recurring meeting; choose whether or not participants need a password; and create a waiting room and the ability to join the meeting before the host arrives if you wish. Then you simply choose which calendar app you want to integrate (such as iCal or Google Calendar) and the software connects, places it in your calendar and lets you invite your participants.
Once you’re in a meeting, Zoom continues to make it easy for you. A series of icons at the bottom of the screen allow you to mute your audio, turn off your video, invite additional participants, or record the meeting. Clicking “Manage Participants” opens a side panel where you can mute or unmute participants, set notification preferences for when someone joins the group, and even lock the meeting.
Clicking the chat icon will open a dialog in the side panel where you can chat in writing, or share files from sources such as Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Box or your computer.
Finally, a ‘Comments’ icon allows you to post the ‘thumbs-up’ or ‘applause’ emoji during your meeting to give a quiet nod to something you particularly like.
Everything described above comes with the free version of Zoom. It allows up to 100 participants in one meeting, unlimited one-on-one meetings and sets a limit of 40 minutes for group meetings. The Pro version, which costs $ 14.99 per month, opens the meeting duration up to 24 hours, adds cloud storage for meeting recordings, lets you generate custom meeting IDs, and gives the meeting host more robust control. Switching to the Zoom version for small and medium businesses for $ 19.99 per month allows for meetings with up to 300 participants, a customizable meeting URL, company branding, the ability to turn all your meeting notes into written transcripts, and more.
But for chatting with friends and family, the free version of Zoom should be more than enough for most users.