I work remotely from home, so just about all the collaborating I do is over the phone or a web meeting. Last week I hosted a webex meeting with a couple coworkers, and one of them said “why aren’t you using a free web conferencing tool?” This week, I need to do another meeting, so I thought I’d better go look for a free tool. I found a few interesting ones:
- Yugma: claims to be easy to use and cross-platform (windows, mac, linux). They have a version that’s integrated with Skype, but most of the comments I saw about it on the Skype forum are not positive. I installed it and like the interface for instant meetings, but the scheduling piece wasn’t as easy. I didn’t see how it integrates with Outlook–the scheduling appears to be via their web site. Yugma features desktop sharing, a free teleconference, annotation tools, and a virtual whiteboard. I didn’t like that the people attending my meeting have to register as a Yugma user before they can attend, and unless you have the pro version, you can’t hand control over to another attendee. Also, you have to install their software on your computer, as do all the attendees.
- DimDim: DimDim is browser-based, so you don’t have to install anything. I like that idea, so I decided to give it a try with one of my friends and am very glad I did, because when I clicked on the “Share Desktop” button, I was prompted that I would have to install something on my computer the first time I share my desktop. So, in the middle of the meeting with my friend, I was installing software while she was wondering where I went. That was awkward. When I finally made it back to the meeting, she was still there (whew!), but when I clicked on “Share Desktop” again, I went into an infinite loop with IE asking me over and over if I wanted to allow this desktop sharing application to run on my computer. I had to go into Task Manager and shut down the application, which of course closed the browser and ended the meeting. I got a note from their tech support, though, telling me to click the “Don’t ask me again” box, so I’ll have to give it another shot.: I like their simple interface.
- Vyew: Vyew looks interesting. It’s also browser-based, but it’s more of a virtual workspace than just a meeting tool. They allow users to post comments right on the presentation, document, or whatever it is you’re working on in what they call a “Vyewbook”. The Vyewbook can stay up there as long as you like, so people could go back and look at it, or even make comments. Vyew is integrated with freeconferencecall.com, so you can use that, or you can just click the “Push to Talk” button and talk into your computer’s microphone. It looks pretty neat, but how do I schedule a meeting? Is it integrated with Outlook? Also, when I was looking at their OverView (which happens to be a Vyewbook), I couldn’t find some of the buttons they were referring to on my screen. The free version allows you to have up to 5 Vyewbooks, and there will be banner advertising on your attendees’ screens. Also interesting is everyone in the meeting can show their mouse cursor, so anyone (not just the presenter) could point to something on the screen in a conversation–an interesting feature that seems very useful, but could get cluttered if you have a lot of people on a meeting. Also, how do you know who’s cursor is whose?
Does anyone have experience with any of these or suggestions for other free web conferencing tools? I’d like to hear them.