Online Meeting Software: 2011 Review

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011 , 5 comments

meeting-software

Following on from our previous Online Meeting Software Review, we have re-tested some clients and brought in a few new ones in order to stay up-to-date with the latest technology.

Thinking of purchasing some of this software? We suggest you read our comments below. Online meeting clients are tested for their usability, installation requirements, and correct rendition of PowerPoint files. We were looking at solutions for presenting online, with slides that contain animation. Some of these clients might be suitable for other purposes. If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment below!

Quick explanation of terms:

Imported/uploaded files/PowerPoint: PowerPoint Files that have been uploaded to the client to be shared.
Shared PowerPoint/application: Selecting Share>[Select application] (or similar) on the client. This is similar to screensharing, except that only one program is shared.
Screensharing: Attendees can see whatever is on the presenter’s screen at the time.

lyncMicrosoft Lync

Sharing

PowerPoint may be shared as part of a desktop screen share, application share, or imported. Graphical reproduction with the Import option seems the most consistent, and is excellent. When using the Import option, animation is very smooth, with some minor infidelities and effect replacements noted. Over the webapp view, some slides were displayed as static images, and timings were not consistent.

Installation

Microsoft Lync is part of Office 365, and requires Office 365 registration for each user, as well as a large installation. Attendees joining via the webapp do not require the hefty installation, but may not upload PowerPoint presentations, and will not see all animations.

Usability and Extras

Full integration with Outlook 2010 means Lync meetings can be scheduled directly from the Outlook calendar once the Office365 desktop configuration is complete and Lync user accounts are synced with Outlook accounts. Keyboard and mouse control sharing is present, but is complicated for the presenter to regain control!

Summary

Using the Import option provides decent presenter and attendee experience, with accurate graphical representation. However, having to download and install such a large file, as well as requiring user credentials on the Office 365 portal, does not make this solution practical. It might work for internal sharing only, if this was rolled out company-wide – but it is not a simple solution to use with external clients and prospects.

Final score: 6/10

connectAdobe Connect

Sharing

PowerPoint files may be uploaded or shared via application sharing. There is some resolution loss with sharing, depending on connection quality. Imported PowerPoint files display well, with some loss of advanced effects in places. Application sharing is more faithful to effects but gives poorer performance – quick animations and multiple simultaneous effects struggle to display.

Installation

Meetings are run via an online registration and login, meaning that there’s nothing to install. This makes the process very easy for both presenters and attendees.

Usability and Extras

Meeting scheduling is done through the same interface as the meetings (web-based). There is a calendar system, but no true Outlook integration.

If an imported presentation is shared, the meeting panel is clean and easy to use, with similar controls and functions to LiveMeeting. Users can switch between presenter window, chat layout, and collaboration area where they can draw and write on a whiteboard.  Speaker notes can be displayed alongside slides.

The interface is nice and clean, and there’s the ability to view full screen. Adobe Connect features VOIP and video functionality within the room, and uploaded presentations are retained in the user’s library for future use.

Summary

Adobe Connect has good all round performance, and has great ease of use. Certain animation and graphics glitches and lack of integration with Outlook mean that this does not score full marks.

Final Score: 8/10

HP-virtual-roomsHP Virtual Rooms

Sharing

PowerPoint files can be shared on HP Virtual Rooms via upload or application sharing. There is some resolution loss with application sharing, depending on connection quality. Imported PowerPoint files display faithfully, but slides only display as static images. The client struggles with motion paths or multiple animations occurring simultaneously.

Installation

Virtual Rooms requires a simple and fast installation via a single installer file. All attendees must download and install this 8MB client. Those using Internet Explorer will also require ActiveX controls.

Usability and Extras

An instant meeting can be set up from the HPVR or tray icon, and sent via email link. Meetings can be scheduled via an online portal, but there is no Outlook integration.

The application is shared in full screen, with a minimal sharing control panel. Annotation tools, attendee list/status, and questions/status for the presenter are available, but not visible during application sharing. The presenter has a good interface to work with.

Keyboard and mouse control sharing is available and runs fairly smoothly; the presenter can easily regain control. VOIP and video functionality are featured within the room.

Summary

Virtual Rooms would be a good choice for simple PowerPoint slides, but doesn’t function well with advanced animations. The install effort on the attendee side leaves this software more suited for internal use than for sharing with external clients.

Final Score: 6/10

gotomeetingGoTo Meeting

Sharing

PowerPoint may only be shared as an application or via desktop sharing. Graphics are very faithful to the original. Animation effects are faithfully reproduced, but performance is unsatisfactory over long distances despite use of proprietary bandwidth compression technology. Running certain animations, or several simultaneous animations, renders the effects jerky rather than smooth.

Installation

GoTo Meeting requires a simple and fast installation via a single installer file for the presenter, and no software download for the attendees (although they must be able to run Java).

Usability and Extras

Outlook integration allows meeting scheduling from the Outlook calendar. An instant meeting can be set up from the GoTo control panel or tray icon, and sent via email link or a very simple web link and password that can be read over the phone.

The client has a very compact control panel which can be minimised, enabling the maximum screen real estate for viewing meeting content. Application/desktop sharing means the familiar PowerPoint controls to advance slides and switch from Slideshow to Edit or Slidesorter modes are used.

GoTo Meeting has keyboard and mouse control sharing, and the presenter can allow attendees to modify applications being shared via app or desktop sharing. This runs fairly smoothly, and the presenter can easily regain control. VOIP integration comes with the package.

Summary

GoTo Meeting has great usability, and the very quick installation and meeting setup score highly in its favour. However, its unpredictable performance could be improved.

Final Score: 8/10

glanceGlance

Sharing

With Glance,PowerPoint may only be shared via desktop sharing. Graphics are very poorly reproduced. This means that reproduction of effects is faithful, but performance is extremely poor even over a high speed connection.

Installation

Glance requires simple and fast installation via a single installer file for the presenter. Attendees can be invited via email, IM, Facebook or Twitter, or over the phone via a very simple URL and password. Attendees do not need to download any software, and can run the client in any web browser with Java enabled.

Usability and Extras

The quick setup sacrifices other functions: there’s no control panel, no attendee list, no annotation, and no chat. There is also no option to schedule meetings, but it is really fast to set up and begin sharing with an instant meeting. Keyboard and mouse control sharing is available, but does not run smoothly.

Summary

Glance is a quick, simple solution, but is not on par with other professional meeting in terms of graphics or attendee experience.

Final Score: 5/10

webexWebex

Sharing

Presenters can share a PowerPoint file by uploading it, or via application sharing. There is some slight resolution loss with sharing, depending on connection quality. Imported PowerPoints display with a very high quality, with very occasional graphical errors on shading and glow effects.

Shared PowerPoint performance varies depending on connection speed, but is better than average. For imported PowerPoint, animations performed the best out of all the solutions trialled. No anomalies were noted with the test file under these circumstances.

Installation

Access to meetings is quick and easy for presenter and attendees. Meeting Manager ‘download’ is fast and does not require actual installation of files. An add-on installer is required in IE (not a download) for attendees. Java runtime permission is required.

Usability and Extras

WebEx uses familiar share/upload functionality, with familiar slide advance controls. It’s also easy to switch to whiteboard view. The interface overall is good, with a large real estate for content viewing. Keyboard and mouse control sharing performs better than other solutions tried, but there is some panic over regaining control from attendees.

Meetings can be scheduled from the user’s desktop or web portal, or directly from Office apps and Calendar, which provides extra convenience.

Summary

WebEx provides excellent all-round performance, with great ease of use and useful additional features.

Final Score: 8.5/10

live-meetingLiveMeeting

LiveMeeting has now been replaced by Microsoft Lync, and no new contracts are being issued. However, we’ve included it in this review as a standard for comparison.

Sharing

LiveMeeting boasts excellent reproduction of graphics and animations, but these suffer via screen or application sharing depending on connection quality.

Installation

Joining a meeting requires the attendee to install a small client via a fast download and install process. However, this can cause problems for the firewall-bound or those without admin privileges. If this is not an option, attendees can also view online, which risks a loss of animation. Meetings are set up via a web portal or by opening the local program; there is no integration with Outlook.

Usability and Extras

LiveMeeting has simple controls for advancing slides and annotating. There are long upload times for larger presentations, and occasional errors when uploading .pptx files.

LiveMeeting has a clear open interface. If using the web access option on a slower connection, only static slides can be seen.

Summary

LiveMeeting has excellent all-round performance, but lacks advanced features and ease of use.

Final Score: 8.5/10

We hope you’ve found our review useful. Of course, if you’re serious about using one of these clients, it is always worth carrying out your own trial run first. Different users have different needs, so test yours out!

And remember, live webinars are not the only option for online presentations – you can also deliver pre-recorded on-demand presentations. Make sure you consider all options for your particular needs before making a decision.

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5 Comments to Online Meeting Software: 2011 Review

  1. #1

    Ian Bell

    1:24 pm, September 21st, 2011

    Thanks for this nice review. I would like to also see included in the review the scope for interactivity, to allow for not just a one-way presentation but a two- (or multi-) way conversation.

  2. #2

    Jessica Pyne

    9:44 pm, September 23rd, 2011

    Thanks for the comment, Ian. We were predominantly testing for a presenter-audience situation, but I can certainly see how this angle could prove useful. We’ll look into expanding the review now to include this. Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. #3

    Aliasgar Babat

    11:15 am, December 28th, 2012

    Thank you very much for reviews regarding online meeting software’s such as Microsoft Lync, adobe connect etc. In addition to above, companies nowadays are even considering deploying on premise web conferencing / online meeting appliance such as RHUB appliances in order to conduct webinars, online meetings, online presentations etc.

  4. #4

    Jessica Pyne

    12:02 pm, January 3rd, 2013

    Thanks Aliasgar – and you’re right, more and more companies are investing in advanced technology to conduct online meetings and presentations. In fact, in October we held our first view62 webinar – the first of its kind, in that it can stream the presenter in front of his slides, interacting with them live. It really is exciting what technology is capable of these days!

  5. #5

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