Online Meeting Software Review

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009 , , , , 3 comments

online-meeting-software-reviewMore and more, the use of the Internet is revolutionising the way in which we communicate. The same is true for presentations, with a plethora of online meeting software applications available to business and casual users. Here, we review four different online meeting software offerings from Microsoft, Citrix (GoToMeeting), Cisco (WebEx), and Glance

WebEx ScreenshotWebEx

URL: http://www.webex.com

Functions

  • Presentation upload
  • Screen sharing
  • Application sharing
  • Remote control
  • Annotations
  • Teleconferencing
  • Web chat
  • Recording

Overview

WebEx has almost become a commoditised term, like Google and Kleenex, for online meetings. It is one of the most widely used online meeting software applications and boasts all of the features that online presenters could want. WebEx requires a small download and install of the meeting application, but this is often relatively easy to complete except for those behind the toughest firewalls.

The meeting environment has a large window for content, but a significant chunk of the screen is consumed with a variety of tabs down the right hand side of the screen. These tabs contain information such as attendee lists, web chat, web cam videos and, rather neatly, the speaker notes from your presentation (but remember, your audience can see these as well). On large monitors, this is fine, but users with smaller screen sizes may suffer a loss of detail on content, so be wary not to use text that is too small or graphics that are too fine.

Content can be uploaded to the meeting room by the presenter, although upload speeds are often slower than one might expect, so large presentations will need to be uploaded to the meeting room in advance.

Uploaded content does not display well when the content contains many graphics, including transparencies and colour gradients. Charts, particularly pie charts rarely display well and in some cases are completely obliterated, represented as just single blocks of colour. In some cases, small graphical objects can also become distorted and so overall, WebEx doesn’t do justice to more graphical presentations that have been uploaded into the system. Animations do not fare much better, with more complex animations failing to work properly, resulting in some fairly ‘funky’ slides.

The screen sharing or application sharing option is probably best for those with more graphical presentations. This allows presenters to essentially project their screen, or a specific application, onto the screens of their audience, without the need to upload content through the WebEx system. Whilst the graphics still aren’t perfect, they are more reasonable and within the expectations of a decent online meeting application. Animations are much smoother with more predictable results, rather than some of the effects generated by the uploaded content

Verdict

WebEx meetings are really let down by their lack of support for high end graphical presentations and a range of animations that many presentations today feature. If you present bullet points, then WebEx is fine, but it really doesn’t do justice to well-designed visual presentations. Screen sharing saves WebEx from being a total disappointment and is really the only option for those wanting to impress with their presentations.

Score: 3/5
35

GoToMeeting ScreenshotGoToMeeting

URL: http://www.gotomeeting.com

Functions

  • Screen sharing
  • Application sharing
  • Remote control
  • Annotations
  • Teleconferencing
  • Web chat
  • Recording

Overview

GoToMeeting is based on screen sharing or application sharing, giving meeting attendees the opportunity to see your screen as you see it or a specific application, such as PowerPoint. GoToMeeting requires a very small and quick set up process that is very simple for all attendees to follow.

The meeting environment is split into a viewing window, that can be re-sized by each individual attendee and a functions panel that offers various functions such as attendee lists, web chat and teleconferencing details. For presenters, this panel also provides options for screen sharing and attendee participation.

GoToMeeting gives presenters a greater level of control over what meeting attendees see during the meeting. Attendees can be given full view of the desktop environment of a PC, including any applications that are running, or a more basic version that strips out background graphics and icons, giving a much simpler, more focused view of content. Unlike all the other online meeting software reviewed here, GoToMeeting also supports multiple monitors, with choice available for share a primary monitor, secondary monitor or both together (although this option results in fairly small reproductions of both screens within the attendee viewing window).

The quality of the screen sharing is good. Graphics are reproduced well enough to provide reasonable viewing of content and for animations, refresh rates are sufficient to allow all but the most complex transitions and animations to be seen clearly. There is a latency of a second or so (this can be higher with slower connections), but unless the timing of narrative and animation is critical, this won’t really cause a problem for presenter or audience.

Verdict

GoToMeeting offers an excellent tool for quick online meetings, with excellent screen sharing capabilities. Let down slightly by not having upload capabilities which eliminate problems of latency and refresh rates, GoToMeeting is a tool that any presenter should be happy to use.

Score: 4/5
45

Live Meeting Screenshot (4-3)Microsoft Live Meeting

URL: https://www.livemeeting.com

Functions

  • Presentation upload
  • Screen sharing
  • Application sharing
  • Remote control
  • Annotations
  • Teleconferencing
  • Web chat
  • Recording

Overview

Microsoft Live Meeting provides users with every function normally required by presenters. Live Meeting requires a download and install of the Live Meeting application for both hosts and participants to meetings, which can take several minutes. As a result, initiating meetings often isn’t the quickest of processes, but once you have the application installed, further meetings are quick to set up. There is an alternative web-based version which is quicker to initiate, but this sacrifices presentation performance.

Once in the meeting, the environment is neat with very little in the way of the main content screen. Drop down menus give access to a range of useful functions including content, attendee lists, web chat and meeting invitation details.

Hosts and presenters can upload content to the meeting room at any time (as well as before the meeting starts). Upload times always appear reasonable, but clearly depend upon the speed of your web connection.

The quality of uploaded content is excellent. Live Meeting works well with PowerPoint and is probably the best online meeting software application available to faithfully replicate your PowerPoint slides and all their animations. It falls down slightly with some of the emphasis animations such as colour changes, but overall delivers a very credible performance. Graphics are of good quality and animations are smooth on all but the very slowest web connection speeds.

Curiously, uploaded content from PowerPoint 2007 can sometimes experience issues, with graphics sometimes failing to appear and some animations not working correctly.

Live Meeting also offers screen sharing and application sharing functionality, which eliminates upload times, but results in a presentation of lower graphical quality with more interruptions to animations, but neither is noticeably off-putting, unless you have particularly detailed slides with fine levels of animation (although arguably such subtle animation would be inappropriate in an online presentation as it can be lost on audiences without a presenter to physically point it out).

Verdict

Overall Microsoft Live Meeting is an excellent online meeting tool for delivering every type of online presentation. It provides the best graphical output and works well with animated PowerPoint slides, unlike many of its rivals. The main negative is the required download and install of the application before joining a meeting as this can be both confusing and time consuming. The work around to this, in the form of a web-based version does not display animations in uploaded content and so audiences are forced to view a static version of the content, or cope with lower quality graphics through screen sharing. Screen sharing is viable alternative with Live Meeting, albeit with a small sacrifice in graphics and animation. Mac users may also want to be wary of a Microsoft product that still doesn’t quite work as smoothly as it does on Windows machines

Score: 4.5/5
455

Glance Screenshot 4Glance

URL: http://www.glance.net

Functions

  • Screen sharing
  • Remote control
  • Teleconferencing
  • Web chat
  • Recording

Overview

Glance, like GoToMeeting, is a screen-sharing-only online meeting tool. As a result, the software is much more basic and so correspondingly, accessing the meeting is much simpler. Whilst a download is required, it is very quick. Accessing the meeting is also very simple, with only a simple URL and four digit code to input, rather than the sometimes confusing URLs, usernames and password requirements of other systems.

The meeting environment is a full screen representation of the host’s desktop, which makes viewing easy, even for those with smaller screen sizes.

Graphical quality of shared content is good and being a sharing option, animations are always reproduced faithfully. However, Glance appears to use a scanning refresh format, much like TVs, which refreshes the screen line by line and can result in some animations looking rough and shuddering. More complex animations such as motion paths can suffer as a result, as can animations that have a specific purpose (such as arrows wiping in a certain direction to add emphasis).

Remember that this is a screen sharing tool, rather than an application sharing tool and so presenters need to be careful that sensitive information is not displayed and for a more professional appearance, email reminders that appear over presentations are turned off.

Verdict

The simplicity of accessing Glance meetings is a balance with a poorer quality delivery of animation heavy presentations. Graphics are displayed well and for presentations with low levels of animation the system works remarkably well. For a simple, no frills, yet easy to use application it provides very good results.

Score: 3/5
35

Subscribe to article62 to receive a monthly presentation update straight to your inbox. Existing subscribers can easily manage article62 subscriptions from this site.

Share this page:

3 Comments to Online Meeting Software Review

  1. #1

    Melissa Pavliska

    2:31 pm, March 12th, 2012

    I suggest you also take a serious look at omNovia Web Conference. (www.omnovia.com)
    It offers an intuitive but powerful platform (with mobile app as well) for HD video conferencing and very interactive webinars. For example, even the Record and Replay feature produces an interactive webinar at replay time.
    Best

  2. #2

    Mike Roger

    10:36 am, March 6th, 2013

    Thank you for the above list of online meeting software’s. Another option is deploying on premise online meeting appliance such as RHUB appliances. Visit http://www.rhubcom.com

  3. #3

    yagi wifi antenna

    3:47 am, May 1st, 2014

    Hi there! This blog post couldn’t be written much better!

    Looking through this article reminds me of my
    previous roommate! He continually kept talking about this.

    I’ll send this information to him. Pretty sure he’s going to have a good read.
    Thank you for sharing!