Originally published Monday, March 6, 2000
Dressed for success in my favorite Karen Neuberger pajamas and Steve Madden slippers, I'm ready for the weekly, 8:00AM strategy session. This isn't your run-of-the-mill office meeting, as you might already suspect. It's a teleconference in cyberspace with other professionals from the comfort of my home office.
NetMeeting, by Microsoft, is a collaborative tool that allows people to conduct online meetings in real-time over the Internet. Similar to its chat room cousins, NetMeeting goes far beyond the basic ICQ or AOL chat room experience. This is a serious business tool for companies to share files, real-time information, programs or actual computers. NetMeeting can be used over the greater Internet or can be configured for corporate intranets for enhanced flexibility and security.
NetMeeting's audio and video features add a third dimension to online conferencing allowing you to actually see and hear participants. (You might want to re-think the video portion, however, if you're working at home in your jammies.)
NetMeeting includes plenty of other goodies that make it an indispensable tool for your communications arsenal. The whiteboard allows the sharing of graphical information. A shared screen that resembles the Paint accessory is ideal when a picture is worth a thousand words. I've used the whiteboard to exchange ideas regarding web page layouts and it works great. It's also helpful when you simply want to exchange screen shots as graphic images so participants can see exactly what's on your screen.
The Chat option behaves in the same manner as AOL Instant Messenger or ICQ where participants type text messages to communicate with each other. In the "Whisper" mode, you can send private messages to another person during a group Chat session. The file transfer function lets you easily select and send files to all or selected NetMeeting participants. You also have the option to reject files sent, if you so desire.
Program Sharing gives NetMeeting attendees access to programs that may not be installed on their local PCs. Using this feature participants could share Excel, for example, and actually edit the shared worksheet online. Built-in security features let you set permissions so that only those with proper authority can make changes.
Remote Desktop Sharing is very slick and makes me wonder why I need PCAnywhere anymore. This feature allows you access to your work computer from home or vice-versa, much the same as PCAnywhere operates. You can grant others permission as well to access your computer if need be.
This feature actually came in very handy one evening when I was struggling to resolve a hardware interrupt conflict a new USB adapter was causing. I arranged a NetMeeting with hardware guru Dave from Microhelp! and then relinquished control of my desktop to his able hands. Within minutes he located the errant setting buried deep in the Device Manager. The opportunities for help and tech support using NetMeeting are endless.
The NetMeeting Address Book can be integrated with the MSN Messenger Service allowing you to create private contacts lists for regular teleconferencing. Resources for other public Internet Locator Servers (ILS) offering public discussion forums can be readily located throughout the Internet.
Now for the best news of all, NetMeeting is free and there's a good chance that you already have it installed under Accessories/Communications. It's bundled with the Windows operating system and also included with the latest versions of Internet Explorer. Be sure you're running the latest version 3.0. If you're software isn't up to date, you can download v3.0 and get additional information at www.microsoft.com/netmeeting.
Whether you're a home user, small business consumer or IS professional, NetMeeting is easy to install and configure. An abundance of security features make this a powerful communications tool for all users.
Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.
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