Rating: 3.5 WaterTowers
I have been seeing ads in magazines and on TV touting the virtues of GoToMeeting. Being the curious type, I went to the web site to download and try the free demo. Unfortunately, when I filled out the form they asked for my credit card information….no way. Not that they would get anything from a starving blogger, but, blindly giving credit card information is not something I do. I sent them an email stating this fact.
A few days later, I received an email with a link to the truly free demo version and I promptly installed GoToMeeting. This review is based on GoToMeeting version 3.0 build 198.
TelBitConsulting’s Minimum Requirements for Web Conferencing
I have previously reviewed WebEx (link here) and in that blog I listed what I thought are the minimum requirements for a modern web conferencing application. Here is that list.
- Meet with at least 5 people at the same time.
- Schedule an “immediate” (Ad-Hoc) meeting or a future meeting with a full complement of recurring meeting options
- Alert participants via email and then email the participants reminders
- Talk to participants via VoIP (Voice over IP)
- Share a PowerPoint Presentation (or other application)
- Share your desktop
- Use a Whiteboard
- A chat capability that allows private and public communication during the meeting
- Hand-off control of the meeting to another participant
- Select a full-screen view
- See the other participants via video (point-to-point at least, multipoint preferred)
Really quickly here is how GoToMeeting meets the requirements put forth in that list:
- Yes, but….it does not have a full featured recurring meeting option.
- Yes, but..…it uses your email application and it relies on your email application to send reminders. If your application does not have an automatic reminder capability, you must manually send reminders.
- No….but, it has drawing tools that you can with any application, even a blank sheet.
GoToMeeting is data / presentation oriented. It provides an audio bridge, but, does not have a video bridge, that I can determine. The area code for the audio bridge is 702 (Las Vegas area).
Very easy to use with only a few minor intuitive user issues.
After installation, GoToMeeting places an icon in the system tray and also a shortcut on your desktop. Clicking on the icon you are asked for your login (my email) and password (really hard password). Once this information is entered correctly, the following screen is displayed.
You can move the panes around to suit your needs. Pretty cool. For example you can grab the “Attendee List” and move it down to under the “Invite Others” pane. Cool. You can also change the color of the display and there are many other “preferences”.
Since I use Thunderbird as my default email application, I was particularly interested to see if I could use it rather than Outlook. This preference screen allowed me to select my default email application:
Works for me.
In the recording preferences, you can record audio (at least yours) in either a GoToMeeting format or in WMV format (Windows Media). Hmmm, since this only recorded my voice, I did not play with this in this evaluation. A much better solution would have been to record my voice and my presentation.
The top arrows close the main panel leaving only this small panel which can be moved around to get it out of the way of any presentations. “Off Air” means I am not sharing anything. By clicking the arrow under those words I can change that setting to “On Air” which means you are sharing your desktop or application with the meeting participants.
The grid icon allows you to hand keyboard and mouse control to another attendee, and the grayed out icon becomes active when a real meeting is underway and other “Presenters” are available to present.
There are drawing tools available by clicking on the yellow marker. The choices in the menu include: normal drawing mode, pen, highlighter, spotlight, arrow, erase all drawings, and attendees can draw.
Ok, enough preliminaries…let’s see what we need to do to fire up two types of meetings…one scheduled and the other instant (or ad-hoc).
Schedule a Meeting and Email Invitations
Once the main control panel display was up, I did not see a away to schedule a meeting. Accessing the “Help” feature (which is very helpful) I discovered that I had to right click on the icon in the system tray to access this feature. Hmmm, as much as I use Windows, right clicking is still not intuitive for me. But…it is ok once you know what to do.
What is interesting is that I was already in a meeting….GoToMeeting, as it turns out, fires up a meeting when it is turned on. My meeting ID was 332-599-238 and it changes for each meeting.
As I was scheduling the meeting I clicked on recurring meeting. This popped up:
Apparently, GoToMeeting relies on Outlook to remind participants of recurrences. And the recurrence features found in more robust web conferencing tools is not apparent.
Scheduling a meeting for Tuesday the 20th.
Click on “schedule” button.
Clicking “ok” pulls up my Thunderbird email application and inserts the wording to be used.
Unfortunately, this is not easily read by the recipient. I needed to modify the email message to make it easier to read. GoToMeeting did not insert paragraphs and it repeated the message twice. I wonder if this is just on Thunderbird?
Once modified the outgoing email is much easier to read….I entered the participants in the To: field and sent this off.
Note: If you are in charge of setting up many meetings, this process could become cumbersome and time consuming. But for occasional meetings this is not a big problem. This might be an area for GoToMeeting to investigate and fix.
You can check your meetings (again using the right click trick in the icon in the tray).
From this page you can invite more people, or change the meeting. You can also schedule a new meeting.
Right clicking on that icon allows you to fire up an instant meeting as well.
Ad-Hoc Instant Meeting
Since I already have GoToMeeting working, there is a meeting going on already. To meet with someone, you have instructions for three different invite options:
- Call them by phone
- Write an email
- Copy/paste (and then send them an email)
The three options are pictured below.
I prefer email, but I once again had to modify the message to make it more readable.
Attending the Meeting
Attending the meeting is as easy as clicking on the link in the email or following the directions above. You do not need to have GoToMeeting to attend a meeting, but, you have to allow Citrix permissions. Once that is done the process is finished and you are in the meeting in less than 30 seconds. Very nice.
When you first join the meeting, and the presenter has yet to start, you see this screen.
Your attendees list shows who is in the meeting and what roles they play.
You can chat with either the presenter, the organizer, the entire audience, or Mike (the only other participant in this meeting). You also have an option to view the presentation (or remote computer screen) in full-screen mode. This is very handy for some people.
When the organizer / presenter is ready to start the meeting or presentation. Each of the participants sees a very high quality representation of the computer screen or presentation.
(click to enlarge)
The organizer / presenter can type in the word document while the viewers watch the letters appear in near real time. Very nice.
GoToMeeting does not support true application sharing, where any meeting participant can change the document, but, the presenter can solicit input and make the changes. There is no file transfer, so the final doc must be emailed to everyone.
If you want to share a PowerPoint presentation simply choose the application you want to share from the “Show My Screen” pulldown.
Once that is done the remote viewers can see the presentation. The quality is amazing and GoToMeeting displays nearly the full animation in PowerPoint. The only thing GoToMeeting does not catch is animation that is done right after the slide changes. So, although you can use animation, be sure you design it such that it occurs a bit more slowly, or there is a slight pause before starting.
Note: Once I stopped showing the presentation I could not get GoToMeeting to show up on my desktop again. It was in the system tray but there was no ability to restore it or get it to show. After some struggle I realized that the main display was minimized to the smaller window. Once I clicked to enlarge it, it reappeared!
The organizer / presenter can make another person a presenter. The meeting participant see the following screen until the new presenter shares their desktop or presentation.
In this meeting, TracyReaderDad (me!) decided to show his screen and the meeting participants saw this:
You can record a meeting, but, only the audio from one person. It would be really nice to record the presentation and the audio…..but alas….
You can highlight any portion of the document (see the above screen shot) and there is a spotlight capability that allows you to show people were you are. Similarly, there is an arrow capability that you can click on to show your previous point (in brown) and where you are looking now (in gray).
Problems / Weaknesses / Suggestions
No technical problems on my Toshiba Windows XP laptop. Installation was a breeze and the application runs smoothly.
I encountered only a two minor intuitive issues concerning usage. I am not fond of right clicking (but I may get used to it) to set up a scheduled meeting (and access other features), and I forgot that my control panel was minimized causing me to almost end the current meeting prematurely. It would be nice if there was a reminder. For example, the system tray information could have told me that….”Hey, stupid, you are minimized”. That would have been helpful!
Integrated VoIP would be better than calling an audio bridge (cheaper), and videoconferencing is needed.
TelBitConsulting says: You can always use separate applications, but, it is really nice (handy, time saving, etc) to have a fully-integrated app that does it all.
The record capability should be able to record both the presentation and audio from the presenter, as it is, it only records the audio.
The email formatting into Thunderbird is lacking requiring me to reformat the outgoing email before I could send it.
No embedded file transfer capability. Documents have to be sent via email.
No application sharing. One person must be in charge of changing and saving the collaborative document. Then sending the final to all the participants.
Lacking full support for Mac and Linux users.
Easy to use. Very high quality data presentation. Very responsive. It grabbed most of the animations on my PowerPoint presentation. It worked fine with Firefox and the new version of PowerPoint.
I like the fact that I can add information to the email such as “Connect by video using ooVoo, call “YeOldeTechy”.
Versions, Cost and Support
There are several versions of GoToMeeting. The version I tested was the lowest common denominator, GoToMeeting where I can host up to 15 people in a meeting. Next up in functionality is GoToMeeting Webinar which adds the ability to conduct a Webinar for up to 1,000 viewers. The top of the line GoToMeeting Corporate gives you: the ability to meet with 25 people, reporting and statistics, and the ability to centrally manage other “organizer” accounts.
Note: I will update this with pricing when I hear back from GoToMeeting.
24×7 support is available via the web, email, or toll free telephone with offices located in several cities around the world.
GoToMeeting’s data collaboration features are easy to use, very high quality, and very responsive. You can work on a document in near real time and GoToMeeting displays almost all of the animations you can put in PowerPoint. It has chat, markup, and other features that make it ideal for sharing your desktop, giving a remote presentation, or working remotely with colleagues on any kind of document or application.
GoToMeeting relies on your email application for email notifications and reminders (not a bad thing by the way, why reinvent the wheel) but it lacks file transfer and application sharing capabilities. It is also lacks full integration of two tools that YeOldeTechy considers to be web conferencing requirements in 2008 and beyond: VoIP and IP video.
Overall, GoToMeeting is a solid, high-quality, product if data collaboration / presentations are important to you.