Collaboration

Net result: Microsoft NetMeeting enhances Windows 2000

Microsoft NetMeeting is a stable, fast productivity application that installs with Windows 2000. In this Daily Feature, Mike Jackman covers the basics of setting up and using NetMeeting, even if you're not connected to the Internet.


You may have already heard of Microsoft NetMeeting, a productivity application that lets you type messages in a chat with other users, exchange files, and share a whiteboard, among other things. One of the nice additions to Windows 2000 is NetMeeting 3.01. In this Daily Feature, I cover basic NetMeeting options and show you how to use it on your LAN.

More about NetMeeting
NetMeeting comes as part of a full installation of Internet Explorer. The version that ships with Windows 2000, version 3.01, is the latest version available as of this writing. The program is stable, surprisingly fast, and includes the following productivity features:
  • Chat with individuals or in a group meeting that a user hosts
  • Use the keyboard, as well as speak through a microphone, to communicate
  • View meeting members via video
  • Share your desktop, applications, and documents
  • Send and receive files
  • Share a whiteboard
  • Meet over the Internet or within your LAN

Starting NetMeeting
Starting NetMeeting is simple. Choose Start | Programs | Accessories | Communications | NetMeeting. The first time you activate the program, you will need to fill out a series of screens. Include your first and last name and e-mail address. Two other fields (for your location information and a brief comment) are optional. Click Next to continue.

The following screen gives you the option to Log On To A Directory Server When NetMeeting Starts. By default, this box is selected. What many end users don’t realize is that it’s not necessary to log on to Microsoft’s Internet Directory to use NetMeeting. If you want to restrict meetings to your LAN only, you may deselect this box. You may also select Do Not List My Name In The Directory if you’re concerned about privacy and you’re using NetMeeting over the Internet.

Your directory listing is followed by a dialog box where you can specify the speed of your network connection. Click the radio button to select your connection speed; your options are 14400 bps Modem, 28800 bps Or Faster Modem, Cable, xDSL Or ISDN, or Local Area Network.

If you like to keep your desktop uncluttered, as I do, deselect the boxes in the next dialog box that set NetMeeting to Put A Shortcut To NetMeeting On My Desktop and Put A Shortcut To NetMeeting On My Quick Launch Bar.

Two screens allow you to adjust your playback and record volumes. Perform the tests and adjust the slider button to tune your settings. Note that you can mute audio later. This is important, especially if you’re using a laptop; I’ve noticed that the proximity of a laptop’s built-in microphone to its speaker often creates feedback. Headphones can solve feedback problems, but in a meeting with three or more participants, typed chat may be easier to follow. Once you’ve tuned your settings, click Finish.

Starting NetMeeting
Figure A shows the NetMeeting interface. Fill in the user name, computer name, or IP address of the computer in the top box to make a call. Buttons in the center let you start the video connection and adjust audio properties. Use the audio icon to mute your speaker and microphone. The Name area shows you which users are logged on. Finally, the buttons along the bottom row let you share files, chat, use the whiteboard, or transfer files.

Figure A
The NetMeeting interface is compact and useful.


To host a meeting with more than one participant, choose Call | Host Meeting. The Host A Meeting dialog box allows you to name your meeting, set a password, and select other host and security options including:
  • Require Security For This Meeting (Data Only)
  • Only You Can Accept Incoming Calls
  • Only You Can Place Outgoing Calls
  • Only You Can Start These Meeting Tools (Sharing, Whiteboard, Chat, File Transfer)

Figure B shows the setup for a hypothetical TechProGuild Editor Chat. Once you’ve set your options, click OK.

Figure B
When you host a meeting, you can set security options, such as a password, and which activities you control.


To start your meeting, enter the name of the party you’re inviting in the top box. I’ve learned that many end users assume NetMeeting only works on the Internet through the Microsoft directory. Figure C underscores the ability to contact other users on your LAN, even if you’re not connected to the Internet. I’ve entered the computer’s IP address in the top box and hit [Enter] in order to call that machine. Once the user accepts the call, his or her name will be listed in the Name box. A chat window will then appear, allowing you to type messages. The chat format allows you to clearly distinguish speakers, which is an improvement over earlier chat programs (Figure D). In my hypothetical meeting, I’m logged in to three of my test machines, which is why it seems as though I’m talking to myself (as I often do).

Figure C
You can enter a computer’s IP address, computer name, or user name to place a call.


Figure D
The chat screen clearly distinguishes speakers from one another.


Using NetMeeting—the basics
Once your meeting is underway, you can share files, share folders, open the whiteboard, and send files by clicking the appropriate buttons. The shared whiteboard is an excellent resource for brainstorming or for getting your point across, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E
Use the shared whiteboard to emphasize your points graphically.


Conclusion
In this Daily Feature, I’ve given an overview of a nice Windows 2000 productivity tool—NetMeeting. If you’ve not had time to become familiar with this product, the information here should help you set up and use NetMeeting. You’ll probably want to encourage your users to try NetMeeting. The program has excellent speed and stability. Many end users may not realize that it can be used on your LAN or on the Internet without registering through Microsoft’s Internet directory.
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