Instant messaging is used today by a number of businesses for quick, question-and-answer exchanges that you just don't want to walk down the hall for. But as IM has grown in popularity, corporate environments have become increasingly concerned about security, control, and management.
Lync is Microsoft's answer for the need for a more robust IM client. Lync 2010 is a one-stop-shop for all kinds of communications needs: You can email, instant message, meet virtually, share presentations, have phone and video calls, and even share programs online. And even though Lync has previously been available only to businesses running Lync Server, it's now available to the rest of us -- for $6 a month -- in Office 365.
1: IM and email: Simple is goodIf you've ever used an instant messaging client, such as Windows Live Messenger or AIM, you'll be able to find your way around Lync 2010 easily. The Lync window displays your contacts in a list by default. It's a simple matter to click a contact and then choose whether you want to send an email or instant message the person. If you click the IM icon, a message box immediately pops up and you can type your note and click Send. The presence indicator alongside the contact's picture -- red, yellow, or green -- lets you know whether the person is available for contact (Figure A). It's an easy and painless way to get a quick question answered.
Click a contact and click IM and start typing for instant communication.
2: Share what's happening
We know from the world of social media that a lot can be communicated in a status line. You can let your group know, for example, that you're running 15 minutes late for a meeting. Or you can remind everybody that you're leaving early -- or that you're still waiting on their reports. Just click in the box, type the phrase you want to share, and press Enter. You can update your personal note as many times as you like throughout the day.
3: Set your privacy levels
One concern with this type of communication is that once you give people direct access to you, you may lose control of the contact. What if someone from marketing IMs you 14 times a day? How do you set limits on the types of communication you want? With Lync, you can do this a couple of ways.
First, you can change your online status to a different setting -- showing up as Busy, for example, when you don't want to be disturbed. To change your online status, click the Available arrow just beneath your name in the Lync window and choose a new status: Available, Busy, Do Not Disturb, Be Right Back, Off Work, and Appear Away.
You can also tailor the permissions in Lync so that you give only the permissions you want to each of the people in your contacts list. You can control how much information everybody sees, ranging from those who see the most about you (Friends And Family) to those who see the least (External Contacts). Set privacy levels by right-clicking the contact in the Lync window, pointing to Change Privacy Relationship, and clicking the privacy relationship you want to apply.
4: Make simple calls with Lync
Lync also adds Skype-like features so that you can make a voice call or a video call with a mouse click. When you want to call a contact through Lync, begin by clicking the contact in the Lync window. When you see the Call button, click it. You can also click in the Subject box and type the topic of your call. Lync dials the number, and the recipient hears a "ring" and sees a popup message. If you want to add video to the call, click the Video arrow in the Call message box and click Add Video.
5: Use a whiteboard
Lync includes a Meet Now feature that enables you to create a quick online meeting to discuss your project, plan an event, or just get together and chat. When you're in a conversation with one or more people, click Meet Now. The stage will open so that you can share your desktop while continuing to instant message (and talk, if you're connected in a voice call). You can show a presentation, share your desktop, demonstrate a new program, or do any number of other things so that others can brainstorm along with you in a creative, real-time environment. You can also save the whiteboard so that you can return to it later or build on it in future meetings.
Katherine Murray is a technology writer and the author of more than 60 books on a variety of topics, ranging from small business technology to green computing to blogging to Microsoft Office 2010. Her most recent books include Microsoft Office 2010 Plain & Simple (Microsoft Press, 2010), Microsoft Word 2010 Plain & Simple (Microsoft Press, 2010), and Microsoft Word 2010 Inside Out (Microsoft Press, 2010).