Collaboration

Four free online remote meeting tools that deliver

Jack Wallen highlights the features of four free alternative online meeting applications and then picks the one that stands out as the clear favorite.

Meetings can be the bane of everyone's existence, especially when you are not physically present for the proceedings. But just because you can't physically attend the meeting doesn't mean you can't participate in the meeting.

If you search "online meeting" with your favorite search engine, you will find plenty of possible tools to help you set up and create an online meeting that remote users can attend. Some of these applications are actually quite good; however, many of those tools have a fee attached to them. But when you want to set up an impromptu meeting or only need an occasional online meeting, you may not want to pay for the service.

In my search for reliable and free online meetings tools, I found four that are actually very serviceable for just about any instance: for full-blown meetings, for instruction, or even for support. In this article, I am going to highlight each these free alternatives and, in the end, point to the one that stands out as a clear favorite.

This blog post is also available as a TechRepublic Photo Gallery and TechRepublic download.

Mikago

Mikago is screen-sharing application that allows you to easily invite users into your desktop where you can whiteboard, share, schedule, record, play back, transfer files, copy/paste, pause, and much more.

I found this particular tool to be great for meetings that focus on the PC, its use, or an application's use. The whiteboard feature of Mikago draws directly on the desktop, instead of using an application whiteboard for the task. You can also select which applications you want your attendees to be able to see or not see. This is one of the features unique to Mikago and allows a presenter to open up applications outside the scope of the presentation without the user seeing them.

Mikago does require the installation of an application that will reside in your system tray. This allows you to quickly and easily start and stop meetings right from your desktop.

Mikago is really best suited for training purposes.

Vyew

Vyew is probably the most powerful of these tools. Users of Vyew will find it does a better job of supplying the standard tools and tasks for standard meetings. Included with the free version of Vyew are five meeting rooms, VOIP, whiteboards, desktop sharing, presentation upload, collaboration, webcam, user-permission control, user invite, private/public chat, and much more.

The only downside to the free version (besides the five-room limitation) is the inability to record and play back. But with the incredible amount of features, you should find that limitation an afterthought. Vyew also enjoys one of the best UIs of all the tools tested. Although there are a ton of features in this meeting resource, the learning curve is very shallow.

Vyew is good for meetings, collaboration, training, and more.

WizIQ

WizIQ is an outstanding entry in this arena. What stands out with WizIQ is the ability to create classes that users can join. The creator can have multiple classes arranged and saved, so it's only a matter of signing in, clicking the class you want to start, and adding attendees.

The UI is very intuitive, and the feature list includes whiteboard, chat, multiple "classes" that can be created/joined, VOIP, Webcam, session recording, multiple whiteboards, and much more.

The biggest downfall for WizIQ is that all attendees must also register for the product. If you do not register, you cannot attend the meeting.

WizIQ is great for teachers, students, and anyone who needs to manage multiple meetings/classes.

Yugma

Yugma is the only other tool in this list that actually installs an application on your system (the other three run from Web-based windows). With a free Yugma account, you can invite up to 20 attendees to a meeting. You will also have at your disposal a built-in instant messaging client (public and private chats available) and Skype integration.

The free version does give you 15- day access to all of the paid features. When the trial period is over, you will have to bump up to a paid version to get the bulk of the features. For basic teleconferencing, Yugma will do in a pinch, but only the paid version has whiteboard tools. Although limited, the free version of Yugma can serve anyone well who needs a very basic teleconferencing meeting without the bells and whistles of the other tools.

Yugma can serve anyone well who needs a very basic teleconferencing meeting without the bells and whistles of the other tools.

The verdict

As you might expect, both WizIQ and Vyew easily bubble up to the top of this list as the favorites. But because all users must register with WizIQ, I have to hand the mantel of "best in breed" for free remote meeting applications to Vyew. Not only is this tool incredibly powerful, it's also about as user friendly as it can be.

Do you agree? Have you come across a free online meeting tool that can top either Vyew or WizIQ? If so, what would you say gives it the advantage? And what features do all of these miss out on? Is there something lacking in the free (or even paid versions) that keep you from taking advantage of online meeting tools? Share your opinions with your fellow TechRepublic readers.

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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

16 comments
M TALCOD
M TALCOD

Great list. BigBlueButton is really fine. Open source software solutions grow in popularity even if they are still considered by some as ‘false economy’ solutions. I’m currently working at TALCOD (French Open source and Web agency), and all the customers seem satisfied with the solutions and videoconferencing rooms that we base on BigBlueButton. I do believe that open source solutions have a bright future.

rickyaliasgar
rickyaliasgar

Thank you for the above list. You may want to take a look at a radical different approach to web conferencing at http://www.rhubcom.com. It is a self-hosted appliance model, very affordable, secured and best in performance. Best of all, it requires no-download of any kind for seminar type of meetings.

Kh.Ozman
Kh.Ozman

Banckle is also offering free (for one complete year) web conferencing, webinars, audio and video conferencing services that suit all businesses and other general users http://banckle.com/apps/online-meeting/default.html. Users can record and playback meeting sessions, and also share screen, applications, PowerPoint presentations or whiteboard with their clients and colleagues from around the globe.

TuneUp Utilities
TuneUp Utilities

These tools all seem like great free alternatives for online meetings, especially for those who can?t afford the paid options. For most of these, the disadvantages seem pretty minor compared to the advantages. And they?re free of course. My only concern is with how professional these options look?do you think this is something to be worried about?

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

Mikago link point to a cybersquatting site.

Daniel Breslauer
Daniel Breslauer

My company uses WebEx. Hate it - it can be useful, but it can be a pain also. Personally I wouldn't use it so fast.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

What remote conferencing application does your organization use? Does it work well? Are you looking for something better? Have you come across a free online meeting tool that is better than Jack's choice ? tell us why yours is better?

dhernandez
dhernandez

software is mikago or mikogo (www.mikogo.com)?

terry.floyd
terry.floyd

We use DimDim frequently, as the free version allows up to 25 users in a meeting. The DimDim Pro adds the ability to invite up to 50 users and record and playback the meeting, but that wasn't always a high priority for us. Since DimDim has not yet released the code of their fork of the open source project, you can download the "pure" open source meeting tool upon which it was based, the BigBlueButton project. BigBlueButton is even available to download as a pre-configured Virtual Appliance that can be run in VMWare Player or VMWare Workstation (as well as VMWare ESX).

mjd
mjd

How does one write a review about a product and spell it's name wrong everywhere? Even the link is wrong! Anyway, it's spelled Mikogo (www.mikogo.com). Mikogo is the ONLY product I've found for which the free version is licensed for Business usage. (If there are others please let me know). Mikogo seems to be the only free option out there as a business which strives to stay legal on a limited budget. I must say it's pretty much a clone of GoToMeeting except it's free for businesses. As for restration, only the host needs to register, anyone invited to a meeting does not need to register. Just like GoToMeeting.

sumit.pandya
sumit.pandya

Must registered is something which people doesnot accept at all. TechRepublic has serious issue about contents. I even disliked other 3 namely Vyew and WizIQ and Yugma as well because of this registration requirement.

rmerchberger
rmerchberger

And I quote: """ Must registered is something which people doesnot accept at all. TechRepublic has serious issue about contents. I even disliked other 3 namely Vyew and WizIQ and Yugma as well because of this registration requirement. """ Why is it a problem for people and/or companies who release a free version of their software to want to know who's using it? And... I apologize if this sounds too sarcastic, but if registration for websites was such a large issue for you, why did you register at TechRepublic? ;-) I'm just sayin'... ;-)

oxfordpauluk
oxfordpauluk

As a free host I have used DimDim for a few years and always found it to be easy for both presenter and attendee.

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