How to get started with Zoom, and where to find advanced features

Use of telemeeting app Zoom is surging. If you're not sure where to begin, or are wondering how to access its more advanced features, this guide is for you.

How Zoom promotes corporate culture change and remote employees

Voluntary or not, working from home is the new normal for millions of people around the world. As professionals of all kinds adjust to working remotely, the question of collaboration arises and is answered by video conferencing apps like Zoom.

Not everyone is comfortable with new technology, though, and with Zoom becoming a necessity for many businesses, there's the fear of being left behind, being less productive, or becoming frustrated with coworkers or yourself. 

Using Zoom need not be daunting; It's designed to be simple from start to finish, and while its simplicity has led to some recent issues, it's that same simplicity that has made it seemingly ubiquitous since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

If you want to know how to get started with Zoom from the ground up, this guide is for you. Advanced Zoom users, or those quickly confident with the basics, will find some additional tips for getting more out of Zoom further below.

SEE: How to use Zoom: 14 tips and tricks (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

How to get a Zoom account

If you're going to use Zoom, either as a meeting participant or a host, you'll need a Zoom account, which you can sign up for at Zoom's website. In Figure A you can see Zoom's homepage--look for the sign up button in the upper right-hand corner, click it, and follow the on-screen instructions. 

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Click the Sign Up, It's Free button to open a Zoom account.

You'll need your work email, but you can use a personal one as well. If your organization has its own premium Zoom account, you will need to sign up with your business address so that meeting organizers can find you in their company address book, add Zoom meetings to your calendar, and more.

Do you even need to install Zoom?

Like I said above, Zoom's simplicity is one of its best features. Those unfamiliar with video conferencing likely find that a cold comfort--it still involves installing an app and mucking about with a computer in unfamiliar ways. Luckily, installing the Zoom app isn't strictly necessary, but whether you need it or not depends on how you'll be using Zoom. 

If your use of Zoom is limited to just attending meetings, then Zoom's web client is a perfect fit. It downloads automatically with the click of a button, runs in the background, and will connect to existing meetings seamlessly once installed. 

In order to use the web client, Zoom meeting hosts have to enable it as an option. Check with your meeting organizer to see if the Zoom web client is enabled, and if not, share this TechRepublic guide with them so they can enable it for your calls. 

When you click on a Zoom meeting link from an email or calendar event, you should see an option to Start From Your Browser (Figure B). Select that option to download and run the web client.

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Zoom will load automatically after a meeting link is clicked.

How to download and install Zoom

Once your account is set up and you've decided to use the Zoom app instead of the web version, head back to Zoom's homepage and look for Resources in the upper right-hand corner. When you mouse over it, you'll see an option to Download Zoom Client. Click that.

In the screen that appears (Figure C), click Download under Zoom Client For Meetings. Zoom will download automatically, and once it's finished, open the Zoom launcher that was downloaded. Follow the steps on screen, and Zoom will install.

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To install Zoom, click the Download button under Zoom Client For Meetings.

Once Zoom has installed, log in using the same email address you registered your account with. Once you sign in, you'll see the main Zoom app screen (Figure D), and you'll be ready to join and host meetings.

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Once you sign in, Zoom's main screen opens.

How to join and host a Zoom meeting

Joining a Zoom meeting is simple: If you've received an invitation (Figure E), either in the form of an email or a calendar event, just look for the Zoom link and click on it. What happens after you've clicked on the link will depend on whether or not you've already installed the Zoom app or web client as explained above.

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Click the Zoom link in the invitation to join the meeting.

If you have either Zoom or the web client installed, the meeting should launch the app/client and connect you to the meeting, where you'll need to log in and set a name to be shown to other attendees. 

If you haven't installed either the Zoom app or the web client, you'll get the screen shown in Figure B, and from there, you can download and install Zoom or the web client as you see fit. 

Once you've connected to the meeting, you may have to grant permission for Zoom to access your microphone and camera, if you weren't prompted to do so when initially installing the app/client. 

You can learn how to host a Zoom meeting by reading my tutorial here.

Other Zoom essentials

Creating a Zoom account, getting the app installed, and joining/creating meetings are the most basic bits of knowledge new Zoom users need. There are a lot of other important things to learn as well, which have been covered in detail on TechRepublic, as well as our sister site ZDNet.

ZDNet has written a Zoom 101 article that covers some of the same information covered above, as well as going into greater detail about some of the particulars involved in installing Zoom and how to tweak various settings in the Zoom web portal.

If you're curious about how to protect your Zoom calls from "Zoom bombers" that sneak into calls uninvited, you can check out these five tips for securing Zoom calls. Along with preventing Zoom bombers, this guide will teach you best practices for keeping Zoom calls safe and secure.

ZDNet has also written a list of 24 essential video conferencing tips that, while not specific to Zoom, can help those new to video conferencing learn about the etiquette and technology that comes along with apps like Zoom.

SEE: 15 Zoom tips to improve your video conferences while telecommuting (TechRepublic)

Zoom is available on your smartphone and tablet, too

Having a Zoom meeting doesn't mean you're stuck at your desk. Zoom has apps for iOS and Android that do a pretty good job of mimicking the simplicity and ease of use the desktop version of Zoom has.

If you're curious about the Zoom apps for iOS and Android, you can learn how to use them here.

Advanced Zoom tips and how-tos 

There are a lot of neat features in Zoom that make it much more than just an app that can connect you to distant coworkers, family, and friends. Zoom is surprisingly powerful, even with a free account, if you know how to find its more advanced features.

One of the most popular features in Zoom is its virtual backgrounds. If you're on a new enough desktop, an iPhone, or an iPad, you can change the room behind you to any picture you want--the perfect way to hide a messy room. 

Desktop users can also record Zoom meetings and save the video to their computer. Zoom users with premium accounts can record meetings on mobile devices, save recordings to the cloud, and have Zoom create an automatic transcription of the meeting.

It's also possible to share documents and transfer files in Zoom, both on desktop and on mobile devices

Zoom also has an app store that is full of integrations that connect Zoom to other business software like G Suite, Slack, Salesforce, and Microsoft Teams. Finding the right integrations can make using Zoom easier, while at the same time making it more practical for professionals who do work in other major enterprise software suites.

TechRepublic sister site CNET has also written about Zoom's lesser-known and hidden features, as well as some interesting tricks and hacks for Zoom and other virtual meeting apps.

Also see

Male hand holds a large magnifying glass which serves as a letter in a word ZOOM.

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