LiveMinutes: A Better Way to Share and Meet Virtually

Webconferencing is one of the most vital, but less celebrated innovations of the broadband era. The technology in its full glory is mostly used in enterprises, and the mainstream population has become accustomed to basic video chat built into Skype, Gtalk, Google+, and even Facebook today. Yet, if you’re looking for an enterprise solution, there are so many solutions to choose from, ranging from companies like Cisco and Microsoft to no-name startups.

Even with big names backing up their product, there hardly is a web conference that doesn’t get interrupted. Either the bandwidth or the voice support fails its users, frustrating them to no end. Then there are issues with incompatible plugins and cluttered user interfaces. LiveMinutes claims to be a webconferencing app that isn’t boring, and works to streamline your meetings. Let’s go check it out.

Overview

LiveMinutes helps you with three important functions - video conferencing, sharing documents, and keeping track of minutes of the meeting. So, for whatever reason you might use the app, you can be rest assured LiveMinutes does everything for you. This way, you’re free to communicate, share, and review the minutes from anywhere, anytime.

Overview

Overview

LiveMinutes as of today remains free for everyone to use. But the developers say that in the future, there might be some premium features targeted at corporate users. Basic features, though, are planned to stay free for everyone, forever.

Getting Started

Meeting URL

Meeting URL

To get going, you don’t have to sign up for an account. Just hit the Start Sharing button in the homepage and you will get a link to kickstart the collaboration. Without much ado, click on the Join now link to open the meeting window. To invite people to join the meet, simply copy and mail the URL you have in front of you.

Signing In

Signing In

It takes a few seconds for the app to load and once that’s done you will be asked enter a username to join the meeting. Even though there are links to sign in or sign up, there is no need for creating a LiveMinutes account. Hence enter any desired name to join the meet so everyone will know who you are.

Setting Up Video and Audio

Setting Up Webcam and Mic

Setting Up Webcam and Mic

Click on the phone icon to set up the webcam and microphone. On my system, the app auto detected the cam and mic without any issues. I was able to test if the speakers were working fine too. Unfortunately, there is no option to call in from a landline (at least for now) and all communications happen over VoIP. However, LiveMinutes allows you to integrate your Skype account and use it instead of the built in audio channel for better sound quality.

Collaboration Tools

Meeting Window

Meeting Window

For a free app, LiveMinutes has a bunch of collaboration features. Upload an image or file to the Whiteboard to start getting feedback and comments. Even when you try to upload a file, the app doesn’t require you to login.

Using the Whiteboard

Using the Whiteboard

But do note that files uploaded will not be available the next time you use LiveMinutes if you use it without an account. If you sign up, all uploaded files will be added to the library and you can use them anytime you want. That’s one advantage of signing up, but it is nice that you can get started without an account, too.

Realtime Chat Window

Realtime Chat Window

Use the chat window to talk about the changes to be made. The tools in the whiteboard are competent enough to annotate, mark or illustrate your ideas on a wider canvas and the fullscreen option helps you collaborate without any distractions. In the same manner, you can upload documents and collaborate on the content as well.

Map View

Map View

I’m not particularly sure what purpose the Map view accomplishes. But just like in the case of images and documents, you can annotate on it too, so it would perhaps be good for planning trips or discussing business regions. At any point in the meeting, you can either enable or disable guest interaction by using the toggle button at the top.

Minutes of the Meeting

Minutes of the Meeting

Minutes of the Meeting

I tried the preview of the minutes the app took and was only partly satisfied with the output. The preview was a PDF file and it showed the meeting date and time in the first page. Screenshots of files shared, along with the annotations can be found in the subsequent page. However, the conversation from the chat window and even the names of the participants were not in the file. These are mandatory requirements, so hopefully they’ll add it in a future update.

Final Thoughts

Webconferencing is boring, for lack of a better word. Besides, most conferencing apps tend to come with confusing terms and conditions, horrible subscription plans that keep on auto renewing, and then there is always those annoying shady free trial offers. LiveMinutes cuts out all this nonsense. There are a number of free videoconferencing apps available online, but LiveMinutes is a refreshing new addition.

I loved the fine grained controls that come with the app. From controlling who can speak to who can gain access to the whiteboard, the meeting organizer is in full control all the time. The tabbed interface that keeps all collaboration sessions open is a handy feature to have. Except for the fact that the it is built on Adobe Flash, the app is a dependable videoconferencing partner.

Share Your Thoughts!

How do you conference with people online? Do you make it a priority to go with a free web conferencing app even it is under featured in comparison with its paid competitors?


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