One unique aspect of Skype is its very “fluid” or simple approach to adding a another contact to a Skype call to build a conference call. Select “Add a Caller”, select the contact to be added (or enter a phone number, if on SkypeOut), click “OK” and the caller is added. I find I am having more frequent multi-party calls as a result of this simplicity of establishing conference calls for up to 10 participants.
In the past web collaboration has been associated with structured meetings, involving scheduling, emailing invitations and other activities just to set up a desktop sharing session. But a “fluid collaboration” (YouTube video) approach – that allows users to spontaneously escalate conversations from voice and text to incorporate desktop sharing, persistent file sharing and whiteboarding – provides a more intuitive ad hoc process. Yugma’s Web Collaboration for desktop sharing has an architecture that has taken this approach.
Another user consideration: The increased acceptance of both Mac (a record 2.1 million sold in the fiscal 2007 fourth quarter) and Linux (especially Ubuntu) platforms in the market a has led to rising demand for Skype Extras that run on these platforms. A good place to start is a desktop sharing application that is effectively agnostic to the operating system and runs seamlessly in cross-platform scenarios.
Yugma, who has been providing desktop sharing services for a couple of years, recently released a version 3 upgrade to its Yugma Skype Edition, Once installed on a Windows platform simply go to Tools | Do More in the Skype for Windows client and “YugmaSE Team Collaboration” will appear on the drop-down list; on the Mac, install Yugma from the Yugma website and then simply start Yugma Skype. Currently Linux participants can view a session but not host one.
Initiating a session: Once Yugma Skype has been installed via the Skype Extras menu, the ad hoc launch process involves:
- launching the host’s Yugma Skype client via Skype’s Tools | Do More menu1
- inviting the participants available as Skype Contacts via an “Invite Participants” window which sends a Skype chat message with the URL,
- inviting participants who are not Skype contacts via email address entry from the same window; the resulting email, containing a link, should arrive within a couple of minutes of sending; and
- letting the Yugma Skype client download onto the remote participants’ PC’s and install (if this is the first Yugma Skype session on the PC)1
Operations: The basic Yugma Skype Toolbar provides an overview of several features:
- Begin Sharing: launches the sharing of your own desktop
- The “mouse” desktop icon controls mouse and keyboard sharing with other participants in the session.
- The mannequin image icon allows you, as the host, to change the presenter who would then share his/her desktop.
- The “page” icon launches a file sharing client.
- The crossed sticks icon opens up a drawing toolbar to provide annotation
- The circle starts session recording
- The right arrow commences playback of a recording
- The double circle allows you to upload a recorded file to your PC
- The matrix image launches the session scheduling website page for those events when you require scheduled collaboration..
The session above is a shared Mac desktop being viewed on my Windows XP Professional laptop.
The host has various options as represented by the toolbar shown above with additional options in the Action drop down menu shown on the right. Usually the host would “Begin Sharing” simply to ensure the connectivity with other parties is there. At that point the host can continue sharing or change the presenter to one of the other participants. Other options in the toolbar are described above. One should note:
- Users must set up the voice conferencing independently using any of the voice services shown below.
- Participants can be invited in either an active sharing mode or a passive viewing only mode.The host would also need to add them to the voice conference call. Only “active sharing” participants are able to share their desktops – when invited by a host on a Professional account.
- Underneath the bandwidth indicator and to the right of the Session ID number is a Click-to-Copy button with three options as shown. Very handy for launching spontaneous, ad hoc sharing sessions when in a Skype conversation.
- Changing presenters, sharing desktop controls, session recording, scheduling and shared file space require one of the Professional accounts beyond a 15-day trial period.
- Yugma Skype will share either the entire desktop or one selected application. Presenters should make sure their screen is not showing any confidential information.
- The “Shared File Space” client provides a “persistent” shared file space where up to 100 MB of “sharable” files may be stored for retrieval either during a session or later. The host has access to his/her Shared File Space even if there are no other participants in a session.
- Persistent Meeting mode: you can leave a meeting open for various participants to join by keeping the same Meeting ID and communicating it to parties with whom you want to do desktop sharing in the normal course of your activities. The host can also “dismiss” participants at will.
- In the upper right corner of the client is a bandwidth indicator; it should be at least two bars strong to have a continuously reliable sharing session.
In our tests, involving two parties, we found that changes on the screen, such as text chat entries and changing the focus window, were transmitted quite rapidly; only the live video of the Skype call could not keep pace with the video movement. Remote display quality is excellent; while normally it will default to an optimum size on a remote PC there is an option to adjust the remote viewer size (File | Settings) for best viewing.
I have found the combination of Yugma Web Collaboration and Skype’s conference calling algorithm make it a very easy process to set up a small training session, to present a personalized product demonstration or to incorporate desktop sharing into a customer support call. If you are in a Skype call and have a persistent meeting implemented, along with a Skype chat session running, it’s as simple as restoring the Yugma client, Copy a URL via the click-to-copy button and Paste the resulting URL into the chat window. The other party(ies) then click on the URL to access the session.
- Operating Systems: Windows 2000/XP/Vista, Mac OS/X 10.3 or higher, Linux; also requires Java 1.5 or later.
- If the user does not have Java installed – often the case for Vista installations, a Yugma-specific Java client is included in the Yugma Skype installation1.
- Yugma Skype runs on its own (Java) client; however, there is interaction with the web browser; either IE 6 or 7 or Firefox 2.0, as well as the Safari browser on the Mac.
- Meeting Types: Instant, Scheduled, Recurring (through persistent meeting ID)
- Invite participants via a Skype contact list and email to non-Skype participants
- Free: (“Personal”) 10 participants plus host; basic desktop sharing, instant sessions only; website support only; sponsor advertisements.
- Professional: 10, 30, 100, 500 participants: $9.95/month, $29.95/month, $69.95/month, $89.95/month respectively. Adds “change presenter”, remote participant mouse and keyboard controls, session scheduling, web session recording and playback, shared file space. Webinar features on 100, 500 participant packages. Enhanced support via email, phone and web.
- A 15-day free Professional 10 trial is available to test the service.
- Voice services:
- Currently voice operates independently of the Yugma Skype client; conference hosts have several options for setting up a conference call:
- Skype’s inherent conference call feature (up to 10 participants via either Skype or SkypeOut);
- and three low cost extended conferencing services (long distance charges may apply)
- Yugma’s Free Teleconferencing service: call into +1-605-475-4261; long distance charges may apply.
- HighSpeedConferencing (up to 500 participants on either Skype or landline/mobile phones) with HD Voice for Skype participants.
- iotum’s FreeConferenceCall service (an optional Facebook application – not supported by Yugma)
- as Yugma’s desktop sharing is almost totally independent of the voice service, you can also use other VoIP or PSTN conferencing services. However, with Skype there is ready access to Skype contacts for chat and other Skype features
- Private (as disclosed by host’s sharing the session ID through individual invitations);
- Public via a Widget button or, for Professional 100 and 500 subscribers, the Yugma Webinar feature.
- Capacity: up to 500 participants
- Web Session Recording (Professional subscription required)
- Access: via Skype Extras (Tools | Do More – Windows only), Skype Extras website (Windows and Mac) or from Yugma’s website (Windows and Mac editions).
Positioning: Yugma Skype is unique for its cross platform desktop sharing capability and providing a free basic desktop sharing service that can have as many as ten participants in a desktop sharing session. Session recording, whiteboarding and file sharing options make it a more feature rich platform. Operation of desktop sharing sessions has always been quite smooth, with rapid refreshes, and transparent to the platform itself provided there is adequate bandwidth on the Internet connection; this is where the bandwidth indicator has been a valuable aid.
- Cross platform desktop sharing (Windows, Mac, Linux)
- Free basic desktop sharing for host + 10 participants
- Rapid remote viewing updates from shared desktop
- Rapidly switch presenters (shared desktop)
- Choice of interactive (Sharing) or passive (Viewer) modes for remote participants
- Several voice conferencing options
- Display versatility: options to resize the remote desktop viewing window
- Web session recording
- Connection strength indicator
- Needs the ability to include voice conference information within the desktop sharing invitations
- Lacks tight integration of Skype voice channel to voice conferencing options
- Lack of Outlook integration for email invitations
Other posts in this series on collaboration tools:
- Desktop Collaboration: Ten Years Later – The Skype Impact
- Desktop Collaboration: The Skype Ecosystem Expands
1Windows Vista users may encounter several “permission” windows during installation as explained in Alec Saunders post about “Sun’s Tactical Error on Java”. This may change with Windows Vista SP1.