The Many Features Of Videoconferencing

by : Jason Cox

There are many features of videoconferencing involved in a successful use. Software to support desktop collaboration is currently going through rapid development cycles. The products required for videoconferencing change, yet the applications required remains constant.

Software enabling desktop collaboration usually is comprised of a subset of several applications. A central application serves as a launcher for this suite of tools. In addition to video and audio conferencing, four basic categories of tools may be included.

Electronic whiteboards are modeled on actual conference room whiteboards. The whiteboard appears on the screen of each conference participant. Each participant can type or draw on the board, highlight, or even load a graphic or document on the background of the whiteboard. Some systems have the ability to store multiple pages that can be accessed when needed. There is a zoom control, pointers, graphing capabilities and shape makers.

Once information is on the whiteboard, you can modify it, circle it, or highlight it. You also can highlight or circle areas on pictures, draw on them, and add text to them. You and the other participants can highlight or draw on the whiteboard at the same time.

If you want to have the other participants see the contents of the whiteboard but not allow them to modify them, there is a lock function that allows you to prevent the others from highlighting or drawing on the whiteboard. Used in this way, the whiteboard serves as a sort of overhead.

You can have several pages on the whiteboard. You can save the contents of the whiteboard, allowing you to prepare content before the videoconference. You can save what you work on collaboratively on the whiteboard with other participants for use at a later date.

Application sharing allows two or more participants of a videoconference to interact with a software program that is running on only one machine. This means that the other participants can see a file that is open on your computer even if they do not have the software used for that file on their machines. Application sharing is a vital part of videoconferencing, allowing collaboration much in the same way as person-to person allows.

For example, a team leader can run a word processing program to edit a document that the team is co-editing. The team members establish a data conference. The person who is running the program on his computer then selects the option to share a running application.

A copy of the document, complete with the editing icons, appears on the other participants screens. Any of the team members can insert or modify text in the document. The team leader has the option to stop sharing at any time. Application sharing can also be used for spreadsheet entry, programming, or development of slide shows.

File transfer (FTP) software is a tool that has been used by collaborators from the earliest days of personal computing. You can send files to every person involved in a videoconference. While most PC users have installed an FTP client, they often do not have an FTP server running on their machine.

The server is what allows the client to connect and request files. Many videoconferencing applications include both an FTP client and a server, thus eliminating the need to run a separate FTP server. Be advised, however, that there are certain security risks involved in any file transfer.

Chat software is typically included for two purposes. One is use as an alternate communication channel in case the audio portion of the conference is unusable because of bandwidth restrictions or equipment failure. Chat is a feature that is usually displayed as text typed at another station.

The other purpose is to provide a private channel of communication between two participants of a multi-party conference. While a whiteboard may also be used to type messages to another station, the contents are displayed on every other participants screen. A chat session can be limited to specific parties. It is also possible to save chat logs for future reference, print them out to become part of a hard file, or copy and paste between chat and whiteboard or chat logs and documents.

Desktop video conferencing can be an invaluable tool. There are several videoconferencing software programs that support videoconferencing over the Internet and provide the basic features.