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Working with Windows Communication Features (part 5) - Using Windows Meeting Space

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7/5/2011 4:13:10 PM

Using Windows Meeting Space

An important design goal for Windows Vista is to give users the ability to share information easily. All too often, users have to share files through removable media (such as USB flash memory drives) or by using e-mail to transmit files. Although these methods work, it’s often much simpler for people to connect directly to a shared workspace. For example, if several users are located in a meeting room, they might already have available network connections. All that is required is some type of application for making the files available. Of course, an important requirement is for the data to remain secure by allowing only authorized users to connect to it.

Microsoft designed Windows Meeting Space to meet the security and usability requirements to share information.

Setting Up a Meeting Space

The first step in working with Windows Meeting Space is to set up this feature. To start the process, launch Windows Meeting Space from the Start menu by searching for it or clicking the appropriate icon on the All Programs menu. Figure 27 shows the first screen of the setup process.

Figure 27. Starting the Windows Meeting Space setup process

The details section of the dialog box provides a list of the required services and configuration details as follows:

  • A current network connection

  • Peer to Peer Collaboration Foundation

  • Distributed File System Replication

  • Network Project services

Typically, the relevant components are enabled automatically. After you click the button to start the setup process, you’ll see the People Near Me dialog box (see Figure 28). This configuration is necessary to identify other users uniquely in the environment. The display name is what users see when you are participating in a meeting. You can also choose to specify from which types of people you can receive invitations. The options are as follows:

  • Anyone This setting allows any user to send an invitation (although you must still accept it to connect).

  • Trusted Contacts These people appear in your Windows Contacts list or have a security certificate on the local computer.

  • No One This setting effectively disables the ability to receive invitations.

Figure 28. Configuring People Near Me settings

After you define the People Near Me settings, Windows Meeting Space retains them for the next time you use Windows Meeting Space or other collaboration features.

Starting a New Meeting

One member of the group that would like to create a meeting should use the Start A New Meeting link to create a meeting space. Figure 29 shows the available options.

Figure 29. Creating a new meeting space

The main setting is the name of the meeting. This is what other users see when they launch Windows Meeting Space. Additionally, you must enter a password to be used by the attendees. Because anyone on the network could potentially connect, it is recommended that you use a strong password. Clicking the Options link enables you to configure additional functions. You use the Visibility Options section to specify whether the meeting is automatically seen by others on the network. In typical small-business and home environments, this makes it much easier for people to connect. If a wireless network adapter is present in the computer, the Network Options section enables you to create an ad hoc wireless network.

More Info: Creating a strong password

The strength of a password is based on several different characteristics. For example, the length of the password, inclusion of different types of characters such as numbers and symbols, and avoiding obvious personal information can help keep information secure. For more tips and guidelines, see “Strong Passwords: How to Create and Use Them” at http://www.microsoft.com/protect/yourself/password/create.mspx.

After you create the meeting, you see a screen that is similar to the one in Figure 30.

Figure 30. A new meeting that is ready for users to join

Inviting Meeting Attendees

After you create a new meeting space, you can choose to invite attendees to the meeting by clicking the Invite People link or by clicking the Invite button on the toolbar. You can send an invitation through e-mail or by creating an invitation file. Both methods generate a Windows Meeting Space invitation file with a .wcinv extension.

Joining a Meeting

After you have started Windows Meeting Space, the program automatically searches for meetings that are located on the network. If a meeting space is found, you can see the details as shown in Figure 31. To join the meeting, simply click it and provide the password.

Figure 31. Viewing a list of available meetings

You can also join a meeting by using the Open An Invitation File command. This is useful if you have received a .wcinv file through e-mail or if one is located on the network. After the meeting has been joined, all of the attendees see a similar view.

Sharing Information in Windows Meeting Space

When multiple users are present in a meeting space, they can share information in a variety of ways. The first option is to set personal status information done by selecting the user’s own identity in the Participants section and choosing a status. The available options are as follows:

  • Available

  • Busy

  • Be Right Back

  • Away

The main information sharing options include sharing handouts and sharing either a program or the desktop. To share a handout, click the Add A Handout link. The notice informs you about how handouts work. The handout file itself is copied to each of the participants’ computers. Only one participant can modify the contents of the file at a time because the changes are copied for each of them. The original shared file, however, remains unmodified.

The second option is to share the desktop or a program. This feature enables others to view information on one participant’s computer. To start sharing, click the Share A Program Or Your Desktop link. The resulting dialog box enables you to specify whether you want to share the entire desktop or only a specific application window.

After sharing starts, all of the participants are able to see the user’s application or desktop window within Windows Meeting Space. Figure 32 shows an example. If an application is shared, a status message of Currently Sharing appears in the program’s title bar.

Figure 32. Viewing a shared application in Windows Meeting Space

At any given time, only one user can have control of the program. Participants can click Request Control at the top of the interface to request the ability to interact with the program or the desktop. The user who has control can choose to view the window as others see it for verification purposes. There is also an option to view the shared content in full screen mode.

Ending a Meeting

When the meeting is finished, participants can choose the Leave Meeting item on the Meeting menu. If handouts were created and modified, each participant is given the option of saving them. After all participants leave the meeting, the meeting is ended.

Windows Meeting Space provides a very useful method of sharing documents and program windows between users who are located on the same network.

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