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Remote Collaboration with Microsoft NetMeeting : Using the Whiteboard & Sharing Programs

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Using the Whiteboard

Whiteboards have become a standard feature in boardrooms and conference rooms. Presenters, facilitators, and meeting leaders use them to record action points, highlight important information, and draw charts and diagrams.

If you’re running a remote conference via NetMeeting, you can use its Whiteboard feature for the same purposes. The Whiteboard is basically a revamped version of the Paint window that enables you to enter text, highlight information, and draw lines and shapes. Everything you add to the Whiteboard is reflected on the other users’ screens, so they see exactly what you’re typing and drawing. You can create multiple Whiteboard pages, and even save pages for later use.

To work with the Whiteboard, each user must display it by using any of the following techniques:

  • Select Tools, Whiteboard

  • Press Ctrl+W

  • Click the Whiteboard toolbar button

For basic operations, you use Whiteboard just as you use Paint. That is, you select a tool to work with, select a line width (if applicable for the tool), select a color, and then draw your shape or type your text. However, Whiteboard has quite a few other techniques that aren’t found in the Paint program. Here’s a summary:

Figure 1 shows the Whiteboard window that appears.

Figure 1. Use the Whiteboard to draw text and pictures that can be seen by the other users in the conference.


  • Locking the Whiteboard contents—To prevent the other users from changing the Whiteboard screen while you work, either select View, Lock Contents or click the Lock Contents tool.

  • Using the remote pointer—Whiteboard has a remote pointer that, when activated, appears on each user’s Whiteboard. To activate it, either select View, Remote Pointer or click the Remote Pointer On tool. When the pointer appears, use the mouse to drag it around the screen.

  • Displaying the contents of another window in the Whiteboard— Whiteboard has a Select Window feature that enables you to display the contents of another open window inside the Whiteboard. To activate this feature, either select Tools, Select Window or click the Select Window tool. Click OK in the Whiteboard Select Window dialog box that appears, and then click the window you want to display.

  • Displaying part of the screen in the Whiteboard— Rather than an entire window, you might prefer to display only part of the screen in the Whiteboard. To do this, either select Tools, Select Area or click the Select Area tool. Click OK in the Whiteboard Select Area dialog box that appears, and then use the mouse to select the screen area you want to display.

  • Clearing the Whiteboard— If you want to start over, you can clear the contents of the Whiteboard either by selecting Edit, Clear Page or by pressing Ctrl+Delete. Click Yes when NetMeeting asks you to confirm the deletion.

  • Adding another page to the Whiteboard—The Whiteboard is capable of displaying multiple pages. To add a new page, either select Edit, Insert Page After or click the Insert New Page button.

  • Navigating Whiteboard pages— When you have multiple pages in the Whiteboard, you can navigate among them by pressing Ctrl+Page Up (to move to the next page) or Ctrl+Page Down (to move to the previous page). Note that as you move from page to page, the remote users’ Whiteboards also change pages. You can also use the following navigation buttons:

    Previous Page

    Next Page


  • Deleting a Whiteboard page— To remove the current page from the Whiteboard, select Edit, Delete page.

  • Preventing remote users from seeing your changes— If you want to make some changes to a page without the other users seeing them, deactivate the View, Synchronize command, move to the page and make your changes, and then activate View, Synchronize again. The remote users will remain on the original page while you make your edits.

  • Saving the Whiteboard— If you think you’ll need to use your Whiteboard again, select File, Save and then choose a location and name for the new file. (Whiteboard files use the .nmw extension.) To reuse the Whiteboard, select File, Open and choose the Whiteboard file from the Open dialog box.


Sharing Programs

Chat and the Whiteboard are handy features, but their functionality is limited to text and simple drawings or screenshots. For truly collaborative computing, you need the ability to run a program on one computer and display what’s happening on the remote machines. An even better scenario is one in which all the users can work with an application at the same time.

The good news is that NetMeeting can handle both situations, albeit with a few quirks and security concerns. The next two sections take you through NetMeeting’s program sharing features.

Caution

Program sharing works best when all users have their screens set to the same resolution. If a user running at high resolution (for example, 1,024×768) shares a maximized application with a user running at low resolution (for example, 800×600), the user with the lower resolution sees only part of the shared program’s window. However, that user can still see more of the window by scrolling vertically and horizontally within the window that contains the shared program.


Demonstrating a Program

NetMeeting’s default method for application sharing is to select one of your running programs to share, and the program’s window appears on the other users’ screens. However, only you can access the program’s features and edit the program’s documents. This is perfect if you just want to demonstrate a feature or display a document.

To share an application in this way, follow these steps:

1.
Use any of the following techniques to start the Sharing feature:

  • Select Tools, Sharing

  • Press Ctrl+S

  • Click the Share Program button on the toolbar

2.
As you can see in Figure 2, the Sharing window appears with a list of your running applications. Click the application you want to share.

Figure 2. Use the Sharing dialog box to choose the running program you want to share with the remote users.


3.
Click Share. A copy of the application’s window is sent to each user.

4.
If you want to share multiple programs, repeat steps 2 and 3 for each program you want to work with.

5.
If you’re sharing over a network or a fast connection, activate the Share in True Color check box to enable each user to see the window in full color.

6.
Activate the window you want to share.

Tip

If you have data in an application window that you want to hide from others, use another open window to cover that portion of the shared window. The remote users will see a pattern over the obscured section of the window.


Any actions you perform within this window (including mouse movements) are mirrored on the remote screens.

Allowing Remote Users to Assume Control

Instead of merely demonstrating a program to the other users, you might prefer a more interactive approach that allows each user to work with the shared application. This is called giving a remote user control. After you’ve shared an application, you switch to this mode by following these steps:

1.
Return to the Sharing window.

2.
Click Allow Control.

3.
Set the control options:

Automatically Accept Requests for ControlActivate this check box to enable remote users to assume control without your permission.
Do Not Disturb with Requests for Control Right NowActivate this check box to temporarily prevent remote users from assuming control. This is useful if you want to leave control turned on, but you require the control yourself for a short time.

4.
Activate the window you’re sharing.

Caution

When you allow other people to assume control over a program, they can use it just as though they were sitting at your keyboard. Depending on the program, this might include the ability to open, save, and delete files, or even to launch programs. Therefore, exercise some caution when allowing others to control certain programs.


On the remote user’s screen, the Control window (that is, the window within which the shared program appears) displays controllable in the title bar. To request control of the window, the remote user has two choices:

  • Select Control, Request Control

  • Double-click the shared window

On your screen, the Request Control dialog box appears (unless you activated the Automatically Accept Requests for Control check box). Click Accept to allow the user to assume control of the window, or click Reject to prevent the user from taking control.

Stopping Program Sharing

To end the program sharing, either exit the shared program or return to the Sharing window and perform one of the following:

  • If you only want to stop others from assuming control of the program, click Prevent Control.

  • To stop sharing the program, select it in the list of programs and then click Unshare. If you’re sharing multiple programs, you can stop sharing all of them at once by clicking Unshare All.


Setting NetMeeting Options

To finish our look at NetMeeting, this section shows you how to customize the program using its extensive list of properties. To work with these options, select Tools, Options to display the Options dialog box.

The options in the General tab control a mixed bag of NetMeeting settings. Here’s a review:

My Directory InformationThe controls in this group display the personal NetMeeting data that you specified when configuring the program. Feel free to edit this information as needed.
DirectoryUse this list to specify the default directory server you want NetMeeting to use.
Do Not List My Name in the DirectoryActivate this check box if you prefer that your data not appear in the directory server.
Log On to the Directory Server When NetMeeting StartsIf you activate this check box, NetMeeting will log you on to the directory server each time you start the program.
Run NetMeeting in the Background When Windows StartsActivate this check box to launch NetMeeting automatically when you start Windows XP.
Show the NetMeeting Icon on the TaskbarThis check box toggles the NetMeeting icon on and off in the taskbar’s notification area.
Bandwidth SettingsClick this button to select your connection speed.
Advanced CallingClick this button to enable and configure a gatekeeper or gateway server on your network.

The options in the Security tab enable you to configure secure calling:

Incoming CallsActivate this check box to force NetMeeting to accept only secure incoming calls.
Outgoing CallsActivate this check box to force NetMeeting to place all your calls as secure calls.
Use Privacy (Encryption) OnlyActivate this option to use the standard NetMeeting Certificate to encrypt your secure calls.
Use this Certificate for Privacy and AuthenticationActivate this option to use a digital ID to both encrypt your calls and to authenticate yourself as the caller. Use the list below this option to select the digital ID you want to use.


The Audio tab controls various settings related to the audio portion of the NetMeeting show. Here’s a summary:

Note

Not all sound cards support all the options in the Audio tab. If a check box is disabled, your sound card doesn’t support that feature.


Enable Full-Duplex Audio So I Can Speak While Receiving AudioThis check box toggles full-duplex (two-way) audio on and off.
Enable Auto-Gain ControlNetMeeting’s Auto-Gain feature adjusts the microphone volume based on the volume of your voice. That is, if you speak quietly, NetMeeting increases the microphone volume to compensate; if you speak loudly, the value is decreased accordingly. If a noisy work environment causes the micro phone level to fluctuate unpredictably, deactivate this check box to shut off automatic gain.
Automatically Adjust Microphone Volume While in a CallThis is similar to the Auto-Gain feature. If your sound card doesn’t support auto-gain, activate this check box instead.
Enable DirectSound for Improved Audio PerformanceActivate this check box to use DirectSound, which reduces the delay between the time that audio is sent and when it is heard.
Tuning WizardClick this button to run the Audio Tuning Wizard. This is a good idea if you change your sound card or the speed of your connection. (You can also launch the Audio Tuning Wizard by selecting Tools, Audio Tuning Wizard. Note that this command is unavailable while you’re in an audio conference.)
AdvancedClick this button if you’d like to configure your own audio codecs. In the Advanced Compression Settings dialog box, activate the Manually Configure Compression Settings check box. Then use the Preferred Codec for Audio Compression list to choose the default codec.
Silence DetectionThe sensitivity of your microphone to the detection of silence is a measure of how it handles background noises. A high sensitivity setting means the microphone will pick up back ground noises. By default, NetMeeting adjusts this sensitivity automatically (that is, the Adjust Silence Detection Automatically option button is activated). If you prefer to make the adjustments yourself, activate the Let Me Adjust Silence Detection Myself option, and then use the slider to choose a setting (move the slider to the right for higher sensitivity; move it to the left for lower sensitivity).

If you have video capability on your system, use the controls in the Video tab to set up your video conferencing:

Automatically Send Video at the Start of Each CallActivate this check box to configure NetMeeting to start sending the video immediately after connecting to the remote user.
Automatically Receive Video at the Start of Each CallWhen this check box is activated, NetMeeting displays the incoming video stream when the call connects. If you’d prefer not to see incoming video, deactivate this check box.
Send Image SizeThese options determine the default size of the video image you send.
Video QualityAs usual with video applications, in NetMeeting there is a trade-off between video speed and video quality. You can use this slider to set the level of quality you prefer. Move the slider to the left for a better frame rate; move the slider to the right for higher quality within each frame.
The Video Capture Device I Wish to Use IsThis list shows you the video device NetMeeting is using. If you have more than one device on your system, use this list to select the one you want to use. Click the Source button to display the Video Source dialog box, which enables you to adjust various settings related to the device. Click Format to set video capture properties, if your capture card supports this option.
Show Mirror Image in Preview Video WindowActivate this check box to show your video preview as though you were looking in a mirror. (Note that only you see this mirror image; the remote user sees the normal image.)
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