Despite disturbing errors of judgement related to privacy and security, Zoom appears to have become the most popular solution for online collaboration, in use across enterprise, government and individuals.
I’ve kicked the app around to surface a few less-visible features you might find useful – most of which should be helpful for every platform, not just Apple’s.
People don’t need to see you in your room
I’ve been on Twitter long enough to have seen plenty of people’s offices, rooms and other personal spaces in the background of the Zoom chat screenshots people seem so fond of sharing at the moment. It’s funny how people seem to like sitting in front of their books.
It doesn’t need to be this way – you can use a virtual background if you choose.
Open Zoom Settings>Virtual Background and you’ll be able to select one of the default background options there so people don’t see you in your room – or you can use one of your own images….
The eternally tidy room trick
Which brings me to my next tip:
We’re all indoors and going slightly stir crazy, which makes it more than reasonably possible our rooms will become a little untidy. That’s fine when you’re in personal space, but what will your colleagues think?
Hybrid IT: make colocation your conduit to the cloud
Here’s an idea: Take a photo of the room when it is tidy from the same angle as the camera you use when engaged in a Zoom meeting and set it as your Virtual Background.
Now, all your colleagues will notice how insanely tidy you are and won’t see the weird stream of consciousness poetry you’ve started writing on your walls.
Make you look (a little better), too
Zoom has a little-known setting that tries to improve your appearance during a call.
Open Settings>Meetings and enable the Touch Up My Appearance filter, which tries to improve your appearance like an iPhone Camera filter. It’s very basic, but it does smooth your appearance a little, and seems to work well with Virtual Backgrounds.
Control your sharing habits
Left to its own devices, Zoom wants to broadcast audio and video from the moment you enter a meeting.
Don’t let it:
- Mute the microphone in Settings>Audio.
- Turn off your video in Settings>Video.
- When it’s time to speak, just tap the Space bar.
- Also see below for keyboard tips.
Screen out dark video windows
Pretty soon everyone will either be sat in custom background images, or eternally tidy rooms, or have automatic video disabled (unless your boss wants it ‘abled).
That means that when you are in Gallery view in Zoom you’ll find way too many dark windows (you’ll have to live with the fake backgrounds in this tip).
If only there were a way to get rid of all those dark windows and just spend your time reading through your colleague’s book collections in the eternally tidy background.
Go to Settings>Video>Meetings, and check the box marked Hide nonvideo participants. Now only windows with video will be visible.
Keep a record
The problem with meetings, even virtual ones, is that decisions get reached and things get said, but typically not every decision is noted down. (That’s not the case if you have someone taking efficient minutes during a meeting, of course.)
Thing is, meeting hosts can record meetings and save them to your Mac, though not to a mobile device, and then upload them to the brilliant Otter.ai service; it will transcribe them for you (once you strip the audio).
You’ll never lose a relevant action item again.
Record in Settings>Recording, which must be toggled to on. Zoom also offers paid plans that let you record meetings from a mobile device.
Now read the manual
While Zoom is nowhere near as private as Group FaceTime, it is way more cross-platform – and there are lots more shortcuts to explore.
These include numerous useful keyboard shortcuts, including mute/unmute audio/video, display and hide chat, switch camera and tools that let you share and give control over what’s happening on your screen.