This was the first time I’d tried Vyew. It’s a Flash-based service so there is no software to install (unless you want to share your desktop, which requires a Java applet to run). Vyew actually has a lot of great features for collaboration, centered primarily around a “book” concept, where you add (import) documents or presentations and/or insert text on a white-board, and annotate the heck out of it. There really are some nice annotation tools to work with. Everything is saved so when you leave and come back in a new session everything is where you left it. You can also work synchronously or asynchronously, which can be a bonus – especially when you’re working with people in a different time zone.
Desktop sharing is a very important piece of conferencing for me. Most collaboration I do is centered around helping someone with a computer- or web-related problem and being able to see what they are doing on their screen is invaluable. For this purpose, Vyew works in a pinch, but I don’t think I’d use it again unless I was in a situation where you absolutely couldn’t install anything on the other person’s machine. The picture is a little bit fuzzy (not bad, but noticeable), and from the start, the delay between screen refreshes left me at least 2 seconds behind what the other person was doing. After a while (maybe 45 minutes) that gap increased, until it wasn’t refreshing at all, even after stopping and restarting the applet, and logging out and back into Vyew entirely. That problem caused a long pause in our actual work while we tried to diagnose and fix the issue, until I eventually gave up and moved to DimDim. Lots of wasted time.
DimDim, on the other hand, doesn’t have quite as many nice annotation/collaboration features as Vyew, but it does have the basics – and does them well – and the desktop sharing is exceptional. You do have to install a small app for desktop sharing, which can be problematic if there are restrictions on the ‘client’ machine, or the person on that end has difficulty with computers. Once it’s running, though, there is minimal definable delay and the screen is completely clear. After we got moving on DimDim last night, the conferencing tool was an after-thought – exactly as it should be.
One negative thing about DimDim is that it fully enforces the “meeting length” you set before you launch the meeting. The default is 2 hours. Once you hit that time, everything disconnects with no warning time or ability to lengthen the session. Very annoying if you’re running over the planned time and have to relaunch and reinvite all the participants.
I did consider one other service last night: Yugma. It requires an installation as well, and looks good, but I saw a lot of negative comments on its Skype-enabled version and ended up skipping it. I was trying to go with no installations last night or I would have tested that one instead of Vyew. I still may give that one a run in the future.
As a bonus, I also ran across this list of remote-control applications. I haven’t checked them all out, but I wanted to capture this for future reference and edification…
Apart from the usual VNC versions (each with varying mix of features)
Free for web conferencing between 2 people.
Free for non-commercial, personal use
Free – IPN (Instant Private Network)
Anybody have similar apps they want to share for web conferencing and/or remote control? I’m always on the lookout for good services like these.