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Coronavirus lockdown survival kit: a beginner’s guide to using Zoom

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Covid-19 has driven a rise in home working. Stock image

Covid-19 has driven a rise in home working. Stock image

Covid-19 has driven a rise in home working. Stock image

By now, we’ve all heard of Zoom. People are using it remotely for yoga classes, book club meetups with their friends and other activities.

They’re also using it as a vital tool for work.

But it can be a little intimidating for a beginner, or someone not used to webcams and laptop microphones. After all, most of us only join a video call when it’s from a family member directly on our phones, such as through FaceTime or Whatsapp.

So if you want to join in more social activities online, or get to grips with an emerging work tool, here is a beginners’ guide to making your first group call on Zoom, together with a step-by-step illustration video.

1. How to get Zoom:

App (free on iPhone, iPad, Android) or www.zoom.us for a laptop.

2 Can you then use it straight away?

No. After downloading the software (laptop or app), you need to sign up to the service with your email address or your Google or Facebook identity. If you’re using it on a laptop, you need to download Zoom’s PC or Mac software.

3. How to call someone or start a group meeting/session:

For a beginner, this will take a few minutes.

So I’ll break the basics into several steps. I’ll assume you’re using a laptop: where these steps differ with phones or iPads, I’ll point it out.

(i) “Schedule a meeting”. On a laptop, when logged in at www.zoom.us, click ‘meetings’ and then click ‘schedule a new meeting’.

Fill in some basic details and then click ‘start this meeting’.

(See video for an exact walkthrough.)

It will say it wants to launch the Zoom software and, when that happens, you’ll see the online session begin with your own face.

If you don’t see your face, click ‘start video’ in the bottom left hand corner.

Now click the button that says ‘new meeting’.

(If you’re using an iPad or smartphone instead, and you’re starting on Zoom’s website, it’s the same process as above except it will launch the app instead of the laptop software.)

(ii) Now click the ‘invite’ button. This will give you the crucial web link to the online meeting. Other people need to have this link to access the meeting/session.

(iii) Send that link to others who you want in the call. You can either do this yourself (by copying and pasting the link into your messenger or email) or Zoom will offer to email it for you through whichever email provider you prefer (such as Gmail). Again, see the video walkthrough.

(iv) When others click or tap on the link, they’re in. When recipients click or tap on that link on their phones, iPads or laptops, it will open the Zoom app or Zoom laptop software. They’re now in the session and you should all see each other (unless you want it to be audio only -- everyone has an on/off switch for the webcam).

4. How many people can take part?

Up to 100. But this only works for up to 40 minutes per individual meeting (call) if there are more than two of you (it’s unlimited for one-to-one calls). For longer, you have to upgrade to the ‘pro’ level, which is €15 per month. However, only one person on the call has to have the ‘pro’ membership for everyone on the call to stay on for more than 40 minutes.

5. Extra cool features you can try:

You can share your screen with others on the call. (That includes things like showing YouTube videos, although without audio.) You can also record the entire meetings straight to your laptop (cloud recording is available for ‘pro’ subscribers.) And you can also create a green screen background and put in any of your own photos as a backdrop.

6. Best thing about it:

It has the most features and the most control of any free, popular videoconferencing

service. And it’s now becoming one of the go-to services for things like Yoga Classes or Book Club evenings.

7. Limitations:

While Zoom is definitely one of the best, its whole setup feels aimed at office-based professionals -- you have to “schedule a meeting” (with a page full of forms and tick boxes) just to start a call. This may be second nature to white collar types who spend

their lives on laptops, but will feel a little complicated or administrative to smartphone-first users (including older people and late tech adopters).

Also, on laptops, it really wants you to use Google Chrome as a browser. This means that some features (such as microphone support) may not work reliably on a MacBook’s Safari browser, I have found. And remember that for sessions with more than two people, you will be cut off after 40 minutes unless the host of the call has a €15-per-month ‘pro’ status. (Obviously if you don’t want to pay, you can just finish on 39 minutes and start another call if you want.)

8. Devices you can use it on:

PC, laptop, iPad, Android tablet, smartphone. Most of these have a webcam and microphone built in. But as some desktop PCs do not, you may need to plug in an external webcam or microphone.

Online Editors


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Covid-19 has driven a rise in home working. Stock image