Many of us rarely touched a video chat or videoconferencing tool until the pandemic hit. Now, we videoconference daily (or more often) for work meetings, to talk to clients, to stay in touch with friends and family, and for school—we’ve gone from zero to Zoom!
Despite Zoom’s broad adoption and frequent usage over several months, users sometimes struggle to keep up with the service’s features and interface. Zoom changes constantly, and often spreads useful or important features across two or three different places. Take Control of Zoom helps demystify powerful features in the Zoom apps, while also making sure you can customize and control the software to meet your needs, whether as a participant trying to see and hear everyone in a meeting or a host making a presentation.
The book covers a broad range of topics, from which Zoom app to use and how to configure your account and app even before your first meeting, to how to work among Zoom views and chat in a meeting, to creating and managing your own meetings.
It also dives extensively into sharing your screen and making presentations. The book offers step-by-step instructions on working with macOS and Windows full-screen modes, and using PowerPoint and Keynote for static or interactive presentations that are fed through Zoom, how to manage on a single- or dual-monitor computer, using multiple computers and devices at once, and integrating multiple video sources for real-world demonstrations or sharing hard-copy documents.
You also learn about virtual cameras, software that can take one or more media sources—still images, video, animation, app windows, and sometimes more—and mix into a camera feed you can simply select and broadcast as a host or participant in Zoom. That category includes Camo, mmHmm, OBS, and Zoom’s new built-in Slides as Virtual Background feature.
But what about privacy and security? Zoom’s skyrocketing use revealed how insecure some of its software design choices were and how sloppy the company had been as it added options. Since March 2020, Zoom has rolled out hundreds of fixes and dozens of changes, all well documented in the book. Take Control of Zoom doesn’t shirk discussing past flaws and Zoom’s ongoing plans, and offers insight into which purposes you can safely use the system for and how to re-establish trust in what they offer.
Here’s what you will find in Take Control of Zoom:
- Learn how to install and configure Zoom.
- Decide if a web app meets your needs or it’s something to recommend to other meeting participants.
- Configure your physical setup and your hardware for best results on video.
- Upgrade your audio for better comfort and quality.
- Understand Zoom’s past missteps with security and what it promises now.
- Master participating in a meeting, including the various methods of “speaking up.”
- Get to know Zoom’s many mobile and desktop views for seeing other people and shared screens.
- Discover the best ways to present in PowerPoint and Keynote.
- Learn important workarounds for Keynote that give you full control and flexibility.
- Figure out the best combination of screens and devices for manage each of your presentations.
- Become a host and start meetings with one other person or 1,000.
- Dig into Zoom’s meeting controls to create safe meetings and manage public ones, keeping participants safe and blocking or removing problematic members.
- Find out how to preserve your privacy when sharing apps, presentations, or other parts of your screen.
- Record a meeting for later playback, presentation, or a podcast.
- Decide whether upgrading to a paid Zoom tier offers enough improvement and features for meetings you host.
What’s New in Version 1.1
This book aims to reflect what its readers find most valuable, in addition to covering all the basics. This update incorporates suggestions from readers, as well as improvements, changes, and new features that Zoom has introduced since the previous release.
I added a large, detailed new chapter called “Present in Zoom” that dives deeply into presentation advice. This includes using multiple apps at once, multi-camera setups, quirks with Apple Keynote, and other tricks and techniques for interactive sessions with slide decks, demos, and questions. It comes from hands-on experience and insight from business professionals using Zoom routinely.
Based on interest and need in improving one’s camera feed and presentations into Zoom, I also beefed up the section on using alternatives to built-in webcams in “Upgrade Your Video.” It now includes mirrorless and DSLR camera input, a brief overview of virtual cameras, and more depth throughout.
For even more on virtual cameras created by mixing still and video inputs in software, I also added “Appendix A: Virtual Cameras.” A virtual camera uses software to pass through video from other sources with modifications and to mix still, rendered, live, and other sources in a sort of studio environment. With several software options, including a robust free offering, virtual cameras are a nice addition to your toolkit, particularly for more lively slideshows.
In addition, you should take note of these significant changes to the book and to the Zoom service:
- Meetings may have three kinds of hosts: the main host, alternative hosts, and co-hosts. Zoom has emphasized and expanded these roles and continued to explained them better. The previous edition of the book mentioned the topic in passing; I’ve added a section with a complete rundown, “Divvy Up Host Roles,” and enhanced mentions of these roles throughout the book.
- You can hand off the host role within a meeting or when you’re a host and you leave a meeting. I’ve collected all that information into one spot: “Hand Off the Host Role.”
- On May 30, 2020, the company upgraded their videoconference security to a far improved encryption algorithm. This requires the use of Zoom version 5 apps on every platform. It’s hard to miss this upgrade, because if you’re using an older version, you are told you need the newer one. See “Encryption.”
- At some point, Zoom throttled video quality to 480p (standard) for free-tier video meetings, while making 720p available as an option that has to be enabled only for meetings run by paid accounts. It’s restricted 1080p even further. See “Zoom Degrading Video for Now.”
- Zoom now calls the shared secret used to join meetings and webinars a passcode instead of a password to avoid confusion about the difference between account-level passwords and these entry codes. See “Zoom Replaces ‘Password’ with ‘Passcode’.”
- Starting September 27, 2020, all non-government paid accounts must have either a passcode or a Waiting Room (or both) for all meetings; government users follow on October 18, 2020. See “Plan for Safety as a Host” for more generally on this topic.
- Zoom removed telephone call-in options from its free Basic tier plans for audio participation. This was always a nice perk that cost Zoom money, and with increased volume, it’s not surprising it was removed. You need at least a Pro (single-host) account to let participants participate by phone. See “Choose a Tier” and “Configure Dial-In Access.”
Posted by Glenn Fleishman on June 23, 2020
Zoom is constantly tweaking its privacy and security settings, and they announced some minor changes today that I will fold into the next update of the book, slated for July.
Zoom will no longer use the term “password” to refer to the secret you use to join a meeting. Because your Zoom account has a password, this may have confused less-sophisticated users, who could have been sharing their account password instead of one required for a meeting.
Instead, Zoom is updating their apps and web interfaces to use the term “passcode,” which they say more accurately reflects the nature of the secret. This doesn’t change behavior in any way, but it does make it clearer what you’re talking about. The company didn’t state a timetable for those interface changes, but watch for them in the coming weeks.
The more significant change only affects people with paid accounts. Starting July 17, 2020, Zoom will require any meeting without a passcode has a Waiting Room enabled. You can also have both a passcode and Waiting Room, which I highly recommend and cover in the book from the user and host perspective.
For people with paid accounts, from the single-host Pro up through enterprise flavors, it’s a change for any host who had omitted a passcode and disabled the Waiting Room.
Zoom had turned on Waiting Rooms by default for all accounts in May, but hosts can override that on a per-account or per-meeting basis, and administrators for business accounts can set Waiting Room policies that require them or disable them by default for all users.
As of May 9, 2020, hosts with free-tier (Basic) accounts must have a passcode set, so the Waiting Room remains an added option for those accounts.
Posted by Joe Kissell on May 19, 2020
Glenn Fleishman joined Chuck Joiner on MacVoices in a two-part interview to discuss his new book Take Control of Zoom. Needless to say, the interview itself was also conducted using Zoom!
In Part 1, Glenn offers some Zoom tips and discusses Zoom’s privacy and security challenges.
In Part 2, Glenn discusses Zoom vs. the competition, recording options, and more.