Windows Vista’s Meeting Space feature may appear to be a business-oriented tool, but it can also be put to a variety of other uses. It displays the contents of your desktop, or just an individual program, on the screens of other computers on your home network. This could be used to display holiday photos to a large group of people when there are too many viewers to crowd around a single computer screen. The program can also be used to enable different people to work on the same file. If several people in the house are working on the same project, or researching possible holiday destinations, each of them can work on a different computer and post their findings to a shared file that can be accessed by everybody on the network.
The first time Meeting Space is launched, a message will appear indicating that there are a number of configuration steps that need to be completed — just click the button labelled ‘Yes, continue setting up Windows Meeting Space’. Click Continue in the Use Account Control dialogue box and then enter the name that you would like others to see in the People Near Me dialogue box that appears. To make things easier in future, it is a good idea to leave the box labelled ‘Sign me in automatically when Windows starts’ ticked. It is safe to leave the ‘Allow invitations from’ option set to Anyone because no data will be shared without your permission, but ‘Trusted contacts’ may be selected so that only people in your contact list can get in touch. Click OK to continue.
When the Meeting Space window appears, click the ‘Start a new meeting’ button. Enter a name for the meeting and choose a password to help increase security. Click the green arrow button and an empty meeting space will be created. Other users on the same network who have Windows Meeting Space running will see that the meeting has started and can join in by clicking the link in the ‘Join a meeting near me’ section and then entering the relevant password. If another user does not notice that the meeting has started, anyone who is already taking part in the meeting can click the Invite button and send a message to any other network users who are online and signed into People Near Me; just tick the box next to a contact and click ‘Send invitations’.
When creating a meeting, you can keep it private. After entering a name and choosing a password for a new meeting, click the Options button at the bottom of the window. Select the option labelled ‘Do not allow people near me to see this meeting’. Click OK, followed by the green arrow button. You can inform others about the meeting by clicking the Invite button, which will send out invitations to online contacts. You need to tell everyone in the meeting the password required to join — this can be done verbally or via email.
A useful feature of Meeting Space is the option to share your desktop with others attending the meeting. Click the Share button in the toolbar and click OK at the dialogue box that appears. If you would like to share a programthat is running, select it fromthe list and click Share, otherwise click ‘Browse for a file to open and share’ and select the document you would like everyone to be able to see and click Open followed by Share. If you would like everyone to be able to see all the activity that takes place on the desktop, select the Desktop option and click Share. Any actions performed with the selected programor on the desktop, will be replicated on the screen of other people attending the meeting.
When sharing a single program, other program windows will be automatically blanked out to hide them from other users, but everything will be visible if Desktop has been selected. By default, the user who started the sharing is the one in control and everyone else can only view what is on their screen. To pass control to another user, click the Give Control button at the top of the screen and select a user from the list. The person to whom control has been passed can hand it back to the original sharer by clicking the ‘You are in control’ button and selecting Return, or the sharer can regain control by pressing the [Windows] key and [Esc] simultaneously.
Several people can collaborate on a single file using the Handouts feature of Meeting Space. In the main program window, click the green plus (‘+’) sign in the Handouts section in the lower right-hand corner. Select a file and other users involved in the meeting will be able to open it. Changes made by any user will be seen by everyone, but the original file will not be changed. Any user is free to add a handout to the meeting, not just the person who started it. To send notes to meeting participants, right-click a name in the list to the upper right of the screen, and select ‘Send a note’. This opens a simple instant messaging-type tool.