At a Glance
- Hosts documents for faster delivery
- Great video sharing
- Annotation works on many file formats
- Works entirely in browser
- No videoconferencing
- Requires Skype for VoIP calls
- Screen-sharing requires software download
Fuze Meeting may not do videoconferencing, but it offers most everything else you’d want in an online meeting service. It’s excellent for sharing and discussing all kinds documents, including large ones. That makes it great for any business but especially creative pros, medical offices, and anyone else who works with high-resolution media files.
There are plenty of services that will let you convene business meetings online, sharing files and discussing them via voice or text chat. Fuze Meeting stands out from that crowd by specializing in speedy file-viewing; it’s one of the few that will let a group view HD video files together. That, in addition to responsive screen-sharing, voice conferencing, text chat, file hosting, and annotating, make Fuze Meeting an appealing choice, especially to media pros.
Fuze Meeting is sold at three levels. A Personal account runs $29 a month, which lets you hold meetings with up to 25 attendees at a time and gives you 2GB of online storage space. The Plus service costs $49 per month, which gets you 45 attendees and 10GB space. Pro is $69 a month; for that you can invite up to 55 attendees and store an unlimited quantity of files. The Plus and Pro accounts also let you record meetings. You can buy other options—such as a single day of meetings or more storage—separately.
Fuze Meeting is one of the easiest services to use; you can set up a conference in seconds. Most of that service works via Flash in your browser. If you want to share a live view of your desktop and applications, you’ll need to download and install a plug-in, but even that takes less than a minute. Once you’ve done that, you can also pass control of your Mac to meeting participants.
After you’ve created a new meeting, you can send invitations to participants via e-mail or IM. After clicking a link or entering the meeting number in the Fuze Box site. Participants can join almost immediately; the service connects with uncommon speed.
Attendees can participate in a meeting three ways: by phone conferencing, Skype VoIP, and built-in text chat. Fuze Meeting can call participants directly, or they can dial into a long-distance number. (A toll-free number costs $.06 per minute per user.) To connect through VoIP, you will need to install Skype; Fuze Meeting doesn’t have a VoIP tool of its own. Whichever method you use, calls sound clear. Participants can also type in the Fuze Meeting chat window; that chat tool can also connect with your contacts in AIM, Google Chat, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger.
High-speed file connection
As meeting host, you can upload a wide variety of files, including Word, PowerPoint, PDF, MP3, and various image formats, while a meeting is running. Big files—such as video—work best if you upload them ahead of time. As you present these files in a meeting, participants see them in the Web interface; they can also download copies of the files while the meeting is running.
Because files are hosted on Fuze Box’s servers, even high-resolution images, PowerPoint decks, and PDFs look great and appear quickly. That makes Fuze Meeting feel snappier than other services, such as WebEx, that transfer files from your Mac. Even HD video files work well, staying fluid and starting for each viewer at almost the same time. Great annotation tools let you or participants mark up almost any file, including specific moments in videos. Strangely, you can’t annotate audio files in the same way.
If you choose to record the meeting, Fuze Meeting stores both the voice audio and all of the meeting actions. When you watch it back online, it smoothly replays everything, keeping your slides and other presentation materials in sync.
The Fuze Meeting interface is intuitive and simple. It has some helpful little touches. For example, progress bars next to participant names show when documents have fully buffered, so you know when you can continue. However, because it isn’t a native Mac app, that interface can also feel unfamiliar. While that interface usually works fine, it’s frustrating when it doesn’t. For example, on a MacBook with 1280 by 800screen, the Fuze window is sometimes too small, cutting off data along the bottom.
Documents also look great when viewed on the iPhone app (which obviously doesn’t use Flash). Even video files scale well to those mobile screen, keeping smooth frame rates and pace with desktop participants. The iPhone app enables you to launch meetings as host; you can even upload photos or video recordings directly from your handset. Fuze Box hopes to release an iPad app in September.
Like many of its competitors, Fuze Meeting encrypts your proceedings with 128-bit AES protection. Each meeting gets a unique URL, so you won’t get accidental visitors from previous sessions.
Macworld’s buying advice
Fuze Meeting may not offer videoconferencing, but it offers most everything else you’d want in a conferencing service. It’s excellent for sharing and discussing all kinds documents, including large ones. That makes it great for any business but especially creative pros, medical offices, and anyone else who works with high-resolution media files.
Updated 10:45 a.m. 9/1/10 to remove statement that iPad app will only let you view meetings; Fuze Box says it will let you host them, too..