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With a growing number of us relying on video calling apps to get through the working day, Zoom has recently implemented a raft of improvements. We’ve rounded up some top tips so you can join or host calls safely and easily.
According to our own expert video calling app tests, Zoom is far from perfect. But whatever your feelings towards the service, it’s all but impossible to avoid it these days, simply because it’s so many other people’s default choice. In fact, Zoom’s popularity has exploded in recent months, to the point where the platform now hosts an estimated 300 million callers a day worldwide.
Whether you’re a complete Zoom newbie or a regular user looking for ways to improve your experience, we’ll run you through some handy features that you might not be familiar with.
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Essential Zoom tips to make your calls fuss-free
1. Switch to Gallery view
In calls where there are more than two participants, Zoom sometimes defaults to Speaker view, where only the person currently speaking is shown on screen. If you prefer, you can switch to a view that shows everybody at once.
In the desktop app on a computer, move your mouse to reveal the toolbar, then click the View button in the top right-right corner and select Gallery. On a smartphone, swipe across the screen from right to left to switch to Gallery view.
Gallery view (shown above) can show up to 49 participants, but the number of faces you see at once ultimately depends on the power of your PC. If there are more than 49 participants, Zoom will create multiple pages that you can switch between.
2. Get around the 40-minute limit
Zoom imposes a limit on the duration of group calls for basic users – the idea is to encourage you to pay for a premium subscription.
But note that one-on-one calls aren’t affected by the 40-minute cut-off. If you’re in a group of three or more participants and want to keep chatting for longer without paying, there’s nothing to stop you from scheduling another meeting straight away, but that can be a bit of a faff.
Another option is for the meeting’s host to click End, then Leave Meeting (instead of End Meeting for All) when the countdown timer starts. At this point, all participants can rejoin the meeting by clicking the link in their original invitation and a fresh 40-minute period will begin.
3. Hide yourself from yourself
If you prefer not to stare at your own face during a video call, you can turn off your webcam without disabling it for everyone else.
On a computer, move your mouse over your own image, then click the ‘…’ button and select Hide Self View. On a mobile device, tap the screen to reveal the toolbar, then tap the ‘…’ button and select the Settings cog. Here, you can disable the Show My Video in Gallery View option.
4. Enable end-to-end-encryption
Zoom now provides free account users with the ability to protect their calls using end-to-end encryption, which will prevent anyone from intercepting your conversations. However, it’s disabled by default, so you’ll need to switch it on first.
To do this, log in at zoom.us and click My Account > Settings. Scroll down to Allow use of end-to-end encryption and click the switch to enable it. Under Default encryption type below, choose End-to-end encryption and click Save.
5. Consider disabling file sharing
Zoom has a built-in tool for sharing files with other participants, but it’s possible for malware to infect your device via a shared file, so you might choose to block this feature.
Log in at zoom.us, click My Account > Settings, then scroll down to File transfer and click the switch off.
6. Enable audio by default
It’s annoying to have to enable audio for every video call – and embarrassing when the person you’re talking to tells you that they can’t hear you. But it’s possible to enable audio by default and avoid all that fumbling around.
On the desktop version of the Zoom app, click the Settings cog on the main screen, then click Audio on the left. Scroll down and put a tick in the box next to Automatically join computer audio when joining a meeting. Users of the desktop app will also find some tools to test and adjust speaker and microphone levels in Zoom’s audio settings – useful if you’re having problems with in-call sound.
On a mobile device, tap the Settings cog > Meetings > Auto-Connect to Audio and select Call Over Internet (Android) or Use Internet (iOS).
7. Master Zoom keyboard shortcuts
If you take the time to learn some of Zoom’s keyboard commands, you won’t need to use on-screen menus to get things done. Here are some handy shortcuts to get you started:
- Record your call To start a local recording (one that will be saved to your own device), type ⌘Cmd+I on Mac or Alt+R on Windows.
- Share your screen Allow other callers to view your screen by pressing ⌘Cmd+Shift+S on Mac or Alt+Shift+S on Windows.
- Send a quick invite You can do this by pressing ⌘Cmd+I on Mac or Alt+I on Windows.
- Mute your audio You can instantly mute (or unmute) your audio by pressing ⌘Cmd+Shift+A on Mac or Alt+A on Windows.
- Turn your video on or off This can be done by pressing ⌘Cmd+Shift+V on Mac or Alt+V on Windows.
8. Change your video background
If you haven’t had time to tidy your home office before an important call, don’t worry – you can display a different background so that it’s hidden from view. Callers will be able to see you, but the scene behind you will be replaced with a solid colour or custom image.
To enable Zoom’s Virtual Background feature, sign in to the Zoom web portal and, from the navigation menu, click Settings. In the Meeting tab, choose Virtual Background and then ensure the feature is enabled.
9. Add your pronouns to your Zoom profile
Sharing more information about yourself can sometimes improve your Zoom experience, particularly if you’re meeting other people for the first time.
To add pronouns to your profile, visit the Zoom web portal and click Profile in the navigation panel. Choose Edit and then fill out the Pronouns field.
Once you’ve added pronouns to your profile, Zoom contacts will be able to see those as part of your Zoom profile card. You can also choose to have your pronouns displayed automatically in every meeting that you host or join. Have a look at the Share in a meeting or webinar? drop-down menu and play around with the settings.
The best video calling apps for 2021
On a mission to find the top video calling apps, we’ve pitted some of the best-known services against each other. Our experts have compared Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom and several other apps to see which ones are great for speech quality, video quality and ease of use.
Our top-performing video calling app is an ideal platform for home use, serving up consistently good audio and video quality. But our lowest-scoring app is a disappointment – if your internet connection drops a little, speech can be practically inaudible.
Discover which apps you should be using for your video catch-ups with our expert guide on the best video calling apps
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Additional reporting by Tom Morgan.