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The best free video conferencing software to communicate from home

Nothing can replace a discussion or a physical meeting, but at a time when many French people are confined and have to telecommute, videoconferencing is the closest means of communication. What are the most recommendable tools? If you are lucky enough to have an IT department in your company, ask them for advice: software is probably already installed on your laptop, such as Microsoft Teams or Google Hangouts Meet.

If this is not the case, or if this software does not allow your contacts to be called outside the company, here is our selection of teleconferencing services. We have chosen the most universally compatible free offers. Since video calls may inconvenience certain parties, the selected software is capable of mixing video conversations with purely audio calls. If a contact person does not wish to appear on the screen, they can cut the video by clicking on the icon symbolizing the camera.

  • Computer applications

Some professionals telecommute with their company's MacBook or laptop, and installation of new software is likely to be blocked. To invite them, it is better to use videoconferencing services which do not require the installation of software and can work with an Internet browser: they have a better chance of escaping the constraints of IT departments. These are for example the free versions of Hangouts and U Meeting, or Skype for the web.

The free version of Skype is rather generous in options

We have a preference for Skype, since many users are familiar with this service and will be more likely to adopt it. Especially since the free version of Skype is rather generous in options: we can invite up to fifty people to chat on video, record the call, show what is displayed on its screen to other participants. To minimize the risk of industrial espionage, conversations are encrypted. You must create or connect to your Microsoft account.

If you want to communicate with a small group of people who have the freedom to install software – and the motivation required – and if you are looking for sophisticated features, we recommend Zoom, which offers several refinements: a whiteboard for drawing diagrams , the automatic transcription of interviews in text format, the creation of appointments integrated into professional calendars, the possibility of organizing question-and-answer sessions in which we participate by raising our hands, etc. The free version of Zoom is, alas, limited to forty-minute meetings.

  • Smartphone applications

Better to use a computer than a mobile for its larger screen and therefore better visibility. But not everyone has permanent access to a computer. On smartphones, we recommend WhatsApp because there is a good chance that the vast majority of your colleagues are already registered for this service. This app only allows two, three or four people to chat on video. To meet with larger teams, you can use the Skype or Zoom mobile apps.

Read also Coronavirus: operators and hosts prepare for increased Internet traffic
  • What if the connection is choppy or pixelated?

The coronavirus crisis is likely to cause a spike in connections, so these services may suffer from quality issues. The video is a medium very greedy in computing power as in size of “pipes”; some apps may be less reliable than others. If you have any problems, don't hesitate to test another service, if you can.

Control the speed of your Internet connection and the Wi-Fi antenna

But first, check the speed of your Internet connection and the Wi-Fi antenna that distributes it in your home: your connection problems can also come from there. Test their speed at this address. If the speed displayed in the “reception” box is less than 2 Mbit / s, or if the “send” box indicates a figure lower than 1 Mbit / s, the “bottleneck” is probably located at your place . If the figures displayed are less than 0.5 Mbit / s, it is even more likely.

In this case, move your laptop closer to your Internet box to try to speed up the Wi-Fi connection, and repeat the test. If the speed does not go above the recommended figures, consider replacing the Wi-Fi connection in your home with that of your smartphone, if however you receive 4G at home.

Check the speed of your mobile connection by turning off your phone's Wi-Fi and launching a speed test. If you are satisfied with this solution, use it in moderation: videoconferencing can consume half of a 10 GB telephone plan in less than five hours.

Your smartphone is not the only one that can benefit from 4G: your computer can also connect to it. To do this, turn your smartphone into a Wi-Fi hotspot by following this manual if you have an iPhone, or this if you have an Android mobile.

Read also How to improve your home's Wi-Fi?
  • How to further improve sound and image?

You can prevent your face from appearing dark. In a room well lit by daylight, avoid placing your back to the window. Position yourself in front of her as much as possible. In a dark room, turn on all the lights except the ones just above you. If that's not enough, place a bedside lamp right next to your computer.

To improve the sound quality, the ideal is to use a headset with a built-in microphone which will allow you to increase the volume without disturbing your interlocutors. In any case, if you work in a noisy room, mute your microphone when you are not speaking by clicking on the icon which symbolizes a microphone.

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