Free Alternative Friday: Join.Me

If there’s one thing I really love, it’s replacing expensive, bulky software with free or really cheap tools. I said goodbye to Microsoft Office and hello Google Docs a couple years ago, and never looked back. Sure, you might give up some features, but odds are that most of what you’re losing is bloat anyway. This series will explore various free (or very cheap) tools, apps, and utilities you can use instead of the expensive, mainstream alternative.

Do you need a way to share your screen with a client, or have them share theirs with you? There are a lot of programs out there to do this, like WebEx, Livemeeting, GoToMeeting, and a few dozen others. The problem with them all is that they cost you money. That’s fine when you need some of their other, often impressive, features. But when you just need to share screens to demonstrate something or collaborate on work, the price might be too much.

That’s where Join.Me comes in. It’s quick, insanely easy to use, and completely free for basic users. Let’s dive in and take a look at a few features, shall we?

Join.Me offers free desktop sharing for PCs and Macs

Join.Me Free Features

For the free version, Join.Me has a pretty impressive feature list:

  • Works for PC and Mac
  • Viewers can also use their iPhone, iPad, or Andriod device
  • Up to 250 concurrent users
  • Share control on your screen – great for troubleshooting and collaboration
  • Supports multiple monitors – and you can control which monitor is shared
  • Users can chat and send files
  • 256 bit SSL security encryption

This is lacking two big features that most paid programs have: the ability to schedule meetings, and the ability to change presenters. That makes the free version of Join.Me ideal for ad hoc meetings and presentations by single users, which is probably fine in most cases.

Join.Me Requirements

There’s always a catch, isn’t there? Well don’t worry, the requirements are extremely minimal.

As a viewer, you’ll need:

  • Flash Player 10 (free from Adobe)
    • Mobile viewers will need to install the free Join.Me app instead
  • Internet Explorer 7 or higher, or the current version of Firefox, Chrome, or Safari
  • A broadband internet connection

As a host you’ll need:

  • Windows XP, Vista, or 7 / Mac Snow Leopard or Lion
    • Mobile users cannot currently host Join.Me
  • Flash Player 10 (free from Adobe)
  • Internet Explorer 7 or higher, or the current version of Firefox, Chrome, or Safari
  • A broadband internet connection

Beyond the Free Version

For $19 a month or $149 a year, you can upgrade to the Pro version of Join.Me. This is significantly cheaper than most of the mainstream products, especially when you sign up for the annual plan.

It boasts some nice looking additional features like:

  • The ability to give someone else presenter rights to the meeting (PC and Mac users only, no mobile)
  • A desktop application
  • Meeting scheduling
  • International conference call lines
  • Personalize your link and background
  • User management and control over who can join your meeting

Is upgrading worth it? I suppose that depends on your needs. If you have a lot of meetings and need to be able to schedule them and pass off presenter rights, then maybe it is. If you’re like me, and just need a tool for quick ad hoc sessions, then the free version will work just fine.

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