Free Collaboration and Online Meetings–for Windows or the Mac

Do you currently pay for an online meeting solution such as WebEx? If so, the number of free competitors is growing rapidly, and many of them have most of the features of the higher end online meeting products. My latest favorite is Yuuguu which is available in a free beta version for Windows users, and there is a beta for Mac users.

Yuuguu is ideal for a group of web workers who collaborate all day with each other and want to be able to share each other’s desktops or meet online. It’s also very easy to use if you want a free way to remotely control a PC or Mac when you’re traveling.

The application gives you the option to have it running in the background all day, and you can choose to display your availability or lack of it to your friends or workgroup right on the control console for the application. You just choose “Do Not Disturb” from a dropdown menu if you don’t want to be pinged, or Available if it’s okay for someone in your group to message you, start an online meeting with you, or invite you to share your desktops. The basic console looks like an instant messaging client, and the people you choose to collaborate with look like your Buddy List.

If you choose to collaborate with someone else in your group, you can opt to just instant message with them, or you can share each other’s desktops (good for showing a remote person how an application or task works), or you can share files. You can also initiate voice conferencing, although there are small costs for that. Like most similar collaboration products you can choose to give control of your own desktop over to the remote person, and vice-versa. It’s also seamless to collaborate back-and-forth between Windows and Mac systems. As you go through the program’s features, there are simple tutorials.

Yuuguu is currently a beta application, but it works very dependably. Also note that if you want to collaborate with someone who doesn’t have the Yuuguu client, you can do so–up to a point. The application has a web share option that lets you share your desktop with anyone who has a browser. The catch is that they can’t share their desktop back unless they have the client. But these sessions are still useful for showing a demonstration, etc.

In case you become a regular user of the application, there is a Yuuguu blog with tips on how to get the most out of it, updates, and the like. If you’re interested in this type of collaboration application, I also highly recommend Yugma. Yugma is also free, and lets you hold instant online meetings (complete with conference call bridge lines), share desktops and do whiteboarding.

Do you have any tips on good collaboration applications?