Work Smarter With Vista's New Productivity Tools

Hold Instant Meetings

Windows Meeting Space lets you connect with people from a distance; the program is in all Vista editions, but Home Basic users can only join a meeting, not initiate one. Meeting Space even lets you share data via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth with nearby computers when no wireless hotspot or Internet connection is available.

To begin, choose Start, All Programs, Windows Meeting Space. Follow the prompts on screen to specify your preferences in the People Near Me dialog box. You may want to uncheck 'Sign me in automatically when Windows starts' (it's selected by default), and you may want to change the default of accepting invitations from 'Anyone' to Trusted contacts. (If you need to change these settings later, choose Start, Settings, Control Panel, People Near Me.) When you're done, click OK. When Meeting Space opens, click Start a new meeting, fill out the form to give the meeting a name and password, and press <Enter>. Once the meeting is set up, click Invite people on the right. If you don't see a participant listed in the 'Invite people' dialog box, click Invite others to send an "invitation file" attachment via e-mail; or, to create an invitation file you can send to them via your local network or IM, click Create invitation file. The instructions in the e-mail tell invitees to save the invitation file somewhere on their PC and then open it from within Meeting Space itself, but I had no trouble accepting an invite simply by double-clicking the attachment in the e-mail. At present, only Vista users can join a Meeting Space meeting.

As many as nine people can connect at one time to share any application running on the host's system, whether it's a PowerPoint presentation, a Word document, or the entire desktop. To let another participant edit the shared document or take control of the application, the host can use the Give Control menu at the top of the screen (outside the Meeting Space window) to grant the necessary permission. A participant can also choose Request control from the pop-up menu at the top of the shared window representation (inside the Meeting Space window) to make his or her name flash in the Give Control button of the host's Meeting Space.

Share documents with as many as nine invitees by clicking the Add button in Vista's Meeting Space application.
Share documents with as many as nine invitees by clicking the Add button in Vista's Meeting Space application.

If you want more than one participant to have editing control of a document simultaneously, share the document as a "handout": Click the Add button at the top of the Windows Meeting Space window, choose OK to close the warning, and locate and select the file you want to share. On the lower right, participants will see handout icons, which they can double-click to open the document. Changes made by those in attendance do not affect the original file. Participants can save copies of handouts to their own system by selecting one or more and choosing Meeting, Save Handouts.

But what if you want to hold a meeting in an unwired setting, such as a coffee shop with no wireless hotspot? As long as the participants are near one another with their Wi-Fi- or Bluetooth-equipped computers, they can still collaborate through Meeting Space. Each person attending needs to start the Meeting Space app. One person creates the meeting via the Start a new meeting button while everyone else clicks Join a meeting near me. Everything else works pretty much the same.

One more thing: Meeting Space may cause your firewall settings to change.

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