During the coronavirus outbreak, video conferencing app Zoom went from unknown outsider to the leading digital communications platform on the planet. It hit an incredible peak of 200 million daily active users, making it highly likely you’ve used it at some point during 2020.
The beauty of Zoom lies in its simplicity, which allows people to create, schedule or join a meeting with just a few clicks. It also offers an excellent level of functionality in the free version, even if officially there’s a 40 minute limit.
However, there are a number of hidden features that can really add to your experience. Here’s 10 worth trying.
Change your call background
The ability to customise your Zoom background has proven immensely popular, with all sorts of fun and creative ways to use it. While creating a background yourself might take a while, cycling between presets is pretty simple. See our dedicated tutorial on how to change your Zoom background.
Disable your microphone and camera by default
To avoid interfering with those already on the call, having your microphone and camera switched off should be your default position.
For your microphone head to Settings then Audio and select ‘Mute microphone when joining a meeting’.
On the camera side of things it’s Settings, Video then ‘Turn off my video when joining a meeting’.
React with emojis
You didn’t think Zoom would neglect emojis, did you? Despite not having regular text chats, you can still react in calls with emojis in response to what is being said.
This is perfect for a large meeting, which allows the host to gauge participants’ feedback without them having to unmute their microphone or type out a response.
When in a call, you should see a Reactions tab at the bottom of the screen, next to the mic and camera options. Click this and choose your emoji, which will disappear after 5 second.
For this to work, the organiser will have had to enable the nonverbal feedback feature.
Make use of keyboard shortcuts
Although you’ll rarely be using your keyboard during a Zoom, it might be worth learning a few handy shortcuts to make the software easier to use.
One of the most useful is holding down the space bar when in a call, which will mute and unmute your microphone. Releasing it will revert to the previous setting, making it perfect if you are suddenly called to speak in a meeting.
See the full range of shortcuts on the Zoom website.
Switch to gallery view
Gallery view is probably want you’ve seen in a number of Zoom screenshots, with dozens of people’s faces in a grid across the screen.
However, by default Zoom calls show only who is talking. To change it simply click the ‘Gallery view’ tab in the top right corner of a call screen.
Gallery view will display up to 49 participants on screen at any one time, after which there will be multiple pages.
Hide participants without video
The gallery view is great for meetings with lots of people, but it will show everyone on the call by default. It’s highly likely some people will have disabled their cameras, but there is a setting which can hide them from the screen.
Head to Settings, Video then Meetings, where you can turn on ‘Hide non-video participants’
Don’t worry, you can still hear these participants, so they won’t be forgotten about just because you can’t see them!
Share your screen
It’s incredibly easy to share your screen in a Zoom meeting, and the feature is open to all attendees. You do not require permission from the host to start sharing.
To do so, just click the ‘Share screen’ button, located in the toolbar at the bottom of the screen.
This gives you the option to share your whole desktop or just one tab, while you can end at any time by clicking the red ‘Stop Share’ button.
Turn on beauty mode
It’s a common feature of smartphone selfie cameras, but did you know Zoom has a built-in beauty mode? Known as ‘Touch Up My Appearance’, it will smooth your appearance and potentially iron out some perceived imperfections.
However, just like on a phone this can often look very artificial.
To activate, click the up arrow next to start video before you join a meeting. Head to Video Settings and then My Video, where there’ll be an option for ‘Touch Up My Appearance’
Record the meeting (desktop only)
With so many important meetings now taking place via Zoom, it’s likely that you’ll want to keep a copy of some for future reference.
Fortunately, Zoom’s built-in recording features are excellent. To ensure all meetings are recorded by default, head to Settings then Recording and ensure it is turned on.
If hosting a meeting, simply click the ‘Record’ button in the toolbar once you start.
The recording file will then be saved locally on your device.
The feature is available on mobile, but only if you subscribe to a paid account.
Host more than 100 people for more than 40 minutes
While Zoom is very generous with the features in its free tier, but does cap participants at 100. In order for more to join, it’s only the host will need to sign up for a paid subscription for at least £15.99 per month. See all the options here.
Free meetings are also technically limited to 40 minutes, although there is a workaround. See how to get around Zoom’s 40 minute limit. You might also be interested in how to encrypt your meetings.
There also look to be more features coming to Zoom in the near future. As reported by Mashable, presentation software Prezi is trialling software that allows you to give presentations using interactive graphics. This should mean using Zoom for remote schooling can become more interactive, replacing the need for the host to permanently share their screen.
Once you’ve mastered the basics of Zoom, you’ll need to ensure you stay safe when using it. Check out our guide to protecting your privacy and security when using Zoom.
Visit Home Hacks for more top tips and advice on dealing with the new normal.