My Favorite Zoom Tips

I decided to write down the helpful features and settings I’ve discovered in Zoom.

Desktop app settings

A screenshot of the desktop app settings dialog under “General”

Under the “General” tab:

  1. With “use dual monitors”, screenshare becomes a separate window. I like to have my meeting video always on my second monitor, so that I can watch the screenshare (or continue to do work during the meeting) on my primary monitor, and not have to switch windows to see people. One caveat: if you move a window you’re sharing between monitors, often the screenshare gets paused, and you have to click “resume share”.
  2. You can stop Zoom from always asking you to confirm when you click Leave.
  3. Zoom can give you a notification of an upcoming scheduled meeting, with a button to join. The dropdown provides options, but you can type other values in the box. Unfortunately, you can’t give 0 minutes, i.e., when the meeting is starting. I’d rather have an option to have Zoom treat the start of a scheduled meeting as an incoming active invite (Amazon Chime does this, and it’s handy).
  4. This is probably something an admin has to enable, but Zoom can integrate with various calendar services to become aware of scheduled meetings.
A screenshot of the desktop app settings dialog under “Video”
A screenshot of the desktop app settings dialog under “Video”

Under the Video tab:

  1. I like to set it so my video is always off when joining a meeting.
A screenshot of the desktop app settings dialog under “Audio”
A screenshot of the desktop app settings dialog under “Audio”

Under the Audio tab:

  1. You can tell Zoom to always join audio by computer, so it doesn’t prompt you.
  2. It’s really helpful to others to set it so you always enter a meeting muted.
  3. I don’t use this often, but having the space bar as a temporary unmute button means you don’t forget to re-mute yourself. But Zoom has to be the active window, and there’s no way to set a global hotkey for this.
A screenshot of the desktop app settings dialog under “Keyboard Shortcuts”
A screenshot of the desktop app settings dialog under “Keyboard Shortcuts”

Under the Keyboard Shortcuts tab:

  1. There are lots of shortcuts, and you can change them by clicking and pressing a new key combination.
  2. You can enable shortcuts to be global, so that Zoom will do the action even if the Zoom window isn’t in focus.
  3. My favorite is enabling a global hotkey for toggle mute/unmute. I changed it from the default (on Windows) Alt+A because that’s used in some applications I use. Unfortunately, the temporary unmute shortcut (spacebar) isn’t in this tab (it’s under Audio), and can’t be changed or made global.

Meeting settings

Meeting settings are unavailable from the desktop app settings, for some reason. I had to go into the web interface.

A screenshot of the settings web page under “Security”
A screenshot of the settings web page under “Security”

There are a lot of good options under Security. It’s a good idea to require a passcode on all your meetings, even if you’re sharing the link publicly. It means that no one can join just by randomly entering a meeting ID. It’s useful to set it so the passcode is embedded in the link, so the user of the link doesn’t need to enter it manually.

A screenshot of the settings web page under “Security”
A screenshot of the settings web page under “Security”

You can enable having a waiting room by default, but I think the waiting room makes sense only on meetings that are either public or discussing sensitive topics, so I enable it on a per-meeting basis.

A screenshot of the settings web page under “Schedule Meeting”
A screenshot of the settings web page under “Schedule Meeting”
A screenshot of the settings web page under “Schedule Meeting”
A screenshot of the settings web page under “Schedule Meeting”

Under the Schedule Meeting section:

  1. I like to set my meetings to have all video off by default, so that people aren’t forced to use video if they don’t want to.
  2. I like to have Join Before Host on. It means that people who are early can socialize, and especially if I’m late, the meeting can start without me.
  3. Having a Personal Meeting ID can be useful, but it doesn’t make sense to use it for all your meetings. It means that if you have scheduled two meetings back-to-back and the first meeting runs long, participants from the second will start joining. Better to use individual meeting IDs and Join Before Host to let the second meeting participants get into their own separate meeting.
  4. Setting everyone to be muted when joining a meeting means you don’t need people to have the “mute myself when joining a meeting” setting on for themselves.

In a meeting: Invites

A screenshot of the upper-left corner of a Zoom meeting window, with the green shield icon circled, showing the dialog that results from clicking it, with the “copy link” button circled.

When you want to invite someone to a meeting in progress, you can go to the participants tab, click “Invite”, and then click “Copy Invite Link” (note that “Copy Invite” provides content suitable for an email), but a quicker way is to click the green shield icon in the upper left corner of the window, which results in a little dropdown dialog with a “Copy Link” button.

Note there’s also an option to automatically put the meeting link in your clipboard when joining a meeting under the “General” tab in the desktop app settings.

In a meeting: Sharing

A screenshot of the settings web page under “In Meeting (Basic)” for annotation, whiteboard, and remote control
A screenshot of the settings web page under “In Meeting (Basic)” for annotation, whiteboard, and remote control

When someone else is screensharing, it can often be a challenge to draw the sharer’s attention to a particular thing on their screen, or to express some action you’d like them to take. Under “View Options”, there are two things that can help.

As a passive option, you can annotate the screen. You can circle a particular visual element, for example. Note that if they scroll, your annotations don’t go with it. You can even annotate your own screen when you’re sharing!

As an active option, you can take remote control of their computer. This means your mouse and keyboard will control the input on their side, though they can still use their mouse and keyboard as well. Note that if you’re using different operating systems, the shortcut keys will often work differently. I tend to avoid these and use right mouse clicks to copy and paste, save from the menu, etc.

You can also give out remote control when you are the sharer, but this isn’t something I’ve used often, I usually just ask someone if they want to take control and they request it.

When you want to collaborate on visual information, Zoom has a whiteboard option when you share your screen. Drawing with a mouse is hard for most people, though. I bought an entry-level Wacom Intuous tablet to make it easier for me, though I know people who have a spare tablet, join as an additional participant from the tablet, and use touch/stylus input on the tablet for whiteboarding.

When using the whiteboard, I’m not very good at writing text freehand, so I switch back and forth from drawing lines and shapes with the tablet, and entering text with the mouse and keyboard.

Other participants can also draw on the whiteboard, and you can save the image at any time. You can also set it to automatically save whiteboards when they are closed or the meeting ends.

In a meeting: Feedback

A screenshot of the settings web page under “In Meeting (Basic)”
A screenshot of the settings web page under “In Meeting (Basic)”
A screenshot of the settings web page under “In Meeting (Basic)”
A screenshot of the settings web page under “In Meeting (Basic)”
A screenshot of the desktop app settings dialog under “General”
A screenshot of the desktop app settings dialog under “General”
  1. Adding co-hosts allows more than one person to manage tasks during the meeting like muting people who have forgotten to mute themselves (note there’s a “Mute All” button under the participants tab), let people in from the waiting room, etc. Note that you can add co-hosts during a meeting, but also set them up beforehand in the settings for a scheduled meeting.
  2. You can create polls during a meeting, which can help get feedback on a particular topic without needing people to chime in by audio or in the chat.
  3. The non-verbal feedback buttons allow quick statements with well-defined meaning that are sticky (unlike reactions). The yes/no buttons allow instant and ad hoc feedback without a poll. Speed up/slow down can help communicate to a presenter.
  4. Meeting reactions are a familiar ephemeral, non-verbal form of communication. In addition to the normal ways those get used, you can request a thumbs-up reaction instead of a “yes” feedback. Note that you can set the reaction emoji skin tone in the “General” tab of the desktop app settings.

I’d recommend going through all the settings in “In Meeting (Basic)” and “In Meeting (Advanced)” sections, as there are a lot of other useful meeting settings that you might want to use.

Hopefully these tips are useful. If you’ve got questions or comments, you can leave them here or hit me up on Twitter @ben11kehoe

Cloud Robotics Research Scientist at @iRobot

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