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Skype vs. Zoom: Video chat apps for working from home compared

If the coronavirus has your office working remotely, here's how to keep in touch.

For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Many offices have issued work-from-home orders as cases of the novel coronavirus increase around the world. Tech giants including Apple have mandated their employees work remotely and instituted aid for hourly workers. 

Even if you're working from the comfort of your living room, business must continue as usual, or at least as best it can. Since your coworkers won't be at the desk or room next to you, the next best communication tool is video chat. While there are many options to choose from, Skype and Zoom are two of the heavy hitters. Here's how the two video chat and conferencing apps compare. 

Read more: 10 free video chat apps to use if you're social distancing

Angela Lang/CNET

Microsoft's Skype is a telecommunications app that works for video chats, calls and instant messaging. The app is compatible with Android and iOS, Windows, iPadOS, web browser, Alexa and Xbox. Skype offers multiple subscription plans if you want to call someone's cellphone or landline; otherwise, it's free to use. 

Skype can handle up to 50 people in a single video call, as well, which can come in handy for business meetings. The app allows for calls to be recorded in case someone misses a meeting. Captions and subtitles are also available for accessibility. Skype has file-sharing capabilities, caller ID, voicemail, a split view mode to keep conversations separate and screenshare on mobile.  

After you create an account, you can start chatting. If you're putting together a call, simply open your profile and click New Chat. Choose New Group Chat, New Chat or New Private Conversation. Whichever option you pick, you'll need to type the group member's name into the search to find them or add them. When you open a chat with another user, you can keep it in instant messenger form with the ability to share files and more, start a video call or create a group. 

You can schedule calls in the app and be alerted through mobile or desktop by turning on the schedule call notifications.  

Zoom

The Zoom video conference app works for Android, iOS, PC and Mac. The app offers a basic free plan that hosts up to 100 participants. There are also options for small and medium business teams ($15-$20 a month per host) and large enterprises for $20 a month per host with a 50-host minimum. You can adjust meeting times, and select multiple hosts. Up to 1,000 users can participate in a single Zoom video call, and 49 videos can appear on the screen at once.

The app has HD video and audio capabilities, collaboration tools like simultaneous screen-sharing and co-annotation, and the ability to record meetings and generate transcripts. Outlook, Gmail and iCal support scheduling and starting meetings. In Gmail, for example, just click the calendar icon, then click the time of your meeting, then click the link under Join Zoom Meeting. If the host scheduled it, there might also be call-in options. 

If your mic and camera are off, Zoom has the option to communicate via chat (the interface looks a bit like Slack). This feature can also be helpful if it's a massive all-hands meeting and the opportunity for questions is available. 

It's free to sign up with Zoom -- you can either manually create an account with an email or sign in with Google or Facebook. 

Read more: COVID-19: Everything you need to know to stay healthy and entertained while stuck at home

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