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Raindance Meeting Edition review: Raindance Meeting Edition

Raindance Meeting Edition

Jeff Bertolucci
4 min read

Raindance Meeting Edition


Raindance Meeting Edition

The Good

Well-structured interface; strong application-sharing and video tools; tech support available during online meetings.

The Bad

No VoIP audio; uploading documents could be easier.

The Bottom Line

Raindance Meeting Edition is fine for small meetings though it lacks some features, such as VoIP audio, found in pricier Web conferencing solutions, Raindance is still a solid, affordable package.

Editor's note: This review has been modified to clarify that more than 15 users may participate in a Raindance Meeting Edition conference. (10/19/05)

Raindance Meeting Edition is a smartly designed Web conferencing program designed for small-to-medium online gatherings of people. In a price-to-feature comparison, it falls halfway between low-end competitors Citrix GoToMeeting and Convoq ASAP and high-enders, such as Macromedia Breeze, Microsoft Live Meeting 2005, and WebEx Meeting Center. Raindance offers the usual application- and document-sharing tools included in most Web conferencing solutions along with text chat and audioconferencing via telephone. Raindance's user interface has some clever tricks, such as the Follow Talker video feature, which automatically displays the image of whoever is speaking. Conspicuously absent from Raindance are advanced tools, such as a VoIP audio option--a potential money saver for broadcast-style, single-speaker events--and multipoint video that shows three or more attendees simultaneously. That said, Raindance Meeting Edition is a nice conferencing app and a decent value for small businesses on a budget. You can learn how to use Raindance Meeting Editon in a matter of minutes. The software follows a standard Web conferencing setup routine: meeting presenters download and install a small applet, which places an optional Raindance icon on the desktop. To start a meeting, double-click the icon; Raindance loads, allowing you to invite participants by selecting the E-mail Invitation icon on the toolbar. Unlike Microsoft Live Meeting 2005, Raindance doesn't insert a toolbar in Microsoft Office applications (handy for starting impromptu meetings while you're editing a Word or Excel file). Total setup time in our tests: five minutes.

Participants join a meeting by clicking a link in your e-mail invitation. They have the option of downloading the Raindance software or--as with many other Web conferencing services--using a Web-based client. We were impressed with Raindance's well-designed interface, which provides access to all major features--application and browser sharing, video, and so on--in a convenient, left-side column.

Raindance lets you share the entire screen--or a portion of it. Above, meeting attendees see only what's inside the Share A Region box.

Video integration plays a major role in Raindance--much more so than in other conferencing apps (particularly Live Meeting) where it's often ignored or treated as a gratuitous add-on. The video window is prominently displayed in the top-left corner of the screen, and the clever Follow Talker feature dynamically changes the video image to whoever is speaking, without intervention from any of the participants. Wisely, Follow Talker takes effect after five seconds of continuous speech, thereby preventing chaotic camera changes every time someone grunts "yeah" or "uh-huh." We were less impressed with picture-in-picture (PIP), which displays your image in a corner of the video window while another attendee speaks. Frankly, the PIP window is too tiny to be useful. We'd also like to see the option of higher video frame rates, which Raindance caps at 6 frames per second--the default setting is 3fps--to preserve bandwidth for other features.

Raindance Meeting Edition is built for small to medium-size meetings. The five-user edition costs $249 per month; by comparison, five-user versions of Live Meeting, Breeze, and WebEx run $375 per month. The bargain alternative is Citrix GoToMeeting at $69 per month for 10 users. (However, GoToMeeting lacks the video, VoIP-audio, whiteboard, and document-upload tools found in pricier competitors.) Like Convoq ASAP, Raindance offers a free version that's limited to 2-person sessions.

Raindance's features fit nicely with its medium-range price. With Raindance, you get video, but not VoIP audio. As with the competition, you conduct the audio portion of your conferences via phone. For meetings of five or fewer, you can use Skype's free service.

Raindance displays PowerPoint slide thumbnails at the bottom of the screen. You jump to a specific slide by clicking it.

If you use PowerPoint, Raindance's interface will seem familiar. A private work space at the bottom of the screen displays slide thumbnails, and you can jump from one slide to another--or skip to the final frame--simply by clicking its thumbnail. We'd like to see an easier way to upload presentations, however: with presentations, you need to select the file by browsing a conventional list of folders and files. By comparison, Live Meeting 2005 lets you drag any file from your desktop, drop it in the meeting window, and sip coffee while it's automatically converted and uploaded to the Microsoft server hosting the Web conference.

Raindance and Live Meeting 2005 are the only two conferencing apps we've seen that let you share only a portion of the screen. While both services frame the shared region, it's hard to see the framed area within Raindance. We preferred Live Meeting's approach, which grays out the area not being shared--an easier-to-view solution. Overall though, Raindance's application- and document-sharing tools are quite good.

Raindance is unique among Web conferencing services in that it lets you contact tech support during a live meeting. A tech staffer will join the session and help troubleshoot your problems. The tech's video image appears on screen, and she or he will quickly and politely answer your queries. This feature is easy to use, too: click Request Public Operator from the Help menu, and a Raindance staffer will join within 15 seconds. In our tests it was more like 30 seconds, but we're not complaining. Like its competitors, Raindance also provide e-mail and phone assistance, and its support site has a handy quick-reference guide for do-it-yourself help.


Raindance Meeting Edition

Score Breakdown

Setup 7Features 8Support 7