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Raindance Web Conferencing Pro 5.0 review:

Raindance Web Conferencing Pro 5.0

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The Good Supports Corel and Lotus slide shows as well as PowerPoint; costs less per minute per person than WebEx; includes excellent tech support; moderators can use Mac, Linux, Solaris, and Windows machines.

The Bad Charges additional fees for teleconferencing into an online meeting; lacks many of WebEx's advanced features; slow response over dial-up connections.

The Bottom Line Opt for Raindance Web Conferencing Pro when you need to save a few pennies on online-only meetings or don't use PowerPoint for slide shows. Otherwise, turn to WebEx.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.0 Overall

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Tired of airport security guards? Get Raindance Web Conferencing Pro and say good-bye to metal detectors and salty in-flight snacks. With this software, you can quickly hold an impromptu brainstorming fest or the weekly meeting with peers across the globe. But although Raindance does a decent job handling conferencing basics, it can't quite compete with WebEx Meeting Center. Go with Raindance if you use Corel WordPerfect Office or Lotus SmartSuite for your slide shows; WebEx doesn't support those apps, but it should satisfy everyone who uses other office suites. Tired of airport security guards? Get Raindance Web Conferencing Pro and say good-bye to metal detectors and salty in-flight snacks. With this software, you can quickly hold an impromptu brainstorming fest or the weekly meeting with peers across the globe. But although Raindance does a decent job handling conferencing basics, it can't quite compete with WebEx Meeting Center. Go with Raindance if you use Corel WordPerfect Office or Lotus SmartSuite for your slide shows; WebEx doesn't support those apps, but it should satisfy everyone who uses other office suites.

No software to download
All you need to attend a Raindance meeting is a browser and a Net connection. Unlike WebEx, attendees don't have to download a plug-in. However, moderators do have to install several ActiveX Controls (for Internet Explorer) or plug-ins (for Netscape), a process that's fast but not foolproof. In our tests, we had to read the help file and tweak a few settings in order to share documents with our attendees.

As with WebEx, participants don't need to use Windows to attend; Mac, Solaris, and Linux types can party, too. The only caveat: If participants' PCs don't have the code required to run Java apps and applets, Raindance automatically downloads it onto their machine. In our tests, it took 40 minutes to download the 5MB file over a 28.8Kbps connection.

Costs less than WebEx--sometimes
Raindance's basic Web conferencing package costs 39 cents per minute per person--less than WebEx's 45-cent, pay-as-you-go rate. However, if you add telephone conferencing to the deal, costs climb: you'll pay 63 cents per minute altogether, compared to WebEx's 50 cents per minute total. Raindance offers subscription plans, too. The least expensive one runs $100 per person per month for a 10-seat license, which amounts to a cool $1,000 a month. Yow! WebEx lets you buy seats in single units, so it's a better deal for small businesses.

Handles the basics
Raindance's interface is nicely organized, with multiple adjustable panes that make it easy to initiate a chat and find out who is present in the online meeting. You can brainstorm using the whiteboard, upload documents to an online storage site that participants can access later (good for hard copies of files used in the meeting), initiate Web tours, and annotate presentation slides. Unlike WebEx, you can even choose to share just part of the desktop, hiding all but the app's window from others.

Lacks WebEx's panache
Raindance blends audio and online conferencing using its own back-end telephony system, whereas WebEx relies on third-party providers. Just dial the toll-free number in your Raindance window, punch in a meeting ID and--presto!--you can meet by phone as well as on the Web. As many as 125 people can teleconference in a meeting, and up to 2,500 can attend an online meeting.

Still, WebEx offers tools and features that Raindance can only dream about. For example, Raindance doesn't let you upload nonpresentation documents, nor does it integrate with Microsoft Outlook or let moderators transfer files to other attendees. Want to rotate slides and 3D objects and incorporate animation à la WebEx? Forget about it.

While audio quality was first-rate in our tests, response time during online meetings using slower dial-up connections was shoddy. Attendees equipped with 52Kbps connections waited four to five seconds for changes to appear during an application-sharing session. In our tests, WebEx moved much faster.

Good service
To its credit, Raindance's online tech support resources are well written and include a short FAQ list, a self-paced tutorial, and twice-a-week interactive training sessions. Phone and e-mail support is free, 24/7. In our cold call, a rep came on the line immediately and gave clear, concise explanations and solutions.

Raindance Web Conferencing Pro 5.0 's integrated phone conferencing and alternative slide-show software make it an attractive option for some, but unless you're really pinching pennies and want to conduct only online meetings, WebEx is still the champ.

Raindance Web Conferencing Pro's interface won't wow you, but it displays basic conferencing tools--a slide show, a chat window, and status indicators--in an easy-to-use package.

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