Let’s not beat around the bush: Nobody really likes video meetings. We all get that same sense of dread every time we see the phrase “schedule a call,” and we all feel ourselves die a teensy bit inside whenever a new Zoom invitation invades our inbox.
It’s not Zoom’s fault, either. It’s mostly just the inherently annoying nature of the medium and all of the awkwardness that comes with it.
Well, we may not be able to avoid video meetings entirely, but we can take some steps to make them a little less unpleasant. The Zoom apps outlined below will bring clever, thoughtful, and broadly transformative enhancements into your next virtual gatherings. They don’t just integrate Zoom with some other service, which is what the vast majority of Zoom apps seem to do, such as those that let you manage meetings from Slack, Calendly, or Google Calendar. These tools will genuinely change the way you experience online meetings.
And you’d better believe they’ll do it for the better.
1. Your personal context genie
Our first exceptional Zoom app is a freshly launched add-on called Warmly. If you remember the old Gmail add-on Rapportive—or if you’ve heard much about the current Gmail app Superhuman—Warmly’s concept will be familiar.
In short, the app gives you contextual info about anyone you’re meeting with, kind of like an invisible genie whispering impressively relevant info into your ear. Once you have it installed and configured, Warmly appears in a panel at the right side of your Zoom window. And it automatically pulls in all sorts of details about the people in your current call and presents them in an easily scannable profile.
Warmly uses email addresses from your meeting invitations to identify other attendees and then grab publicly available bio and contact info from the web. That means every single tidbit might not always be accurate—I don’t actually live in New York, for instance—but it gives you enough of an overview to save face and look like you know at least a little bit about the people you’re talking to. No more awkward pauses while you hop over to another window to search LinkedIn, in other words, especially if you’re someone who meets with lots of clients, contractors, or prospective customers. (And as for the ever-important question of privacy, the app doesn’t share any of the information with anyone else, or use it for any other purpose.)
Warmly works with Google Meet and other platforms as well, and it’s completely free to use for now. Its creator tells me the plan is to eventually add in a paid team-level option and possibly also a premium subscription for certain advanced features. But anyone who signs up within this year, he says, will be grandfathered in and able to use all of the app’s current features for free indefinitely.
2. The window-shattering meeting reshaper
Next up is a Zoom app that completely reimagines the way you interact with Zoom. Circles breaks you out of the typical Zoom window and puts all of your meeting participants into floating, resizable circles (get it?!) that can be placed anywhere on your regular desktop.
That means instead of staring at a grid of faces, you can look at whatever you want—your notes, a document, a website, or even your inbox—while still seeing the other people from your meeting and staying in sync with what’s going on.
Somewhat paradoxically, that arrangement makes video meetings feel more like they’re about people. Having faces appear in their own individual bubbles within the more intimate environment of your desktop gives a meeting a much more personal vibe than the standard, and rather sterile, full-screen video grid. And since Circles keeps meetings from completely taking over your computer, it also makes them feel less like they’re taking over your life.
Circles is available for MacOS, while a Windows version is in the works and accessible only via a waitlist as of now. The app is currently free, though the specifics of how that’ll remain viable over the long term aren’t entirely clear.
3. The Zoom audio magician
The third and final spectacular Zoom app in our collection is all about audio, and my goodness, is it something to see—er, hear. Krisp runs quietly in the background on your computer and enhances both the audio you’re sending out to other people through your microphone and the audio you’re receiving during your meetings.
The software uses artificial intelligence to selectively remove background noise, echoing, and other unwanted sounds from the mix and then sends only the sound of actual humans talking to everyone on the other end. And if all of that sounds too good to be true, let me tell you: It isn’t.
I tested Krisp in a variety of conditions, including with someone mowing the lawn right outside my home office window and even with a white noise app making all sorts of racket right into my microphone. I typed on my most clackety mechanical keyboard while talking, too, and had my trusty, professional cacophony-making consultants (aka my 4-year-old and 6-year-old) do their best to disrupt me (a skill at which they’re impossibly well-practiced).
No matter what I threw its way, Krisp was able to separate the ruckus from the rhetoric and send a crisp, clean, clear-sounding feed that made it seem like everyone in the meeting was sitting in a professional audio booth. The second I turned off the app, all of the commotion came crashing back in. The difference is astounding.
Krisp is free for up to 240 minutes of use per week. You can bump up to unlimited filtering for 60 bucks a year, either individually or per person with a team. The app is available for both Mac and Windows.
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