From social distancing dates through to virtual brunches and wine o’clock with the girls, Covid-19 may be forcing us into our homes but it is certainly not stopping us from staying connected. Many people, both young and old, are flocking to technology to keep their mental health in check by virtually connecting with loved ones. Whether you are a technophobe or a computer whizz, the urge to see and speak to family and friends has created an explosion of video conferencing apps. Since the lockdown, a whole host of collaborating tools and apps have hit the mainstream, allowing people to work smarter and continue with their lives as best as possible. We take a look at what’s the best apps for work, rest and play.
A few months ago, you may never have heard of Zoom but since the pandemic has taken hold, it is being used throughout the world. One of the reasons for its popularity is that it has a free version that allows up to 100 people to join a video meeting together, although you are limited to a 40 minute session. Originally designed for business meetings, the interaction it allows makes it very flexible. Many personal trainers, dance and theatre schools are also using the app to continue their classes; the teacher can see and interact with their students, creating an authentic experience. Zoom provides 256-bit encryption on any transmission, which in layman’s terms means that you can be confident that any documents shared will stay safe. Zoom can be downloaded direct to your computer or smart phone.
Best known for its video conference facility, Skype has been on many of our computers for a while. It can be downloaded to a computer and also a web app, which can be useful if you are on an older computer. Skype is also free for users, although businesses can upgrade to Skype for Business. The downside is that it is a bit clunky when using on a smart phone, so not a particularly popular option for younger users.
This is a video calling option from the giant that is Google. It’s pretty straightforward to use but you will need a Google account to set it up. However, it only has a maximum capacity of 25 people on the free version.
This might be a good one to connect with parents or grandparents because you don’t have to invite anyone to join the call, you can just dial them up like you would do with a normal call. The downside is that although Apple users will already have FaceTime on their iPhones and iPads, you can only connect with other people on Apple devices.
You don't have to be on Facebook's website or even have a Facebook account to use Messenger. Facebook Messenger is primarily a texting app for both one-on-one and group messaging, but it can also send images and video. For a bit of fun, there are also a number of built in emojis, stickers and GIFs that you can send and it can be accessed via the website and the app.
With more than one billion users, WhatsApp Messenger is the most popular messaging application in the world. You can share photos, videos, send text or voice notes, web links and also make calls on it. You can send a message to an individual or make multiple groups to stay connected with numerous people. For younger uses especially, ensure that the location sharing option is switched off so they don’t reveal where they are.
Marco Polo is a video instant messaging app that describes itself as a video walkie talkie. Users can filter their videos and filter their voice to a lower pitch, sound like a robot, or as if they inhaled helium, these features make the app popular with teens and young adults. Other features include drawing and adding text to videos. Users can respond to messages right away, like a walkie talkie, or send a video reply when it’s convenient.
With schools across the UK shut, parents have become the new teachers. Although this seems daunting, many schools are still providing a great opportunity to learn through the use of Google Classroom. This is a free web service developed by Google for schools that allows teachers to post work, chat to children and streamline the process of sharing files between teachers and students. Younger children may need a hand to get used to it, but it won’t take them long to get to grips with online school.
Lockdown would be a lot harder without streaming services such as Netflix. Now you can enjoy the experience with friends even if you aren’t sitting in the same room. Netflix Party allows you and your friends the chance to watch a show together online with an integrated chat feature meaning that you can discuss films and TV series as they play in real-time.
Apps to help you work from home
Working from home has many benefits, namely comfy clothes all day. But one of the downsides can be feeling overwhelmed without the structure of an office environment. However, there are a plethora of apps and tools available that will help you stay on task. Trello is a project management tool that sorts out your projects and tasks into boards so you can easily see what being worked on and by who. You or any team member can update each task so you can see what has been done and what is outstanding, giving you a clearer understanding of how the task is progressing. Slack is an instant messaging tool, which many people use for urgent tasks or when planning launches or openings. If you love to keep a track on daily tasks, Evernote is a great solution for teammates to keep all your notes organized and synched across all of your devices. For large files, docs, images and videos, Dropbox is the best tool to collaborate and share with colleagues.
How to socialise from a distance
- Online dance classes with Strictly Come Dancing’s Oti Mabuse and Karen Hauer.
- Choir practice with Gareth Malone.
- Virtual pub quizzes.
- Book clubs via video chats.
- Virtual board and card games.
- FaceTime birthday parties.
- Virtual tours of museums and galleries.