If you are like a large portion of the population, you love using Google Chrome as your choice browser. According to one independent study, Chrome accounts for more than half of all browser usage, more than tripling the next most popular application, Firefox. As Google has a huge command of the web market with several other integrated services, it is not hard to see why Chrome is so popular.
Both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox offer a large selection of applications for their respective browsers to enhance productivity and sometimes, simply to entertain. Just like the app stores on mobile platforms, a lot of trash is in the mix. With that said, several good applications are available, such as a the following, each featuring a VoIP component.
In the past, we covered the basics of this technology in a couple of blogs that allows browsers to behave as endpoints for real time communication. Recognized as a core component for today’s browsers by the W3C, carrying out a voice call, chat or message is now possible without installing additional software to a device.
Most of these applications run inside the actual browser and may be launched by Chrome App Launcher. Some will install standalone applications on certain mobile platforms but still work hand-in-hand with Google to a degree.
Below, we look at a few of the better applications utilizing VoIP that are found in the Chrome Web Store. Each provide different functions and could prove useful in various situations. Note that a Google account is required to install these extensions and applications – make sure you are logged into Chrome before attempting to install anything.
This is a standalone application so it differs from the others mentioned in this blog. Though truly a mobile app, imo is featured in the Chrome Web Store and boasts a respectable number of users so it is worth a mention. After visiting the app’s page in the Chrome store, Google Play or iTunes, you can add the application to your mobile device.
Figure 1: imo allows free voice calling, video and texting to other users – and yes, there are emojis for those times a panda sticker is more appropriate than real words.
This application works just like the many other messaging services in the market. Your contacts from Google and your device integrate into the app – after installation, you can invite others to install the app and chat or strike up a conversation with current users. Though it is nothing revolutionary it does have some cost saving benefits – should others install the app, you can chat for free with an Internet connection.
WebRTC Desktop Sharing
This extension completely integrates into Chrome, allowing users to interact via a screen sharing session. After downloading the extension, it installs within Chrome requiring the user to launch it from the browser. Near the address bar, an icon will appear after installation allowing you to share your desktop with another user.
Figure 2: If you ignore all the open tabs, you may notice the icon circled in red to the right.
By clicking the icon, several options for screen sharing are presented for the user. In the example pictured below, I selected the option to share the entire screen. After selecting any of the options, a URI appears in a box to share with a remote user. After pasting this into a browser’s address bar (your best bet is to use Chrome) you can securely view the user’s screen as if sitting in front of their computer.
Figure 3: This is another PC I own where the WebRTC Desktop Sharing app is installed to Chrome. The session is viewed from the browser in real time.
Even though this particular application does not allow the remote viewer to interact, it still is somewhat useful. In cases where remote tools like Team Viewer, Log Me In or join.me are not available, it can be helpful to use this application to view a user’s session when attempting to diagnose a problem or assist a user with a certain application.
Even though ooVoo has a standalone application, the web app is very cool. After installing the app from the web store it will populate in your application list, both in the browser and the Chrome App Launcher. After clicking the icon, a tab opens in Chrome where you can either login or create a new account.
From here, you can add friends by searching for them by their ooVoo handle or by inviting people to join from social networks like Facebook or Twitter. Just like social media platforms, you send and receive requests from others to connect. Once connected, you can see the presence status of other users, indicating whether the individual is available, inactive or offline.
Figure 4: This is my exceptionally talented business partner Lucy 🙂
When another user is active, you can interact in a variety of ways that include text, voice and video with up to 12 participants, by simply clicking one of three very recognizable icons. As you can see above, this is a viable way to discuss anything from the weather, business strategies or passionately debate the best brands of canned tuna fish.
Most people have heard of the popular CRMs, Salesforce or SugarCRM. Both come with somewhat steep price tags and though each are incredibly effective platforms, the price is a turn off, especially for smaller teams or a single user. Thankfully, there is fantastic free option from Insightly.
At the low cost of “free” for up to two users and reasonable pricing tiers for greater user numbers, Insightly offers a powerful and intuitive Google app. It installs as a part of Chrome and runs from the browser like many other popular CRMs.
Figure 5: A friend who manages a major web forum does most day-to-day work in Super Mario pajamas – he respectfully requested I omit that picture from the blog.
The layout virtually guides users along so the learning curve is low. Further, new users can select the Tasks option from the side bar and follow suggestions to make the most of Insightly. Once contacts have been added, those with Gmail accounts can enjoy the VoIP benefits provided by Google Hangout integration. In the contact screen, simply check each participant and click the Invite to Google Hangout button at the top.
The apps covered in this blog are truly a drop in the bucket compared to what is available on the Chrome Web Store. With a little further exploration, you will find a slew of useful, inexpensive applications that usually only take a few moments to install and register.
While researching inexpensive CRMs for personal use, I came across a couple of applications before finding Insightly which ultimately inspired me to write about some of the other apps encountered during my search. If you happen to find a great app utilizing VoIP, let us know in the comment section below.