If you’re new to working from home, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re also new to using Zoom—our pick for the best videoconferencing service. We’re not the only ones who like it: Zoom has added millions of users over the past few months as teams shift to remote work in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
But although it’s easy to get up and running with Zoom, you may not be aware of some of its best, most useful features (many of which are buried in advanced setting menus). At Wirecutter, we’ve been using Zoom daily for years, and we’ve learned a few tricks along the way. Here’s what you need to know to get the most out of the service, even if you’re using only the free, basic version.
Beautify (or hide) your face
Check the Touch up my appearance box in Zoom’s video settings menu. It basically functions like a soft-focus lens, adding a slight blur to skin tones and smoothing out wrinkles, blemishes, and other little imperfections.
Here’s a dirty little trick: If you’d prefer not to be seen at all (and you’re not planning to speak in the meeting you’re attending) you can use a screenshot of yourself in a Zoom meeting as your profile picture. That way, you’ll always look perfect—and look like you’re paying attention.
Regardless of whether you’re properly put together, we think it’s a good idea to set Zoom to disable your camera and mic by default when joining meetings, and to enable the option to always see a video preview before you join.
Pretend you’re on the moon or do cosplay
One of Zoom’s coolest, most underutilized features is its Virtual Backgrounds—basically green-screen technology for your boring office meetings. Need an example? Here’s Wirecutter lead engineer Courtney Wilburn on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln.
The caveat is that you need a strong processor or an actual green screen to make this technology work. Even with my Intel Core i5–powered 2019 MacBook Pro, I don’t have sufficient processing power for Zoom to differentiate my face from the white wall behind me. When it works, though, it’s glorious.