11 Handy Zoom Hacks to Make Your Digital Life Easier

She forgot she muted herself.
She forgot she muted herself.
Matilda Wormwood, Pexels

After years of essays, group projects, and corporate strategy plans, you just might consider yourself an expert at using Google Docs, Microsoft Excel, and other popular programs. Video-chatting with Zoom, on the other hand, still feels like new territory for many workers who are spending more time working from home. From keyboard shortcuts to virtual breakout rooms, here are 11 handy hacks to make your Zoom meetings easier (and maybe even more fun).

1. Automatically disable video and audio when you join a Zoom meeting.

Sometimes it’s hard to predict whether or not your colleagues will decide to appear on video for any given meeting. To save yourself the awkwardness of being the only person to show your face, you can go into the “Video” tab of your Zoom settings and check the “Turn off my video when joining a meeting.” If it ends up being a true video chat, you can always turn your camera on after the meeting has started.

You can do this with audio, too, so you’re automatically muted at the beginning of every meeting. Under the “Audio” tab in settings, just check “Mute microphone when joining a meeting.”

2. Hold down the space bar to temporarily unmute yourself.

Another useful box to check under the “Audio” tab is “Press and hold SPACE key to temporarily unmute yourself.” That way, you’ll be heard for as long as you hold down the space bar, and Zoom will automatically mute you again as soon as you let go. It’s pretty similar to using a walkie-talkie.

3. Use existing keyboard shortcuts—or customize them.

Nothing makes you feel like a tech whiz more than a good keyboard shortcut.Ellen Gutoskey, Zoom

There’s an extensive list of handy keyboard shortcuts in your Zoom settings, including ones to mute and unmute your audio (Shift+Command+A on a Mac), start and stop screen-sharing (Shift+Command+R), and invite attendees (Command+I). If you find any of them particularly difficult to remember, you can come up with your own instead.

4. Enable keyboard shortcuts for when you’re in a different tab.

Toggling between tabs is par for the course when it comes to Zoom calls, and maybe you don’t want to leave your Google Doc to unmute yourself to make a quick comment. Fortunately, you can still use Zoom’s shortcuts when the Zoom app is hidden behind other windows. In the “Keyboard Shortcuts” tab in your settings, just check the “Enable Global Shortcut” boxes.

5. Automatically copy the invite URL when a meeting starts.

You can always use the keyboard shortcut (Command+I on a Mac; Alt+I for Windows) to open the meeting invitation window, where you can invite guests from your Zoom contacts, via email, or by copying the meeting URL and sending it to them through another platform. But there’s an even quicker way to achieve the same goal.

Under the “General” tab in settings, there’s an option to “Automatically copy invite link once the meeting starts.” Check that box, and the URL will magically be copied to your clipboard as soon as you join a Zoom meeting. (So when someone sends you the inevitable “What’s the meeting link again?” message, you can paste it immediately.)

6. Record your Zoom meeting.

There are plenty of reasons why you might want to record your Zoom meeting; maybe you’re conducting a media interview, filming a virtual comedy show, or watching an academic lecture that you’ll need to study later. If you’re the meeting host, you can easily capture this by hitting the “Record” button along the bottom menu bar of your Zoom screen. If you aren’t the meeting host, you can do it by logging into your Zoom account on the web browser, going into the “Recording” tab in your personal settings, and switching on the button for “Automatic recording.” (If you only need to record one meeting, you can always switch it off later.) You can choose where to store your recordings and customize other settings in the “Recording” tab in the actual Zoom app.

7. Hide everyone who isn’t on video.

If some users have disabled video or dialed in via phone, it can feel a little strange to stare at—or talk to—a few video users among a sea of blank squares. To customize your view to actual faces only, check the “Hide non-video participants” box in the “Video” tab in your Zoom settings.

8. Set reminders for upcoming calls.

Even if you know your Zoom call is at 2 p.m., you might need an extra reminder at 1:55.Ellen Gutoskey, Zoom

If your regular calendar is a web of birthdays, personal appointments, and other miscellaneous meetings, notifications about Zoom calls might blend in with the rest. To keep you from forgetting, Zoom will send you separate reminders—under Settings > General, you can choose to be reminded five, 10, or 15 minutes before upcoming meetings.

9. Got two computer screens? Make your meeting show up on both.

Anyone with dual monitors can use them both for a Zoom meeting—just check the “Use dual monitors” under Settings > General. Then, when someone’s sharing their screen in a Zoom meeting, you can view the shared screen on one monitor, and see the other meeting participants on the other.

10. Split participants into small groups.

Zoom’s “breakout rooms” feature allows teachers and managers to break participants into smaller groups without making them leave the meeting, set up their own meetings, and then rejoin the original meeting. First, sign into Zoom through your web browser and make sure the “Breakout room” button is turned on under Settings > Meeting >In Meeting (Advanced). There’s also an option to “Allow host to assign participants to breakout rooms when scheduling,” if you want people to know their groups before the meeting. When you’re hosting a meeting, you’ll see a breakout room icon in the bottom menu bar, and you’ll be able to choose groups manually or let Zoom do it for you.

11. Change your Zoom background.

And, of course, you can add a little pizzazz to happy hours and quarterly business reviews by changing your background to something from Schitt’s Creek or Harry Potter. Log into Zoom through your web browser and make sure virtual backgrounds are enabled under Settings > Meeting > In Meeting (Advanced). Then, under the “Virtual Background” tab in your Zoom app settings, you can update your background to any image saved to your computer.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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More Than 38,000 Pounds of Ground Beef Has Been Recalled

Beef-ware.
Beef-ware.
Angele J, Pexels

Your lettuce-based summer salads are safe for the moment, but there are other products you should be careful about using these days: Certain brands of hand sanitizer, for example, have been recalled for containing methanol. And as Real Simple reports, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) recently recalled 38,406 pounds of ground beef.

When JBS Food Canada ULC shipped the beef over the border from its plant in Alberta, Canada, it somehow skirted the import reinspection process, so FSIS never verified that it met U.S. food safety standards. In other words, we don’t know if there’s anything wrong with it—and no reports of illness have been tied to it so far—but eating unapproved beef is simply not worth the risk.

The beef entered the country on July 13 as raw, frozen, boneless head meat products, and Balter Meat Company processed it into 80-pound boxes of ground beef. It was sent to holding locations in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina before heading to retailers that may not be specific to those four states. According to a press release, FSIS will post the list of retailers on its website after it confirms them.

In the meantime, it’s up to consumers to toss any ground beef with labels that match those here [PDF]. Keep an eye out for lot codes 2020A and 2030A, establishment number 11126, and use-or-freeze-by dates August 9 and August 10.

[h/t Real Simple]