Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Monday, December 10, 2007

Free Online Collaboration For Small Groups Now Integrates Full Videoconferencing and Screen-Sharing: Adobe Brio Reviewed

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Just out of Adobe Labs is a new free collaboration tool: Brio. Adobe Brio is a new free screen-sharing solution for up to three people which integrates text chat, whiteboarding, annotation, video, VoIP / teleconferencing, file-sharing and note-taking. Brio is fully based on the well-established and highly acclaimed Connect-Breeze web conferencing engine fro which it keeps all of its core functions while packaging in a more friendly, simplified and easier to use version.

Photo credit: Ophelia Cherry

Kudos to Adobe for finally introducing a truly approachable SOHO solution, providing the very best marketing tool-strategy to get Connect on more desks and more of the higher level, paid Connect versions inside small and large companies. This is the right road to follow, and while it has taken Adobe a bit of time to realize it, I am happy to see a large corporation like this starting to make more of the right moves.

Another goody coming from Google, a premier I would almost say for the US industry as a whole, Adobe not only integrates VoIP and teleconferencing facilities in Brio, but makes both of them free and accessible also from major European countries including the UK, Germany, France and more.

Last but not least, opting for providing to anyone online full and unlimited free access with no string attached to the Brio-Connect, finally allows Adobe's super-cool web conferencing technology finally market itself.

In fact, if I was asked, I think that real news story to be caught here is the marketing strategy aspect, as while this is clearly promoted as experimental introductory tool with some extra refinements, in my view this only the final step of Adobe's full realization of how much potential, market and revenue it has been missing on by keeping some of its really great and yet unmatched technologies accessible only to large corporations with a fat wallet.

With the Connect offering first, and now with Brio, Adobe really moves with all its armies to become one of the key players and providers for the whole web conferencing, live presentation and online collaboration industries.



Adobe Brio Overview

Adobe Brio is a free basic web conferencing solution integrating all of the core features needed to conduct most online training, presentation and collaboration sessions.

"With Brio, you can instantly communicate and collaborate through an easy-to-use, easy-to-access online personal meeting room."

The only real limit is a maximum cap of three concurrent participants, including the presenter.

Officially labeled as a preview of the next generation Adobe Acrobat Connect conferencing platform, and "built on Adobe's Flash platform, Brio operates inside most popular web browsers, so you can start a meeting without worrying if others have a compatible system or the right software."

In essence, these are all of Brio key features:

  • Host unlimited online meetings with up to 3 meeting participants.
  • Easy-to-use screen sharing
  • Video and audio conferencing (VoIP + phone teleconferencing)
  • Text chat, note sharing, whiteboard
  • Live annotation and markup tools
  • File sharing among meeting participants
  • Personal permanent meeting room accessible instantly
  • Custom URL, personalized, easy-to-remember.
  • Integrated VoIP, teleconferencing and multi-point video.
  • Cross-compatible: PC, Mac, Linux
  • No software to download (small plugin required to do screen-sharing gets automatically installed with a one-click inside Brio)

Adobe has also significantly optimized the speed of the launching procedure making Brio the fastest collaboration I can presently load on my computer. Less than 15 seconds from my click on the bookmark link to my permanent room ready to show my screen. While not immediately apparent to the novice user this is a key usability aspect that many times can break or make fly critical meetings. Speed and ease of access are here strategically critical factors. Kudos to Adobe for this excellent improvement.

What Brio doesn't have when compared to Adobe Connect.

  • No PowerPoint presentation facility
  • No remote control feature
  • No recording facility
  • No advanced quality controls for video
  • No polling
  • No multiple custom layouts
  • No backend management
  • No tracking and reporting

Key New Traits - User Interface

The Brio interface is the latest incarnation of the already highly appraised Adobe Connect (formerly Breeze) platform. Made simpler and easier to use, even for the least technically sophisticated, the new Brio interface is indeed a step forward both in terms of usability and user-experience.

The new major key interface introduction is a floating control panel, resembling a lot the traits of a typical instant messenger, it gets automatically activated when you switch on your screen-sharing session. The benefit is undoubtedly significant, as beforehand, non technical users were baffled when trying to understand how to get back to the controls of their collaboration tool, as these used to appear very small and placed within the window border of content being shared.


Not easy to see and not intuitive for those who had not had any training about it. With this new solution the user remains always in "explicit" control of the collaboration tool and never needs to preoccupy herself with finding the screen-sharing controls.


For the rest, the menu-based component and "hi-tech hi-touch feel" of the overall interface has been kept intact, with a few refinements embracing typography as well as the legibility of all visible commands.

A few additional easy to recognize icon-based command buttons have been placed next to the Brio menu to further facilitate access to file-sharing, screen-sharing and to switching on the microphone when needed.


The general "pod metaphor" has been maintained, as well as the ability for the host to fully customize the layout and positioning of each collaboration pod. Brio even remembers all of your settings in between sessions making the presenter life much easier than in the past. In this free version the host cannot create, save and store new "layouts" for the collaboration room, but it can positively re-arrange and re-size any pod in any desired way. Aligning and resizing pods has in fact become even easier thanks to a more effective implementation of the snap-to-grid facility, which has now been enhanced to provide the user with a more visible support during such resizing or pod repositioning operations.

Overall, Brio feels good, solid, easy and better than its predecessors in making complexity easy to handle, while providing a visual environment in which the user is highly enticed into making good use of the tools available.

Key Features Overview



No key changes here. There are none of the advanced controls available to Connect Pro users but all of the basics are there. Up to three participants can show their video at any time during a session. Each one can also "pause" or "stop" its webcam video stream.



A new very accessible button with a microphone icon on it provide easy access to switching on and off the microphone. Though separating the video and audio under separate and physically distant controls may appear at first nonsense there may be some wisdom into this choice. Not to create fastidious sound feedbacks, echo or the distraction that background noise may cause the direct control of the audio channel places each participant in the condition to have to choose when to activate the micxrohone more explicitly rather than giving for granted that it will be always on.

Screen Sharing


Essentially the same screen sharing technology seen in Adobe Connect, but with the added floating control panel which greatly simplifies screen-sharing management, annotation and awareness of what the presenter is showing at any one time.

Text chat


Basic fully featured text chat facility allows you to talk back to everyone else attending or only to a selected attendee. Auto-URL, font size and color control, date/time stamp and saving of text chat contents are all available.

Live annotation


The standard live annotation toolset is available to Brio users with a few user interface refinements making easier the control and adjustments to the various markup tools. Not everything here has been improved as it should have leaving markup tools still with a great margin of improvement both in the selection of tools made availability as well as in their specific usability behavior (e.g.: why in the world would someone want to have filled shaped as default tools to markup and annotate remains obscure to me. From extended use evidence as well as from competitors solutions it appears much better to provide empty geometric shapes (and not color filled ones as Adobe does) as default mark-up tools to allow the highlight of specific content or objects.

File Sharing


Brio users can upload and share files with other meeting participants with extreme ease. Maximum file size uploadable it is set to 10MB making the value of this facility somewhat limited though effective in terms of marketig and sales strategy.


There instead appear to be no limits in terms of how many files can be uploaded.

User Rights Assignments


The host can easily assign different access rights to all Brio session participants. An easy to find control at the bottom left of the interface provides immediate access to this useful functionality.

Change Presenter

Any attendee can be elected to be a presenter with a simple mouse selection. Just right click the name of the participant at the bottom of the Brio user interface and select to have her become the presenter.


Invite Others


Inviting other participants inside an Adobe Brio session is extremely easy. You can simply copy and paste the URL of your personalized meeting room to any of your instant messaging or email contacts. Brio provides multiple overlapping access points to invite other participants as well as easy copying and pasting of your collaboration room URL.

As soon as a new participant reaches your permanent Brio collaboration room you are alerted via a small pop-up window showing up at the bottom right of your screen.


You remain always in control and can decide who to let in and who to leave outside.

Other Features and Controls

Network performance
A set of indicators can be called up to report the status of your Internet connectivity, to determine if you are having issues because of a lack of bandwidth or of a reliable connection.

Room URL
The room URL is always easily accessible and it is very easy to memorize.

The new Preferences setup inside Brio is quite a nice surprise. Lots of useful controls give you the option to customize your collaboration room and its functionalities in multiple ways. Here a few screenshots showcasing the controls you now have access to.





Performance and Speed


While I must really praise the load-up time of Brio after the first access, things are not so cool when I need to start annotating (very frustrating) or to stop a live screen-sharing session. Both operations require much longer than a "normal" response time to execute, leaving the user wondering if something is really happening or not. Being the first Beta release of Brio, it is likely that this is one of the issues that is yet to be improved and resolved before its final official launch. As it is now, it is really sub-par.

Review Summary and Conclusions

With the Adobe Brio availability the scenario for free SOHO web conferencing and online collaboration has been reset in favour of this feature-rich and easy-to-use scaled down version of Adobe Connect.

Brio suddenly establishes itself the most comprehensive, feature-rich, cross-platform, web-based conferencing and collaboration system to offer a fully free access platform with no explicit download-install process involved.

If there was any reason not to adopt and try out Adobe Connect in the past, Brio forces anyone needing to carry out online presentations, collaboration or training sessions with small groups to go out and check out this new Adobe tool.

There is no other competitor in this marketplace that offers this much for this little.

I believe Adobe marketing and product development strategy is right on the mark with Brio as I have been explicitly advocating a solution like Brio before. Marketing a free tool to the professional and SOHO audiences may cost quite a bit in terms of infrastructure and support but the I bet that the return in terms of extra paying business for the paid "Pro" versions of Brio-Connect will positively increase.

Outside of the three user maximum capacity and some slowness in the switching from one mode to another I have very little if anything to criticize about Brio.

I have in fact lots to praise about Brio and would openly recommend anyone to go and test out this new solution right now, while providing here below your sincere feedback.

Brio is a breakthrough web conferencing solution offering for the first time access to an enterprise class-level online collaboration technology to the guy next door. Its simplicity, refined and easy to use GUI, and its zero footprint price tag make it an unavoidable staple inside any serious online collaboration toolkit.

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Originally written by for Master New Media and entitled "Free Online Collaboration For Small Groups Now Integrates Full Videoconferencing and Screen-Sharing: Adobe Brio Reviewed"

Readers' Comments    
2007-12-15 08:17:44


Brio.. is a cool application, i liked it.. Thanks for the tip.. Keep up the good work..

2007-12-14 11:48:27


I tried the service however it just hangs at "connecting...". I assume the firewall is preventing it, but I cannot find technical information about which firewall ports are required.

2007-12-10 14:04:20

Peldi Guilizzoni

Hi Robin, thanks for the thorough review. One small note: we do in fact have remote control, and you can access it in two ways: while you are sharing, select someone else in the attendee list and select "Give this user control of my computer". Or if you'd like to request control of someone's screen, click on their name while they are sharing and select "Request control of this user's computer".

2007-12-10 10:51:34

Michael Pick

Bravo Robin!

This is great news for us bootstrappers, not to mention all of us mac owners with a serious lack of (affordable) options when it comes to web conferencing.

Great find!

posted by Robin Good on Monday, December 10 2007, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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