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Method and apparatus for conducting a collaboration session in which screen displays are commonly shared with participants

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US20030085923A1
US20030085923A1 US10318393 US31839302A US2003085923A1 US 20030085923 A1 US20030085923 A1 US 20030085923A1 US 10318393 US10318393 US 10318393 US 31839302 A US31839302 A US 31839302A US 2003085923 A1 US2003085923 A1 US 2003085923A1
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web
graphics
design
conference
file
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Abandoned
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US10318393
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Tsung-Yen Chen
Ke-Qin Gu
Ching-Chih Han
Kuo-Chun Lee
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Oridus Inc
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Oridus Inc
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    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L12/00Data switching networks
    • H04L12/02Details
    • H04L12/16Arrangements for providing special services to substations contains provisionally no documents
    • H04L12/18Arrangements for providing special services to substations contains provisionally no documents for broadcast or conference, e.g. multicast
    • H04L12/1813Arrangements for providing special services to substations contains provisionally no documents for broadcast or conference, e.g. multicast for computer conferences, e.g. chat rooms
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L67/00Network-specific arrangements or communication protocols supporting networked applications
    • H04L67/02Network-specific arrangements or communication protocols supporting networked applications involving the use of web-based technology, e.g. hyper text transfer protocol [HTTP]
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L67/00Network-specific arrangements or communication protocols supporting networked applications
    • H04L67/14Network-specific arrangements or communication protocols supporting networked applications for session management
    • H04L67/142Network-specific arrangements or communication protocols supporting networked applications for session management provided for managing session state for stateless protocols; Signalling a session state; State transitions; Keeping-state mechanisms
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L69/00Application independent communication protocol aspects or techniques in packet data networks
    • H04L69/30Definitions, standards or architectural aspects of layered protocol stacks
    • H04L69/32High level architectural aspects of 7-layer open systems interconnection [OSI] type protocol stacks
    • H04L69/322Aspects of intra-layer communication protocols among peer entities or protocol data unit [PDU] definitions
    • H04L69/329Aspects of intra-layer communication protocols among peer entities or protocol data unit [PDU] definitions in the application layer, i.e. layer seven

Abstract

A method for conducting a collaboration session, comprising: launching a collaboration session through a program on a computer so as to communicate with other computers concurrently logged on a network; and generating a graphics file including pixel information of a graphics image displayable on a display screen of the computer for transmission to the other computers so as to be viewable through graphics file readers associated with web browsers of the other computers during the collaboration session.

Description

    CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • [0001]
    This application is a continuation-in-part of commonly-owned U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/563,658, filed May 2, 2000.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    The present invention generally relates to methods of conducting collaboration sessions and in particular, to a method and apparatus for conducting a collaboration session in which screen displays are commonly shared with participants.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0003]
    It is useful in a collaboration session at times for the screen or window display on a session participant's display screen to be shared with or displayed on other session participants' display screens. One example of such a collaboration session is in a design conference where session participants discuss a particular design that is commonly displayed on each participant's display screen. One problem with certain conventional methods of conducting such collaboration sessions, however, is that each client participating in the conference needs to run the same application program in order to view shared files. Another problem is that the application program generally needs to be run on the same platform. Still another problem is that shared files tend to be large and require considerable transmission time.
  • OBJECTS AND SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0004]
    Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide a method and apparatus for conducting a collaboration session that does not require each client participating in the conference to run the same application program in order to view shared files.
  • [0005]
    Another object is to provide a method and apparatus for conducting a collaboration session that is platform independent.
  • [0006]
    Still another object is to provide a method and apparatus for conducting a collaboration session that minimizes the size and transmission time for shared files.
  • [0007]
    These and additional objects are accomplished by the various aspects of the present invention, wherein briefly stated, one aspect of the invention is a method for conducting a collaboration session, comprising: launching a collaboration session through a program on a computer so as to communicate with other computers concurrently logged on a network; and generating a graphics file including pixel information of a graphics image displayable on a display screen of the computer for transmission to the other computers so as to be viewable through graphics file readers associated with web browsers of the other computers during the collaboration session.
  • [0008]
    Another aspect is a method for conducting a collaboration session, comprising: providing an instant messenger for transmitting instant messages between a computer and other computers concurrently logged on a network, and launching a collaboration session between computers of a group including the computer and at least one of the other computers upon receiving an indication to do so from an operator of the computer; and executing a snapshot program on the computer for generating a graphics file including pixel information of a graphics image displayable on a display screen of the computer so that the graphics image is viewable through graphics file readers associated with web browsers of computers of the group during the collaboration session.
  • [0009]
    In another aspect, an apparatus for conducting a collaboration session comprises a computer having an instant messenger and a snapshot program. The instant messenger transmits instant messages between the computer and other computers concurrently logged on a network, and launches a collaboration session between computers of a group including the computer and at least one of the other computers upon receiving an indication to do so from an operator of the computer. The snapshot program generates a graphics file including pixel information of a graphics image displayable on a display screen of the computer so that the graphics image is viewable through graphics file readers associated with web browsers of computers of the group during the collaboration session.
  • [0010]
    Still another aspect is a method for conducting a collaboration session, comprising: selectively admitting a plurality of clients communicating through web browsers over a restricted user network to a collaboration session; receiving a graphics file indicative of a graphics image being displayed on a display screen of one of the plurality of clients; and transmitting the graphics file to the plurality of clients so that the graphics image is viewable through graphics file readers associated with the web browsers.
  • [0011]
    Additional objects, features and advantages of the various aspects of the present invention will become apparent from the following description of its preferred embodiments, which description should be taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0012]
    [0012]FIG. 1 illustrates a diagram of a system including an apparatus for conducting an interactive design conference over the Internet.
  • [0013]
    [0013]FIG. 2 illustrates a diagram further detailing an interactive design conference on the client side.
  • [0014]
    [0014]FIG. 3 illustrates a flow diagram of a portion of a method for conducting an interactive design conference over the Internet, including setting up an initiator of the design conference.
  • [0015]
    [0015]FIG. 4 illustrates an example of a menu provided to the initiator of the design conference before the initiator sets up the design conference.
  • [0016]
    [0016]FIG. 5 illustrates an example of a menu provided to the initiator of the design conference after the initiator sets up the design conference.
  • [0017]
    [0017]FIG. 6 illustrates a flow diagram of a portion of a method for conducting an interactive design conference over the Internet, including the initiator setting up the design conference.
  • [0018]
    [0018]FIG. 7 illustrates a flow diagram of a portion of a method for conducting an interactive design conference over the Internet, including selectively admitting clients to the design conference.
  • [0019]
    [0019]FIG. 8 illustrates design conference application page displayed by a web browser after a participant joins a design conference.
  • [0020]
    [0020]FIG. 9 illustrates a flow diagram of another portion of a method for conducting an interactive design conference over the Internet, including receiving and transmitting a graphics file to clients.
  • [0021]
    [0021]FIG. 10 illustrates a flow diagram of another portion of a method for conducting an interactive design conference over the Internet, including receiving and transmitting an annotation of the graphics file to clients.
  • [0022]
    [0022]FIG. 11 illustrates a flow diagram of another portion of a method for conducting an interactive design conference over the Internet, including receiving and transmitting a message to clients.
  • [0023]
    [0023]FIG. 12 illustrates a flow diagram of another portion of a method for conducting an interactive design conference over the Internet, including logging out participants from the design conference.
  • [0024]
    [0024]FIG. 13 illustrates a flow diagram of another portion of a method for conducting an interactive design conference over the Internet, including logging out the initiator of the design conference after creating a data-log of the design conference.
  • [0025]
    [0025]FIG. 14 illustrates a diagram of a system including an apparatus for conducting a collaboration session.
  • [0026]
    [0026]FIG. 15 illustrates a diagram of computers and associated software for conducting a collaboration session launched through an instant messenger.
  • [0027]
    [0027]FIG. 16 illustrates an instant messenger window displayable on a display screen of a computer.
  • [0028]
    [0028]FIG. 17 illustrates a flow diagram of a method for setting up a collaboration session in response to a launch initiated through an instant messenger.
  • [0029]
    [0029]FIG. 18 illustrates a flow diagram of a method for setting up consoles of invitees accepting an invitation to participate in a collaboration session.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
  • [0030]
    [0030]FIG. 1 illustrates a diagram of a system 100 including a web server 10 programmed with control program 12 to conduct or manage one or more interactive design conferences 30, 40, 50 over the Internet 20. In addition to the control program 12 and its associated databases, master copies of a snapshot program 14 and a java applet 16 also reside on the web server 10. As will be described in detail below in reference to FIGS. 2-13, a copy of the snapshot program 14 is transmitted to an initiator of each design conference, and a copy of the java applet 16 is transmitted to each participant of the design conference, including the initiator, to facilitate the interactive design conference.
  • [0031]
    [0031]FIG. 2 illustrates a diagram further detailing representative interactive design conference 30, including web clients 310, 320, 330, communicating with web server 10 through respective web browsers 312, 322, 332 over the Internet 20. In this example, web client 310 has initiated the design conference 30 by running a copy 316 of the snapshot program 14. A design database 314 is resident on web client 310. Web client 310 selects data from the design database 314 to be presented to other web clients 320, 330 during the design conference by taking a snapshot of a window displayed on its display screen. The snapshot program 316 residing in web client 310 facilitates taking of the snapshot, conversion of the snapshot into a graphics file, and transmission of the graphics file to the web server 10. The graphics file may be in any one of a number of graphics file formats such as JPEG, GIF or TIF. The web server 10 receives the graphics file, and transmits the graphics file to all web clients 310, 320, 330 participating in the design conference.
  • [0032]
    The graphics file is indicative of a design stored in the design database 314. As an example, if the design is an integrated circuit design, the design database may include physical layout information, and the graphics file may include two-dimensional image information of a top view of the integrated circuit. To create the graphics file, the user at web client 310 selects a window on its display screen, and clicks on an appropriate menu button presented by the snapshot program 316 on the display screen. The snapshot program 316 then captures the pixel information in the selected window from a frame buffer in the web client 310, converts the pixel information into a selected graphics file format, and transmits the graphics file to the web server 10. The web server 10 then transmits the graphics file upon request to all participating web clients 310, 320, 330 in the design conference so as to be viewable as a graphics image through graphics file readers in or invoked by the web browsers 312, 322, 332. Transmission of the graphics file to web clients 310, 320, 330 can be by specific download requests from the web clients 310, 320, 330, or through requests automatically generated by java applets 318, 328, 338 residing on the web clients 310, 320, 330.
  • [0033]
    By transmitting the design information through graphics files in this fashion, the information can be conveniently viewed through conventional web browsers independent of platform. Further, to view the graphics image, no special applications program is necessary, only graphics file readers already available with most web browsers. Finally, the graphics file format significantly compresses the data to be transmitted, making transmission quick and easy.
  • [0034]
    Each web client participating in the design conference receives its respective copy 318, 328, 338 of the java applet 16 from the web server 10 at the time it is admitted to the interactive design conference 30. The java applets 318, 328, 338 work with their respective client web browsers 312, 322, 332 to perform several useful functions. For example, they automatically refresh the graphics image by periodically requesting downloads from the web server 10. They also facilitate users of web clients 310, 320, 330 in making annotations of the graphics image, and transmitting the annotations back to the web server 10 for retransmission to other web clients. They also facilitate users of web clients 310, 320, 330 in transmitting messages back and forth to each other over the Internet 20 through the web server 10.
  • [0035]
    [0035]FIG. 3 illustrates a flow diagram of a portion of a method for conducting an interactive design conference over the Internet, including setting up the initiator of the design conference. In 301, the user at web client 310 (the initiator) contacts web server 10 by addressing its URL, and logs-on in a conventional fashion by providing a username and password when prompted. The web server 10 is programmed to check whether the username and password provided by the web client 310 is registered in a database of registered users. If it is not, then the web server 10 is programmed to transmit an appropriate error message back to the web client 310. On the other hand, if it is, then the web server 10 is programmed to transmit a welcome page back to the web client 310, in HTML so that it may be interpreted by the web browser 312 and displayed on the user's display screen. From the welcome page, in 302, the user then downloads the copy 316 of the snapshot program 14 from the web server 10, in a version suitable for the system environment (e.g., operating system and CPU type) of web client 310. Preferably, the download of the snapshot program uses FTP (File Transfer Protocol).
  • [0036]
    [0036]FIG. 4 illustrates an example of a menu displayed on the web client 310 by the snapshot program 316 after the snapshot program 316 is initiated by the user of web client 310 through a conventional run program command, and FIG. 5 illustrates an example of the menu displayed on the web client 310 after the design conference is initiated. Before the design conference is initiated, button 401 functions to initiate a sign-in procedure as described in reference to FIG. 6, when clicked by the initiator. After the design conference is initiated, button 401 functions to initiate an initiator log-out procedure as described in reference to FIG. 13, when clicked by the initiator. Buttons 402 and 403 are used after the design conference is initiated to respectively take a snapshot of a window displayed on the display screen of web client 310, and transmit a graphics file containing image information of that window to web clients participating in the design conference. To send images to other participants, the initiator simply clicks on the grab button 402, then clicks on the window whose image is to be sent, then clicks on the send button 403.
  • [0037]
    [0037]FIG. 6 illustrates a flow diagram of a portion of a method for conducting an interactive design conference over the Internet, including the initiator setting up the design conference. In 601, the user of web client 310 logs-on by clicking the sign-in button 401, and proceeding as described in reference to 301 of FIG. 3. In 602, the web server 10 is programmed to initiate the design conference by first setting up a design conference group. The preferred method of doing 602 is by assigning a conference identification number to the design conference, and reserving memory space for a list of attendees starting with the initiator (user of web client 310), and including other participants (users, of web clients 320, 330) after being admitted to the design conference by providing the conference identification number to the web server 10. Alternatively, 602 may be performed by the initiator first providing a list of authorized attendees (e.g., by username and/or password), and reserving memory space for a list of attendees starting with the initiator, and including other participants after being admitted to the design conference by the web server 10 verifying that such other participants are on the initiator's list of authorized attendees. In 603, the copy 318 of the java applet 16 is transmitted to the web client 310 along with a design conference application page for the design conference 30.
  • [0038]
    [0038]FIG. 7 illustrates a flow diagram of a portion of a method for conducting an interactive design conference over the Internet, including selectively admitting clients to the design conference after initiated by the initiator. In 701, the users at web clients 320, 330 (other participants) first contact web server 10 by addressing its URL, then log-on. In the preferred method described in reference to 602, the other design conference participants log-on by providing the previously assigned conference identification number for the design conference 30. In the alternative method described in reference to 602, the other design conference participants merely identify themselves by providing, for example, their username and password. In 702, the web server 10 is programmed to confirm that each participant logging on is authorized to participate in the design conference 30. In the preferred method described in reference to 602, such confirmation merely requires that the conference identification number provided by the participant matches the conference identification number previously provided to the initiator and assigned to the design conference 30. In the alternative method described in reference to 602, confirmation requires that the identity of each participant matches that previously provided by the initiator.
  • [0039]
    After confirming authorization of the other design conference participants to participate in the design conference 30, in 703, the web server 10 is programmed to update the attendee list by adding the identity of the participant and the URL of the participant's web client to the attendee list. In 704, a copy of the java applet 16 is preferably transmitted to the newly admitted participant's web client, along with the design conference application page for the design conference 30.
  • [0040]
    [0040]FIG. 8 illustrates an example of a design conference application page 800 transmitted to web clients 310, 320, 330, and displayed by their respective web browsers 312, 322, 332 after their respective users join the design conference 30. The application page 800 has two major areas. A display window 801 is reserved for displaying the graphics image provided by the initiator as described in reference to FIG. 9. A right menu frame 802, 803 includes a top portion 802 for image manipulation and annotation, and a bottom portion 803 for a Chat area. Graphics image manipulation functions include Pan and Zoom. Annotation is facilitated by the use of provided Markers that can be of selectable styles, such as alphanumeric, a line, a circle or oval, or a square or rectangle, and selectable colors. Typically, each web client uses a different color to quickly indicate the source of the annotation. The Chat area functions like a conventional chat facility where messages can be typed and transmitted to other web clients, or received from other web clients and displayed.
  • [0041]
    [0041]FIG. 9 illustrates a flow diagram of another portion of a method for conducting an interactive design conference over the Internet, including receiving and transmitting a graphics file to clients. In 901, the web server 10 is programmed to receive a graphics file from the initiator web client 310, and in 902, transmit the graphics file to all web clients 310, 320, 330 participating in the design conference 30 so as to be viewable as a graphics image through graphics file readers in or invoked by web browsers 312, 322, 332. The received graphics file may be in any one of a number of common graphics file formats such as JPEG, GIF or TIF.
  • [0042]
    [0042]FIG. 10 illustrates a flow diagram of another portion of a method for conducting an interactive design conference over the Internet, including receiving and transmitting an annotation of the graphics file to clients. In 1001, the web server 10 is programmed to receive an annotation of the graphics file from any of the web clients 310, 320, 330, and in 1002, transmit the annotation to all participating clients 310, 320, 330 so as to be-viewable as an overlay over the graphics image. The received annotation or Marker may be in any one of a number of styles and colors provided in the image manipulation and annotation area 802 of the design conference application page 800.
  • [0043]
    [0043]FIG. 11 illustrates a flow diagram of another portion of a method for conducting an interactive design conference over the Internet, including receiving and transmitting a message to clients. In 1101, the web server 10 is programmed to receive a message from any of the web clients 310, 320, 330, and in 1102, transmit the message to all participating clients 310, 320, 330 so as to be readable in an area adjacent to the graphics image. Operation and feel of the messaging system is preferably a chat room type environment utilizing the Chat area 803 of the design conference application page 800.
  • [0044]
    [0044]FIG. 12 illustrates a flow diagram of another portion of a method for conducting an interactive design conference over the Internet, including logging out participants from the design conference. In 1201, the web server 10 is programmed to recognize a log-out request received from one of the design conference participants using web clients 320, 330, after the participant logs off in a conventional manner by clicking on a Log-off or Exit button located on the design conference application page 800. In 1202, the web server 10 then updates the attendee list by deleting the participant logging off the design conference 30 from the attendee list.
  • [0045]
    [0045]FIG. 13 illustrates a flow diagram of another portion of a method for conducting an interactive design conference over the Internet, including logging out the initiator of the design conference after creating a data-log of the design conference. In 1301, the web server 10 is programmed to recognize a log-out request received from the initiator of the design conference using web client 310 after the initiator logs off in a conventional manner by clicking on a Log-off or Exit button 401 of a menu adjacent to the design conference application page 800. In 1302, the web server 10 then creates a data-log of the design conference 30 for future reference, and in 1303, updates the attendee list by deleting the initiator of the design conference 30 from the attendee list.
  • [0046]
    [0046]FIGS. 3, 6 and 8 describe a preferred method for conducting an interactive design conference over the Internet, including transmitting a copy 316 of the snapshot program 14 and a copy 318 of the java applet 16 from the web server 10 to the initiator web client 310. Alternatively, the functions of the snapshot program 14, the java applet 16, and even the web browser 312, may be included in a “wrap-around” program that may stand alone and cooperate with a design application program that generates the graphics image, or be an integral part of or integrated into the design application program.
  • [0047]
    When transmitting graphics files representing a sequence of images, each image in the sequence may only be modestly different than an immediately prior image. Therefore, to reduce the size of the graphics files and the time it takes to download them, it is desirable to store and transmit image updates employing high compression encoding. U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/940,098, assigned to the same assignee as the present invention and titled “Method and Apparatus for Transmitting Image Updates Employing High Compression Encoding” describes one such method and apparatus which is incorporated herein in its entirety by this reference.
  • [0048]
    Although the discussion to this point has been directed towards an interactive design conference conducted over the Internet, it should be readily appreciated that its teachings can be applied to collaboration sessions in general in which screen displays are commonly shared with participants. In addition, it should be readily appreciated that such teachings are also generally applicable to a restricted user network, such as a company controlled Intranet or Virtual Private Network (VPN), as well as the Internet. A common characteristic of such restricted user networks is their restriction of access only to those users (i.e., operators of computers) that have logged on to the network by providing, for example, a valid user identification and password.
  • [0049]
    [0049]FIG. 14 illustrates a diagram of a system 1400 including an apparatus for conducting a collaboration session. In the system 1400, server computer 1401 and client computers 1402˜1406 communicate with one another through a network 1410. For this example, clients 1402, 1403 and 1404 are of one platform type running on an operating system such as those developed for personal computers, and clients 1405 and 1406 are of another platform type running on an operating system such as Unix or Linux. When the network 1410 is the Internet, the system 1400 operates as described above in reference to FIGS. 1˜13. When the network 1410 is a restricted user network, however, the system 1400 preferably takes advantage of certain built-in security features of the network 1410 to simplify initiation of a collaboration session.
  • [0050]
    [0050]FIG. 15 illustrates a diagram of computers and associated software of the system 1400 that are used for conducting a collaboration session between clients 1403, 1404 and 1405. For this example, the network 1410 is a restricted user network and the collaboration session is launched through instant messenger 1532 of the client 1405. Server 1401 has a control program (CNTRL) 1501 for managing the collaboration session in much the same manner as web server 10 of FIG. 1, except that initiating and joining the collaboration session is simplified since the network 1410 is a restricted user network. In particular, since users of clients 1402˜1406 have already logged-on to the network 1410, for example, by providing their respective user identifications and passwords when first accessing the network 1410, it is not necessary for them to re-identify themselves when initiating or joining a collaboration session. In addition to the control program 1501, server 1401 also has master copies of a snapshot program (SNAP) 1502 and java applet (JAV) 1503 that perform the same functions as their counterparts 14 and 16 of the system 100 described in reference to FIG. 1.
  • [0051]
    Clients 1403, 1404 and 1405 have respective Web Browsers (WB) 1511, 1521 and 1531; respective Instant Messengers (IM) 1512, 1522 and 1532; and respective copies of the java applet (JAV) 1513, 1523 and 1533. The web browsers are conventional web browsers such as those commonly used to access the Internet. The instant messengers, however, are specially configured to run in an enterprise-wide or company-wide environment and launch collaboration sessions in such an environment.
  • [0052]
    Client 1405 being the initiator and initial session leader of the collaboration session also has an application program (APPLIC) 1535 and copy of the snapshot program (SNAP) 1534. The application program 1535 generates graphics images in one or more windows that are displayable on a display screen of the client 1405. The snapshot program 1534 captures pixel information of the graphics images in an user selected window from a frame buffer in the client 1405; converts the captured pixel information into a selected graphics file format such as JPEG, GIF, TIF, ZLIB or PNG; and transmits the resulting graphics file to the server 1401 for retransmission to clients 1403 and 1404 over the network 1410 during the collaboration session.
  • [0053]
    Java applets such as 1513, 1523 and 1533 may be pre-installed on each of the clients 1402˜1406 in the system 1400, or as previously described in reference to FIGS. 1˜13, downloaded at the time their corresponding clients initiate or join a collaboration session. Likewise, snapshot programs such as snapshot program 1534 may also be pre-installed on each of the clients 1402˜1406, or as previously described in reference to FIGS. 1˜13, downloaded to a collaboration session initiator upon launching of the collaboration session, or to other collaboration session participants when they need it.
  • [0054]
    [0054]FIG. 16 illustrates, as an example, an Instant Messenger (IM) window 1600 displayable on a display screen of one of the clients 1403, 1404 or 1405. A conventional contacts or groups list area 1601 shows three groups—Group 1, Group 2 and Group 3—for its respective client. Other clients may have different groups identified for their respective instant messengers. A button is provided next to each of the groups so that when it is clicked by a user, the group is selected and information of the individual group members is displayed. A button is also provided next to each member of the group in that case so that when it is clicked by a user, the member is selected so that an instant message may be sent to that member by the user. Indications of which group members are currently logged on to the network 1410 are also displayed. An actions area 1602 includes buttons that allow the user or operator to perform certain actions such as send an instant message to a selected member of a group or broadcast a message to all of the members of a selected group, or launch a collaboration session with a selected one of the groups.
  • [0055]
    [0055]FIG. 17 illustrates a flow diagram of a method performed by the server 1401 for setting up a collaboration session in response to a launch initiated through instant messenger 1532 of client 1405 on network 1410, which is a restricted user network for this example. In 1701, a collaboration session launch request is received from a network node identified as client 1405 by its host identification (ID), which is a unique identifier such as a computer identification number or a network interface card identification number. The network node also identifies the user making the request since the node was associated with the user when the user logged-on to the network 1410 from that network node. In addition to the launch request generated through the instant messenger 1532 of the client 1405, information of the selected group is also received at this point.
  • [0056]
    In 1702, it is determined whether or not copies of the snapshot program and java applet have already been installed on the requesting node's computer 1705. This determination may be made, for example, from information in a configuration file residing on the server 1401 that indicates whether or not such copies have already been provided to each host ID on the network 1410. Alternatively, this determination may be made from information requested by the server 1401 following its receipt of the launch request, or from information provided by the requesting node's computer 1405 along with the launch request. If the determination in 1702 is NO, then in 1703, the server 1401 downloads copies of the snapshot program and/or the java applet to the requesting node's computer 1405. On the other hand, if the determination in 1702 is a YES, then the method skips 1703 and proceeds directly to 1704. In 1704, an attendee list is established initially including the user identification of the user initiating the collaboration session, and preferably displayed and periodically updated on the application conference page provided to all participants as they join the collaboration session. In 1705, an application conference page such as described in reference to FIG. 8 is transmitted to the requesting node's computer 1405 and displayed along with a menu such as the menu described in reference to FIG. 5. The requesting node's computer 1405 is now ready to participate in the collaboration session. In 1706, all members of the selected group that are currently or subsequently on-line are then invited to attend or participate in the collaboration session until its completion.
  • [0057]
    [0057]FIG. 18 illustrates a flow diagram of a method for setting up consoles of invitees accepting the invitation to participate in a collaboration session. In 1801, the acceptance is received. In 1802, it is determined whether or not a copy of the java applet has already been installed on the invitee's computer. This determination may be made in a similar fashion as described in reference to 1702 of FIG. 17. If the determination in 1802 is NO, then in 1803, the server 1401 downloads a copy of the java applet to the invitee's computer (e.g., 1403 or 1404). On the other hand, if the determination in 1802 is YES, then the method skips 1803 and proceeds directly to 1804. In 1804, the attendee list is updated with the invitee's user identification. In 1805, an application conference page as described in reference to FIG. 8 is then transmitted to the invitee's computer and displayed on its display screen. The invitee's computer is now ready to participate in the collaboration session. As participants subsequently leave the collaboration session, the attendee list will be accordingly updated to reflect deletion of their respective user identifications, and such updated attendee list is provided in the application conference page displayed on remaining participants' display screens.
  • [0058]
    Although the various aspects of the present invention have been described with respect to a preferred embodiment, it will be understood that the invention is entitled to full protection within the full scope of the appended claims.

Claims (38)

We claim:
1. A method for conducting a collaboration session, comprising:
launching a collaboration session through a program on a computer so as to communicate with other computers concurrently logged on a network; and
generating a graphics file including pixel information of a graphics image displayable on a display screen of said computer for transmission to said other computers so as to be viewable through graphics file readers associated with web browsers of said other computers during said collaboration session.
2. The method according to claim 1, wherein said program is an instant messenger, and said computer and said other computers are members of a group identified through said instant messenger.
3. The method according to claim 1, wherein said network is a restricted user network.
4. The method according to claim 3, wherein said restricted user network is an intranet.
5. The method according to claim 3, wherein said restricted user network is a virtual private network.
6. The method according to claim 1, wherein said graphics file is formatted as a JPEG file.
7. The method according to claim 1, wherein said graphics file is formatted as a GIF file.
8. The method according to claim 1, wherein said graphics file is formatted as a PNG file.
9. A method for conducting a collaboration session, comprising:
providing an instant messenger for transmitting instant messages between a computer and other computers concurrently logged on a network, and launching a collaboration session between computers of a group including said computer and at least one of said other computers upon receiving an indication to do so from an operator of said computer; and
providing a snapshot program to said computer for generating a graphics file including pixel information of a graphics image displayable on a display screen of said computer so that said graphics image is viewable through graphics file readers associated with web browsers of computers of said group during said collaboration session.
10. The method according to claim 9, wherein said snapshot program generates said graphics file upon receiving an indication to do so from said operator of said computer.
11. The method according to claim 9, wherein said network is a restricted user network.
12. The method according to claim 11, wherein said restricted user network is an intranet.
13. The method according to claim 11, wherein said restricted user network is a virtual private network.
14. The method according to claim 9, wherein said graphics file is formatted as a JPEG file.
15. The method according to claim 9, wherein said graphics file is formatted as a GIF file.
16. The method according to claim 9, wherein said graphics file is formatted as a PNG file.
17. The method according to claim 9, wherein said operator provides said indication to launch said collaboration session through a launch command indicator displayed on said display screen by said instant messenger.
18. The method according to claim 9, wherein said operator identifies said group through at least one group identification indicator displayed on said display screen by said instant messenger.
19. The method according to claim 9, wherein said group is automatically determined by identifications of participants in a chat session managed by said instant messenger.
20. An apparatus for conducting a collaboration session, comprising a computer having:
an instant messenger for transmitting instant messages between said computer and other computers concurrently logged on a network, and launching a collaboration session between computers of a group including said computer and at least one of said other computers upon receiving an indication to do so from an operator of said computer; and
a snapshot program for generating a graphics file including pixel information of a graphics image displayable on a display screen of said computer so that said graphics image is viewable through graphics file readers associated with web browsers of computers of said group during said collaboration session.
21. The apparatus according to claim 20, wherein said snapshot program generates said graphics file upon receiving an indication to do so from said operator of said computer.
22. The apparatus according to claim 20, wherein said network is a restricted user network.
23. The apparatus according to claim 22, wherein said restricted user network is an intranet.
24. The apparatus according to claim 22, wherein said restricted user network is a virtual private network.
25. The apparatus according to claim 22, further comprising a server connected to said restricted user network and configured so as to receive said graphics file from said computer and transmit said graphics file to said computers of said group during said collaboration session.
26. The apparatus according to claim 20, wherein said graphics file is formatted as a JPEG file.
27. The apparatus according to claim 20, wherein said graphics file is formatted as a GIF file.
28. The apparatus according to claim 20, wherein said graphics file is formatted as a PNG file.
29. The apparatus according to claim 20, wherein said operator provides said indication to launch said collaboration session through a launch command indicator displayed on said display screen by said instant messenger.
30. The apparatus according to claim 20, wherein said operator identifies said group through at least one group identification indicator displayed on said display screen by said instant messenger.
31. The apparatus according to claim 20, wherein said group is automatically determined by identifications of participants in a chat session managed by said instant messenger.
32. A method for conducting a collaboration session, comprising:
selectively admitting a plurality of clients communicating through web browsers over a restricted user network to a collaboration session;
receiving a graphics file indicative of a graphics image being displayed on a display screen of one of said plurality of clients; and
transmitting said graphics file to said plurality of clients so that said graphics image is viewable through graphics file readers associated with said web browsers.
33. The method according to claim 32, wherein said receiving a graphics file comprises receiving a JPEG file.
34. The method according to claim 32, wherein said receiving a graphics file comprises receiving a GIF file.
35. The method according to claim 32, wherein said receiving a graphics file comprises receiving a PNG file.
36. The method according to claim 32, further comprising providing a snapshot program to one of said plurality of clients, and said receiving a graphics file comprises receiving a graphics file generated by said snapshot program from said one of said plurality of clients.
37. The method according to claim 36, wherein said snapshot program is included as part of an application program generating said graphics image being displayed on said display screen of said one of said plurality of clients.
38. The method according to claim 32, further comprising providing a java applet to each of said plurality of clients to run in said web browsers, and said transmitting said graphics file comprises transmitting said graphics file to said plurality of clients in response to said java applets.
US10318393 2000-05-02 2002-12-11 Method and apparatus for conducting a collaboration session in which screen displays are commonly shared with participants Abandoned US20030085923A1 (en)

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US6809749B1 (en) 2004-10-26 grant
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