One of the coolest things to happen at the intersection of small businesses and technology has to be the development of software that makes it possible to conduct meetings from afar. Power up your computer and your clients may be staring back at you from the other end. Staring with smiles, of course.

But so-called conference meetings only work well when the software being used actually, uh, works well itself.

In this month's issue of PC Magazine the editors have gone to the trouble of testing out three such offerings. Here's how they came out:

Avecomm: This software does not offer video conferencing, but it is great for sharing applications, an essential aspect if you plan to use PowerPoint presentations, Web tours or any other software you might want to share. It also features the following: whiteboard and annotation tools; individual and group chat; file-transfer capabilities.

Macromedia Breeze Live: PC Magazine recommends this software for less interactive meetings, mainly in situations where you're presenting to others. The way to get around this is to make everyone a presenter, but that can get awkward, too. Here are some of the plusses: slide presentations, application sharing, Web tours, polling, instant messaging, chat, file sharing, whiteboard, and note taking.

Raindance Meeting Edition: This one received the highest endorsement from PC Magazine, which called it "the best of the products we've tested for small, impromptu meetings (even better than WebEx, in fact)." Raindance offers a familiar experience, according to the magazine's editors, who note its "Windows-like feel and intuitive drop-down menus and task panes.

The story is not available online, except to subscribers. You can learn more about these products at their sites: