Desktop Sharing Explained

desktop sharingDesktop sharing has been around for many years, but recently this useful tool has become widely accessible. Desktop sharing refers to the ability for one or more users to view or access one or more PC desktops remotely and concurrently. There are a number of software tools available for this purpose and they work in different ways and for many uses. Many work through NAT and firewalls. Some require installation of software on user PCs and some do not. We will explore the spectrum of applications available.

Common Desktop Sharing Features

The most basic desktop sharing software allows one user (User A) to log into another user’s PC (User B) from a remote location and view that user’s screen. In this instance, User A can view whatever is displayed on User B’s screen, but User B cannot see User A’s screen. Using this sort of application usually involves User A going to a website, logging in and starting a session. When User B logs in, he can exercise options such as giving control of the screen to User A. In order to speak to each other, each User must be on a telephone. This type of program is advantageous for tech support, where User A is a technical support person and User B is a user having difficulties. User A can run applications, see real-time results, diagnose problems and run fixes while he/she has control. Some applications include the ability to share files between PCs.

At the other end of the desktop sharing technology spectrum are applications having a conferencing feature and built-in Voice Over IP. With these, each participant in a meeting can share their desktop screen with other participants and view the others’ desktops. If, for instance, three users are on a conference, they would each have three tabs on the application’s user interface, one for each person’s desktop. By switching tabs, a user can see any desktop at any time, so User A can look at User B’s screen, while User B is looking at User C’s screen, or any combination thereof, all while talking with one another. This type of application allows users to give and take away mouse/keyboard control to any of the participants. Software of this sort is helpful for teams, students or co-workers who need to collaborate in real time.

Special Desktop Sharing Features

There are more specialized desktop sharing applications with advanced features not found in all offerings. These include capabilities like: video conferencing using attached cameras on each PC; recording voice and/or video; support for Windows, Mac or Linux systems; sharing with many users (like a virtual classroom); viewing multiple screens in panes at one time; and, ability to view multiple pointers at a time, each with a label for its owner. These are usually included in more expensive software packages, but some shareware applications are also available.

Whatever your desktop sharing needs, there’s an application for you. Try each out on a trial basis before choosing, however, to assess whether it meets all your requirements before making a final decision.