Are you constantly being asked for computer help? Or perhaps you’re the one doing the asking. Either way, seeing and controlling screens remotely can save time and confusion on both ends.
Remote access programs aren’t just for helping someone or being helped with a computer problem, they can also be very beneficial in assisting in holding meetings over the computer without actually meeting in person. You can even remotely access a computer from your phone.
We at MakeUseOf have covered article after article about remote access and screen sharing applications, but I’m going to consolidate some of the potentially less common ones that you may not have heard of. We have all likely heard of the popular programs in the game: TeamViewer and LogMeIn. But perhaps it’s time to consider some equally solid contenders.
AnyDesk is perhaps the easiest remote desktop access tool for anyone in the world. It supports all of the major platforms, i.e. Windows, Mac, Linux, FreeBSD, Android, and iOS. And it’s the closest thing you will get to plug-and-play simplicity.
Features Within AnyDesk
The free version of AnyDesk offers all the goodies that any average joe would want. Obviously, you can remotely access the other person’s computer and see their screen. The address or namespace is usually confusing gibberish though. Here’s a pro tip: Hover the mouse cursor over your address to see an alternative 9-digit AnyDesk address number.
Connecting two devices via AnyDesk is dead easy. It supports audio and video transmission too, so you can talk as you help. The free version also lets you transfer files between the two devices, making it easy to access anything, anywhere.
The free account supports only a 1:1 connection, which means only two devices at a time. The AnyDesk premium paid plans let you increase this capacity.
LiteManager is the most powerful of these free remote access tools. At the same time, it’s not a simple and easy interface. But when you get to control 30 PCs at any time, that’s a good enough compromise.
Features Within LiteManager
LiteManager has two different programs to install, on the server side and the viewer side. The viewer can access up to 30 PCs in the free version, and even more with the paid version. This makes LiteManager ideal for IT managers of small teams.
It supports Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. Linux users can run the program with Wine. LiteManager also has a QuickSupport mode for no-installation connections. This mode is ideal for anyone who needs help and doesn’t have LiteManager already installed. The main program is better for system administrators.
No other free remote desktop tool supports so many PCs at a time. This makes LiteManager unique and a fantastic tool for a system administrator. Plus, it has almost every feature you can think of, like file transfers, drag-and-drop simplicity, event logs, and more.
For admins, the only thing lacking in the free version is ticketing and a screen recorder. Those features are available with the paid version of LiteManager, but then again, there are better apps if you’re willing to pay.
Remote Utilities is a popular tool for remote access and screen sharing. It’s quite powerful, bypassing firewalls and NAT devices. And it connects to many computers simultaneously. But it supports only Windows computers, while mobile apps only let you act as viewer.
Features Within Remote Utilities
Install the Remote Utilities “Host” program on the computers you want to access. Install the “Viewer” program on your PC. Connect the two via the IP address and you’re done. It couldn’t be simpler.
You can multi-task and control up to 10 PCs with the free version, and more if you’re willing to pay. In fact, that’s the only difference between free and paid versions of Remote Utilities—how many PCs you can control at a time. So if 10 is enough for you, you get all the features of a premium program for free.
Quick note, you’ll need to register and get a free license to run the program.
There are some excellent features in the free version of Remote Utilities that other programs offer in their paid versions only. For example, you get Address Book syncing, which is invaluable in a small office.
And it features unattended access, which means you can remotely manage a PC even when the owner isn’t at the workstation.
How I wish Remote Utilities was available across more platforms, but it’s Windows only. That is really the only negative of this program.
Mikogo is another application which does both remote access and screen sharing. It supports Windows, Mac and Linux and is an excellent program for working in teams.
Not only does it do the basics such as chat and file transfer, but it also allows you to decide which applications are seen by the viewers when you’re presenting. There’s a whiteboard to create drawings and text, the interface is very intuitive and there’s an option to record.
Another thing I liked are the speech bubbles (which can be easily disabled) to help remind you of what all the features can do – they’re just nice to fall back on while still learning the program. I also like that while you are using the program, you can see in a small screen in the window what is being displayed on the other person’s screen.
Lots of great helpful features and multi-person connection makes it great for teams. No time restriction.
Code in program cannot be copied and pasted, nor can the window be resized. Also note that each time the icon for the program is clicked a new window is created. I had to manually close out each one in the system tray.
Like previously stated, Mikogo is great for groups of people, but it also can be used as a one-on-one tool. Although, it may be a little overkill to use to just help someone with their computer.
ShowMyPC is focused on screen sharing. With a fairly simple user interface and Windows, Mac and Linux compatibility, it makes a solid choice if all you’re looking for is to share your screen.
In the free version the features include the ability to take and share screenshots, Android phone support, limited chat room whiteboard, limited application sharing, file transfer (no folder transfer), schedule meetings, one-hour password length, one-hour session duration and limited participants per meeting, which varies based on network traffic.
No installation – simply launch the application and run it.
Be prepared for a popup window promoting premium services once the session is ended.
ShowMyPC is certainly not my favorite. Its website isn’t the easiest to navigate around and it took me a while to find the “free” link – you can tell it’s not heavily promoted. That said, the interface of the program isn’t all that bad and makes it fairly easy to use and understand. Out of 5 stars I would give ShowMyPC a 3.5 star rating.
MingleView is a Windows based screen sharing program which is completely free and has no premium package upgrade. This means you won’t be bothered by popups when ending the session. It also has no installation process and can simply be downloaded and ran by clicking “Share” and then allowing it to download to your computer.
Feature-wise MingleView stands out quite nicely. As you can see in the list above, it allows unlimited participants and meeting hosting. Plus, you don’t need to register or sign up like many of the services here.
It claims to have the highest screen quality offered. The user interface is simple – a little too simple actually – and it is easy to figure out what to do, with only a few buttons. The peer to peer connection is secure and built over SSL. In addition, there’s no port forwarding or special firewall configuration that is required.
MingleView is fast, easy to use and any platform can view another desktop through the web-based platform.
The downloadable file is Windows only.
MingleView isn’t a bad alternative to some of the others, but I wouldn’t say it’s the best. I know some may say it’s not about interface, it’s about the features. But in my mind, the interface is a feature and MingleView just doesn’t seem to offer a very intuitive or clean-looking interface.
That said, the fact that it has the features that it has and is free is impressive and is certainly the one to go with if you are planning to host a large viewing party, just make sure you have Windows. Out of 5 stars I would give MingleView a 3 star rating.
ScreenLeap is completely web-based too and also only does screen sharing. However, I would have to say that out of all the web-based interfaces, ScreenLeap looks and works the nicest. It’s also easy to use – simply click the big large button that says “Share your screen now” and you’re good to go.
Although, there aren’t many real features with ScreenLeap, its simplicity and excellent functionality should not be disregarded. But the main feature that it has is its ability to share the session several ways. There’s a link to copy and paste into any form of communication from IM to email to Facebook message. Or there is a code which you can copy or read off to the people you’re connecting with. You can also type in the email address or phone number that you wish to send the code to.
Very simple and straightforward. There are many ways to share the session invite depending on the person’s comfort level with different forms of technology. You also have the option to share different windows or the entire screen.
Also, no account or registration is needed, at all.
There really isn’t much negative with ScreenLeap when you consider that it isn’t a mainstream application, but a simple website. Although it’s, low featured, you can’t compare it to the Mikogo’s of the group.
You might be thinking right now, that ScreenLeap blows MingleView out of the water, and you’re right. It does. It’s simple, it’s quick and it’s useful at what it does. I highly recommend it for simply sharing your screen and would give it a 4.5 out of 5 star rating.
SkyFex is an online remote access service. That means it too doesn’t require a download since it’s entirely browser-based. This also means that it’s accessible on all platforms, making it a nice choice for those who are looking for a easy tool to use to help clients or even just friends.
That said, SkyFex has a great commercial presence as it allows companies to customize the interface with their logo, color style and custom links, as well as being able to display a link to remote sessions right on the company’s website. This builds customer loyalty and just looks more professional – of course this isn’t free though.
Aside for the non-free customization features, the web application itself is quite nice. First though, let’s start with the appearance of the account from the “Expert’s” point of view. The page is clean and simple. There is the option to add additional computers to be associated with the account. There are also several ways to connect with the client, either by ID, sending the link directly to the client or by email invitation.
While the session is running you have access to several tools such as system information, remote control, sending files, remote reboot, sharing your desktop, chat, and full screen mode. It’s also neat that when your right click, a message bubble will show where you are pointing to.
SkyFex has some great features within its free model. From remote control to seeing system info, you are surely to be satisfied with it.
I didn’t think I would have said this at first, but there are some negatives with SkyFex. For one, you are only given a 30 minute window of time per session. To my knowledge though, you can start a new session with that same user after that and there shouldn’t be any issues.
Also, I found it puzzling that it required a browser plugin to be installed on the client’s end when the link was clicked. This might throw some users off if they aren’t aware of what a plugin is and even though it states that it’s adware/spyware free, they might still be a little suspicious. I know the person whom I tested this with was caught off guard by it, as many websites may claim to be malware free, but that doesn’t mean they are. Hopefully they trust your better judgment.
Overall, SkyFex seems like an excellent tool. It has all the features you need, and hopefully it doesn’t take you more than 30 minutes to solve the issue, but it’s not a problem if it does (because we all know that rarely happens). One great advantage that SkyFex has over a local program is that you can access this anywhere simply by signing in. There’s no need to spend time downloading and installing a program if you are at a public computer trying to help someone. I give SkyFex a 4.5 out of 5 star rating.
Yugma SE For Skype is a screen sharing and conferencing application. It is especially great for teams and business professionals who want to have a meeting, but don’t have the time or luxury to do it in person. And because Skype is so common for most people to have, why not integrate with it and make everyone’s job easier?
The Skype integration allows you as the presenter to import the contacts, allowing you to easily invite people right from the list.
There is a vast amount of features from being able to switch presenters, have a telephone conference via Skype, schedule meetings and use annotation and whiteboard tools. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg so check out the list below for the rest of the features.
It is important to note that Yugma SE For Skype only works for Windows and Mac, although Linux users can still participate in the meeting, they just can’t host it with the downloaded program.
Lastly, an amazing feature is that you can have up to 20 participants in one meeting at a time.
Well so far, I’ve listed all the positives of Yugma, so there really isn’t much more to share. The annotation is an excellent feature, and one of the highlights. It is a solid program with an easy to use interface that is not only intuitive, but productive as well and that is very important in a professional setting. The entire website as a whole is easy to navigate.
Unfortunately, there are some. And not being fully compatible with Linux is the biggest one. The other negative is that the meeting has a time limit of 30 minutes and that is when the program is started. So hopefully everyone joins fairly quickly to get things taken care of.
Yugma SE For Skype is a great addition to Skype and since most people already have the program, it makes coordinating with them a breeze. However, they do not need to have Skype open to participate in the meeting, but simply need to add their Skype email to the Email ID field. I give Yugma SE For Skype a 4 out of 5 star rating.
Three Other ToolsWorth Mentioning
There is a lot on MakeUseOf about Virtual Network Computing (VNC) and I’m going to contribute even more to it. TightVNC and UltraVNC, both of which have been mentioned on MakeUseOf are excellent free options for remote access via VNC. Both of these programs allow you to log into a computer, including yours at home while you’re away, and completely control the desktop.
The Google Chrome browser now comes with its own free extension for remote desktop access. It works on Windows, Mac, and Linux, and there are mobile apps for iOS and Android. It’s easy to set up and use from anywhere, and works nicely even on mobile data. Check out our full guide to control your PC with Chrome Remote Desktop.
What About Linux?
It seems like several programs don’t completely work with Linux (although UltraVNC does), so I’ve provided a few links from past MakeUseOf articles on this topic:
- Ubuntu Remote Desktop- Built-In, VNC Compatible & Dead Easy
- How To Establish A Remote Desktop Access to Ubuntu from Windows
Which One Would You Pick?
There are certainly pros and cons of each service, but I feel that overall ScreenLeap, SkyFlex, Mikogo and CrossLoop are the best and shouldn’t be ignored.
And for SSH purposes, check out how Windows 10 SSH stacks up against PuTTY.
What are your favorites in the list? Do you use them for remote support or face to face meetings?