For the longest time, I wondered if there was a free screen sharing program out there, that I could use to help support people remotely. And for the longest time, I’d been looking in the wrong place. When you look for “screen sharing”, you’re essentially looking for software that allows other users to see YOUR screen, to do demos and stuff. But what I really needed was to be able to see the OTHER user’s screen, and have control of their keyboard and mouse.

The proper search term you should be looking for is “remote support”. These systems will allow other users to share their screen with you (so it’s similar to screen sharing), and in addition allow you to control their keyboard and mouse as well. Pretty cool, huh? I used to be dumbfounded when I first saw this capability several years ago. And I get the same reaction talking to people whose desktop I was poking around in.

Anyway, I wanted to get the word out, in case any of you out there need this kind of capability. If you don’t mind paying, GoToAssist is the way forward. You can control multiple screens at once, and it’s easy to install from the client-side. Basically, you send them a link, and it installs for the duration of the remote session. It has a bunch of other features I haven’t tried yet, but overall, it can do a lot. And I can see this working for medium-to-large organizations supporting multiple sites remotely.

Now, if you’re looking for a one-off thing, where you occasionally want to help your friend do something on their computer remotely, there are a tonne of free systems out there. I’ve tried and It works kind of like Skype, where you have to sign-up for an account (and so would your friends), and then you can share your screen with your friends (and vice versa). I personally prefer, but it’s just me. It’s encrypted. It’s lightweight. But both get the job done. Let me know if you come across any other cool systems out there.

Anyway, check it out!