Friday, March 28, 2008

Screen Sharing Software: Some Are Good, Most Are Bad

I recently tried a number of screen sharing applications and have been generally disappointed:

  • Yugma has been my favorite for a while, until Yugma came out with version 3. When it version 3 was first released I had a number of problems, which I finally managed to solve, but others I am using this tool with are having similar problems, and when they do it is in general the end of the story. Verdict: failed.
  • Yuuguu, despite the ridiculous name, worked more often than Yugma. Unfortunately it has been very unreliable: the connection to the server is dropping on a regular basis, forcing all the participants to rejoin the meeting. Verdict: failed.
  • DimDim doesn't support screen sharing on the Mac. It also does so many things, like providing document sharing and a shared white board, that I am worried they won't focus enough on screen sharing. I tried the it on Windows and found a number of refresh issues. Verdict: failed.
  • Vyew is comparable to DimDim. Screen sharing didn't on a Mac from Firefox (the whole interface got locked up) but it worked from Safari. They have a page with known bugs, which was unaccessible at the time of this writing. It works from Windows, but people on the other side see a resized view of the screen with is always either too large or too small depending on the size of your browser window. (There doesn't seem to be a "show in 1:1 button".) Also the interface is way to cluttered for my taste. Verdict: close.
  • WebEx MeetMeNow is WebEx "affordable" offering ($50/month per account), but it doesn't work on the Mac. Verdict: failed.
  • GoToMeeting, like WebEx MeetMeNow is priced at $50/month, and like WebEx also doesn't work on the Mac. Verdict: failed.
  • Glance does just screen sharing (I like that!). It is simple and works smoothly both on Mac and Windows. Pricing is reasonable at $50/month. It just lacks one crucial feature: the ability, as a host, to make one of the attendees the presenter. If you don't need this feature, this might be a good solution for you. Verdict: close.
  • LiveLook is very much like Glance, without the need to install a software, but with the same limitation: the host can't make an attendee the presenter. You pay 2.5 cents per minute per attendee. So a 1 hour meeting with 3 other people will cost you $4.50. Verdict: close.
The best I have found so far is WebHuddle. Here is what I like about it:
  • It works both on Mac and Windows.
  • No installation is required; it runs entirely from your browser.
  • It is based on open source software; it you wish, you can install WebHuddle on your own servers.
  • You can schedule meetings, send a link to participants. Participants don't have to register; they just need to enter their name and email to join.
  • You can switch to a full-color mode (called "JPEG mode"), so participants can see your screen exactly as you do.
  • You can make other participants the presenter, at which point they can share their screen.
WebHuddle isn't perfect: the UI has room for improvements, and you can't let another participant control your mouse and keyboard. Still, if you use screen sharing, you should really give it a try.

If you are using other screen sharing tools not mentioned here and that work well for you, please let me know in a comment below.

6 comments:

info said...

Alessandro,

Great review.

A couple of small comments.

LiveLOOK offers not only 2.5c per minute pricing, but also unlimited monthly pricing for corporate subscription at $39.99/month.

LiveLOOK supports not only Mac and Windows, but also Linux.

And finally, the ability to make participant the presenter, is coming in the next release.


LiveLOOK team

Anonymous said...

We use http://www.batipi.com... Their services are great! All platforms run through your browser and are multi-functional... They do charge a nominal fee (less than what you have above) for their services... Also have a great customer support team! Try it out... I wasn't disappointed...

/Slash said...

Hi Alessandro,

Karel Lukas from Yugma here. Just wanted to let you know that our recent upgrade to V3 was tricky for us and caused a number of difficulties for some users for a number of days. Good news is that this last weekend we pushed an update that resolved all of the key issues people were seeing. This week we're seeing a dramatic uptick in traffic and daily sessions and a big drop in reported issues. I just wanted to let you know that if you tripped on some of the issues in the last couple of weeks... now would be a good time to try Yugma again. And if you have any comments for us, please drop me a line at info@yugma.com. We're passionately committed to providing the highest quality and I would very much like to receive your feedback.

Thanks!
Karel

Thom said...

I first tried Yugma and wasn't sure how to run the v3 client but still use skype functionality. Also, the email I sent to another Mac user managed to launch their Yugma client (already installed, even) but not to actually make it load the proper session that was included in the email.

It was not clear to me whether I could choose to just send a portion of my screen to the participants. This was especially confusing because my end user at first tried clicking on MY Yugma instance, e.g. to participate in the chat. I want to explicitly HIDE that window from the people on the other end.

The Yugma sign-off screen was also very big, bold and abrupt.

* * *

Webhuddle was much simpler but I had sort of the opposite limitation; I could choose to share just a region of my screen, but let's say I wanted to give someone a tour of a website. The region that is drawn... *inside* one browser window... is TINY! Now imagine putting another browser window on top of that and scaling it so just the content fits that green box. Then if you need to access the controls or the chat, it's in the window behind the present one. Meaning as soon as I clicked over to that window, what got sent to the users was a blank white box.

At least Webhuddle said "thanks for participating!" and seemed nicer to the users when I ended my test meeting.

I think for as simple and easy to use as Webhuddle is, they could do the presenter a favor by allowing them to download a standalone jar which could put up a floating control window, and be permitted to screen-scrape a much larger region of the presenter's monitor without having to show the whole thing.

* * *

Thanks for the review and I hope I was able to provide a little more helpful feedback on these two solutions.

Robert Harnischmacher said...

Hi Allesandro,

In the meantime, Citrix Online has released v. 4 of GoToMeeting, which works fine on the Mac (only exception: no support for drawing tools). We have reviewed most of the tools you mentioned (and many more) at the test portal http://www.webconferencing-test.com

Robert

Alessandro Vernet said...

Robert,

The new GoToMeeting for Mac looks great. I have been using GoToMeeting on the PC side a few years and have been quite happy with it. If I had to choose a screen sharing solution today, I would consider GoToMeeting to be a strong contender, along Acrobat Connect, which in the end is the product with decided to go with.

Alex