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.