Zero-Install Remote Screen Sharing Apps?

Both as someone who supports online learning and as someone who supports remote users of various software services, I have a keen interest in screen-sharing software and techniques, as these are often the quickest way to diagnose and troubleshoot problems.

Now there are a huge number of good solutions that let you share your own desktop/screen with remote users without requiring them to install any software. I’ve written before about my ongoing fondness for Webdialogs Unyte, and I’ve had good success too with Glance (though it is not free). In addition, you can find good write-ups from Robin Good and a more recent writeup from Online Tech Tips on tools that make it very simple to share your own screen.

The piece I am missing, though, is a simple way to help users having trouble share their screen with me. And simple is the operative word here, ideally meaning no install or other configuration on their end. Of the various solutions mentioned in these articles, SkyFex seems the only one that may fit that bill (though only for Windows, and its website makes me very nervous). Of the others CrossLoop seems promising because it’s install is pretty painless, but the idea is to find a solution that does not burden already troubled users with additional downloads and installs.

It may be that such a beast does not exist. I can imagine a host of technical reasons this may be so. I am also not overly keen on the idea of bringing the user into a system like Adobe Connect/Breeze or WebEx and getting them to share from within there, as the overhead seems just as bad. But before I give up I thought I’d ask you folks – what’s the best way to help remote users share their screen with you, and have you found an easy, no-install way to do this? – SWL

22 thoughts on “Zero-Install Remote Screen Sharing Apps?

  1. Scott

    Thanks Doug, this is helpful. While it doesn’t 100% meet the requirement of ‘zero install’ (and I’m not sure anything will) given that it creates an executable *we* could distribute, it seems a reasonable approach that could leverage the existing trust relationship we have with the users we are trying to support. Thanks!

  2. Scott

    Doug, just wanted to follow up – tried your suggestion and it is I think pretty much as close as I am going to get. Once you create the tiny .exe file and place it on a web server, it is really 2 clicks for a user to download it, run it, and share their screen back with you. While it is not cross platform it did work like a charm in our tests on PCs. I am now about to contact an instructor who is having great difficulties just logging into a system and use it with them, so we will see if it passes that test. Thanks again!

  3. Scott

    Sean, can you say anything else about CoPilot? I saw it but have had no experience of it (and without some other identifying info on you, am likely to delete this as comment spam, even though it seems like it could be pretty relevant). Thanks, Scott

  4. Sean

    Sorry for the overly succinct post. Got interrupted and didn’t want to loose the idea…We ( use it for remote usability testing. Painless to use. Designed for exactly the scenario you described (remote support). From Joel Spolsky’s company (of Joel on Software fame). It’s not free but I’m having a hard time imagining something simpler/more robust for this purpose.

  5. Scott

    No worries Sean, and thanks for this, we will definitely investigate further (and knowing that it is from Joel Spolsky’s firm sure is a big endorsement.) Cheers, Scott

  6. Chris L

    I was going to second UltraVNC– for PC at least it has worked like a charm when I’ve worked with students remotely.

    I’m still surprised there isn’t some more elegant freeware web-centric app for this.

  7. John Krueger

    I have been experimenting with Yugma and it easily allows students to share their desktops with the group when the teacher (as presenter) decides to share control with them. However I realize it does not meet your requirement for zero install as it requires Windows XP. But it is simple.

  8. Paul R. Pival

    Hey Scott, while it suffers a little because it tries to do more than what you want it to, it looks to me like Yugma might do the trick. It’s free and cross platform, and it appears that those joining a session can do so simply via the browser. Once they’re connected you can give them presenter control and see what they see. Not sure you can control their end, but you can at least see what’s giving them trouble…

    Oh look, John above already recommended Yugma (). But I just ran a compatibility test and it DOES work on the Mac: Hmm, I think I’m going to have to try this puppy out myself!

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  10. char booth

    My experience with Yugma is that although it eventually does the trick in terms of stable screen sharing it’s pretty problematic and difficult to navigate from the user perspective.

    DimDim shows some promise as an alternative ( – it’s open-source, no end-user download, and enables video, voice and chat communication. It seems flexible and has gotten some good press thus far.

  11. Scott

    Char, I like DimDim a lot. I think it is a very viable substitute to the server-based synchronous conferencing apps out there. It could also solve this problem, but so far the UltraVNC SC approach that Doug first suggested has caught my fancy, at least for supporting remote Windows users. Cheers, Scott

  12. Scott

    Clint, the ‘cost per minute’ model seems potentially scary (though potentially a costs savings too) but from a usability standpoint this solution, LiveLook, definitely looks worth considering. This is the kind of ease of use I was talking about – give the users a URL, tell them to click a link and – presto/chango – see their desktop. Good tip, thanks.

  13. Manu

    Check out, there’s no other app that’s simpler than this. Both parties need to download small apps that are about 900KB. The client runs the app and generates a password and gives it to the server, who uses his app to enter the password and connect.I use this very app to fix my dad’s PC at home(which is about 2900KM(, and it works flawlessly. I once tried Remote Desktop but that had me pulling my hair out by the time I was able to finish fixing.

    ShowMyPC is the best, no installation required, I can vouch for it.
    Hope this helps.

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  15. Lutz

    Hi there.

    Yesterday, I came cross DESKTRA freedom desktop on

    I have installed and tested the software. It’s free, simple to use, really fast and the remote Desktop screen color looks just fantastic. You don’t have to worry about the firewall settings, etc.

    Give it a try and let me know what you think.


  16. Remote Control Software

    Hey all,

    I came across two programs that I’ve found very helpful – one is free and the other isn’t. So first, one should differentiate between screen sharing software, which allows you to see what is on another person’s computer, and remote control software, which allows you to actually control that computer from a distance.

    For screen sharing (for meeting purposes) I tried DimDim and it’s great. I used to use GoToMyPC for $50 per month but this works just as well and it’s FREE. They also have a “Pro” version with more features for $20 per month.

    For remote control (for troubleshooting, accessing your files, etc.) the best that I’ve come across is Proxy Pro 6 from Proxy Networks. It’s the most secure such program out there and the features are great. Full disclosure – it’s not free and you do have to install it. It’s well worth it though.

  17. JL

    Haven’t tried this but promising (though not free). It involves hosting your own server, troubled user simply click on a link in an email or visit your support website. According to screen connect website’s demo, no software install is required on client side.

    Would like to find similarly elegant but free solution though.

  18. Techee

    I have used ScreenConnect it has two options. Option 1 your guest goes to a link and they join a session. The software is automatically downloaded to their computer to establish the connection and then its uninstalled after the session is over. Option 2 similar to Doug’s suggestion you can create a file that you install on their computer which makes is constantly available for reconnection.

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