Solve problems remotely with screen sharing

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Every once in a while, you find yourself in a tough spot. You need immediate alterations to commissioned work, but you are not able to meet in person. If you find yourself in this sticky situation right at deadline, sometimes the only solution is to walk through each edit step-by-step. Ten years ago, this would have been one of the most painful phone calls of your professional life. But today, due to screen sharing technology, it is but a minor inconvenience.

Free screen sharing software has been around for more than a decade. Baked into every Mac computer is the easy to use and cost-free Messages (formerly iChat). On the PC side, Microsoft owns and gives away the most popular personal video conferencing tool in Skype. Both Messages and Skype offer the same basic tool of full screen sharing along with video conferencing and a texting platform. But if you’re looking for more collaborative features, you’re using the wrong service. For free, browser-based screen sharing, both Google Hangouts and Facebook offer simple mirroring functionality. One thing to keep in mind with free tools is many terms of service tell users their experiences are occasionally monitored and recorded for service refinement and marketing. This is something you may not be comfortable with when it comes to your business.

If you’re communicating remotely and have a contract that needs specific refinement, a spreadsheet that is simply a mess, creative work that needs serious alteration, or marketing materials that have a slew of wrinkles to iron out, then you need to get deep into them and highlight changes. Your screen sharing software needs to act as if you’re in control of your collaborator’s screen. Once you start paying for video conferencing and screen sharing accounts, the features really open up to you. Desktop platforms like Mikogo, GoToMeeting and Zoom allow users to record collaborations, use a virtual whiteboard for idea aggregation, desktop area lockoff and collaborator command, and involve multiple users. You’d think all this functionality would come with a prohibitive cost, but Zoom’s Pro and Business levels both start at $14.99 and allow for multiple accounts using the service across your entire enterprise.

For real remote collaboration, mobile screen sharing is key. Sadly, the features aren’t as robust in this arena, but, thankfully, most applications are free. Apps like Screenmeet, Screen Stream and offer simple screen mirroring, whereas Inkwire allows for sharing and annotation. These are not perfect tools, but are hopefully enough should you find yourself in a pinch. ♦

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.

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