Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Thursday, July 10, 2003

When The Projector Is Out, What Do You Do?
head-to-head: NetOp School vs NetSupport School

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Networked Training
Demonstrate, Monitor, Present and Interact
To Your Networked Classroom From Your Trainer PC

A comparative review of
NetSupport School v.7 vs. NetOp School v.2.51

NetOp School Version 2.51
= breakthrough tool
Software Tool
Free to try - Starts at USD $ 885

NSS - NetSupport School - Version 7
= breakthrough tool
Software Tool
Free to try - Starts at USD $ 452


Are you about to buy a new projector for your classroom?


Two very effective training support tools allow you to do altogether away with your projector while providing a better view and engagement of all your computer-based students.

Net Support School and NetOp School are the two only programs I would consider buying today if I were responsible for Computer Training in any organization of any size.

If you deliver training classes in computer equipped classrooms and if your computers are all connected to a network this type of tool can deeply revolutionize your ability to be effective, efficient and organized.

NetSupport School and NetOp School allow any trainer to manage and control all of the computers present in a classroom, or even across the hall. Actually the ability both provide can be extended to Intranet and Internet connections of all kind.

This type of software can be used both to facilitate training of large groups as well as to deliver one-to-one training in a common physical space to remote students.

Before I dwell on looking at the differences and pros and cons of these two possible great options, I like to point out WHERE these tools are absolutely outstanding in providing the kind of help and support a modern-day computer trainer has always dreamed of.

These tools allow you to:

1) Monitor all students in the classroom by viewing live on your screen one or multiple students' screens.
2) Showcase any application or document to your students by "projecting" it on each one of their monitors. No more need to use that outdated projector with a yellow spot in the bottom corner.
3) Showcase students' work while in progress as to inspire other students ideas and to allow more cross-fertilization of ideas and approaches. The trainer can show on the projected screen the work behind done by students by "projecting" live their monitors. The feature can even be set to switch automatically every so many seconds to the next student, so that the trainer can do this without even having to click anything.

4) Distribute and collect files from all students or only from selected ones. Send them an exercise file and have it appear on their desktop. Collect automatically all of the forms they have been filling out.

5) Co-browse Web sites, online databases and resources. Students are all synced-into your browser and each student sees exactly the same page you see on your monitor.

6) Text and even voice chat with students.

7) Send alerts, messages directly to selected students. Blank student screens. If you want to make sure that the students are looking at you and not at their monitors, simply use the attention button to blank their screens. You can also lock their keyboards and mouse at the same time

8) Control remotely any machine. Give support, troubleshoot, reconfigure, reboot remotely, launch applications on students computers from your own PC.

9) Launch application programs on students PCs without them having to do anything.

10) Mark-up and annotate any content you are presenting with effective digital tools.

11) Have the students take the lead. Hand out presentation capabilities to each one of your participants and let them run their show directly from their PC.
Additional features include:

12) Breakout sessions - The trainer can assign groups of students to regroup and work separately in teams. Each team can have its own leader who has presentation and moderation controls available.

13) Centralized deployment - Remote install. The software can be installed by one PC. No need to sit at every computer and install it. This works only with Windows 2000 or above.

14) Once a new "class" has been created, the computers can be set to automatically log-on on a specific course or onto a list of available choices.

15) Help request - The SOS or help mode, is a simple feature that allows the student to enter a "hot Key" combination, type in a simple message and send the alert to the Instructor.

16) Student sign in - Classroom layout. It is possible to request students to sign-in with their names as to facilitate remote identification of each PC. It is also possible to recreate a visual map of the classroom and to place students icons in the same position as they are in the physical classroom.

17) Multimedia support - sync video playback. Playback movies, animations or other multimedia materials and have all of the students follow on their screens (audio included).

There is in fact even more than what I have listed above, but the list gives you a good idea of how much is there to use.

Here is a specific profile of the characteristics and peculiarities that differentiate these two great tools, NetOp School and NetSupport School, followed by my personal recommendations on how to select the one that can best satisfy your needs.

NSS - NetSupport School - Version 7
= breakthrough tool
Software Tool
Free to try - Starts at USD $ 452

Available since 1991 NetSupport School is the tool that has made recently the most effort to innovate and to add valuable new features to its already successful tool.

NetSupport School (NSS) has also a solid reputation and an installed base of over five million users.

No doubt that when the next version of NetOp School will be out the competitor (NetSupport) will try to beat feature by feature all of the innovation brought in this time by NetSupport School.

So it would superficially appear that whoever is ahead of the two is the company that is working harder to innovate, as the other one needs only to imitate, clone or refine upon. It will be fascinating for me then to follow this healthy match and to effectively understand which one of the two companies has a better clue at understanding what the market (me and you) really needs.

The challenge is open.

For now let me introduce you to some of the many new features available in NetSupport School which are unique to this product and characterize it when compared to NetOp School.

*Instant Surveys*
Find out whether your students have understood the class by conducting an instant survey with the results to a Yes / No question being displayed in real-time on the Tutor screen. The survey is automatically sent to all connected students or selected individuals.

*Student Testing*
This by itself maybe the killer extra feature that makes NSS a more palatable choice over its direct competitor. If tests are important for you NSS incorporates a wonderful testing module which allows you to create great tests that can include graphics, sound and video. The tests can be delivered according to a pre-set timing and the results can be automatically collected, marked and made available for review. Very effective.

*Big Brother function"
Application Control Module: Control and restrict the application usage of your students. Identify both active and minimized applications, displaying the actual application icon next to each student name. Drag and drop applications into either an "Approved" or "Restricted" list. The "restricted" ones cannot be launched by the student unless you change the setting again. To ensure maximum student attention, a specified application can be opened on all or selected student PCs. You can even create a list of "approved" and "disapproved" Web sites that your participant can navigate to.

*Screen Capture*
NetSupport School can capture a Student's current screen content and save it to a file. In addition, details for the machine name, currently logged on user and date & time stamp are also recorded.

*Web Control Module*
Identify and monitor active and background URL's running on all student PCs. Drag and drop URL's into "Approved" or "Restricted" lists and re-direct students' browsers when they attempt to visit an unauthorized website. NetSupport School can block websites flagged as inappropriate or only allow access to sites that have been marked suitable. Through NetSupport I can easily see at a glance which and how many students are using Internet Explorer or Netscape.

*Student Testing*
Design tests and examinations with the minimum of effort. NSS incorporates a full Test Designer allowing a Tutor to set customized tests including text, picture, audio and video questions. Once the test has been completed in the pre-set time by the specified students, the results are automatically collated, graded and made available to the Tutor.

*Application Sharing Quality*
By deafult color depth of the trainer screen is captured at only 8-bit (256 colors) to decrease the bandwidth required to broadcast it. This may not be the best setting when computers are networked in a physical classroom, or when there is need for more accuracy of color reproduction for the class being taught. On the other hand NSS well implements the ability to show whatever application being run either in a "window" mode or to broadcast the trainer's screen in full screen on each participant monitor. In addition it allows to the trainer/presenter to broadcast also the audio part of the content being shown.

Though this is an elegantly implemented new feature I was not able to input URLs that contained specific paths after the domain extension. I found this very annoying as MOST of the online material I use in the networked classroom is almost never on the home page of a Web site. Whatever detailed URL I would input it would be automatically stripped down by NSS to its basic domain home page address.

*Send Files*
This is a great feature that allows to send out (and to auto-collect) files to all or selected students at a click of the mouse. I was not impressed with the access mechanism to get to the files that I wanted to send and found a bit too hard for non-technical trainers what was required to send files from the trainer desktop to the student's. Maybe I should have tried the "drag and drop" approach but I learned about it only by reading the manuals.

*Blank Students Screens*
The trainer can at anytime blank all of the participants screens to get their full attention.

*Show Video*
A video can be played simultaneously on all the networked students screens. The background of each students screen is blanked out as to avoid any possible distraction when watching the video.

*Installation Procedure*
The new installation sequence has all been completely revised and it facilitates the administrator/trainer job of settings all of the PCs configurations easily. All options can be set at installation time through an easy to use step-by-step installation wizard.

*Interface Design - Ease of use*
The interface design of NetSupport School is pleasing and not overwhelming, though it is not intuitive to understand what some of the main buttons do the first time you use them. Greater use of tooltips or mouseover command captions would be extremely useful to facilitate user access.

Overall, while the design interface may look "neat" to the naive user, the approach and layout utilized do not allow for maximum ease of use nor for easy understanding of correct steps to take.
Much improvement can be done here, though this is a problem that is in many ways shared by both tools.

Though I would not consider NSS a difficult program to use, carrying out certain tasks is not as intuitive as it should be.
Much greater simplification and the adoption of different interface metaphors could greatly improve this critical area.

*Multilanguage Capabilities*
Eight languages are presently supported:
1) English
2) Spanish
3) French
4) Italian
5) German
6) Japanese
7) Portuguese and Brazilian
8) Arabic

This is the newest release and as such it requires you to make sure that the latest drivers for your graphics board are installed on your PC. Not as stable as it could be especially if pushed to live together with other applications and tool in the background (Flash, Shockwave - Groove Blender in particular - as well as other tools would repeatedly conflict or crash NSS).

*Customer Support*
It's there, and working. Not exceptionally responsive and not as generous in information and customer service as others. But this may have been limited to my personal experience. Too bad, as this is an area where you can really expand your market. When people get treated like Kings and Queens they do go around telling others.

NSS comes with an excellent documentation and well organized online support. Very good indeed. The full PDF manual (186 pages illustrated) and the online help file of NSS can be freely accessed at:

An online Flash presentation can be accessed here:

A Flash Tutorial visually introducing all of the features of the program is available here.

See some test examples created with NSS.

*Supported Systems*
NetSupport School supports DOS, Win 3x, WFWG, Win 95/8, Win NT ,
Win ME, OS/2 ,Win2000, WinXP and WinCE

*Free Trial Download*
You can also download a fully functional trial version here.

10-user pack USD $ 452
20-user pack USD $ 904
25-user pack USD $ 999
50-user pack USD $ 1923

NetOp School Version 2.51
= breakthrough tool
Software Tool
Free to try - Starts at USD $ 885

First introduced in 1997 NetOp School is a specialized version of Danware's international bestseller NetOp Remote Control.
As NetOp had been leading the ongoing competition between these two tools until the release of NSS 7, this application offers all of the basic features of NSS made exception for those that I specifically listed in the NSS detail-review.

For example, NetOp School most significant new feature in the latest release enabled an instructor to centrally control local replay of movies including sound using Windows Media Player. The feature has not only been matched by NSS in version 7 but also refined and improved with a few good touches.

Also another previous key unique feature of NetOp School, its File Manager facility which is very effective in allowing the trainer to copy, clone, move and collect files between interconnected PCs has been fully cloned and integrated in NSS 7.

One feature that remains unique on NetOp School is the ability to link students to specific Internet pages which may be very useful in those training situations where students may be working at their Web site or online project.

*Interface Design*
Notwithstanding its much more Spartan look and layout, NetOp School is not more difficult to use. To the contrary I did find it easier and more intuitive to use for most operations.

The installation is very simple and straightforward and, like for NSS, under Windows 2000 or higher it can be even performed from a central PC.

*Multilanguage Capabilities*
Ten languages are presently supported:
1) English
2) German
3) Italian
4) Spanish
5) French
6) Dutch
7) Danish
8) Japanese
9) Chinese
10) Arabic

*Supported Systems*
NetOp School 2.51 runs on Windows platforms - Windows XP, 2000, NT, ME and 95/98, Windows Terminal Server 2000/NT4. The program supports network protocols such as NetBIOS, IPX and TCP/IP.
Win 3.1 supported with NetOp School v1.5.

*Customer Support*
no-charge, toll-free technical support

No manual or documentation directly accessible on the site.
You need to download the program to access its help feature.

You can read about all of NetOp features at:

A PowerPoint demo is accessible at:

A NetOp Flash presentation showing all of the basic features is available at:

*Free Trial Download*
You can download a fully functional 30-day trial right here or here.

10 user pack USD $ 885
20 USD $ 1269
50 USD $ 2509

Here are my personal recommendations:

Both programs are REALLY good. In their category there is no other competitor worth of mention.

Both have very great margins of improvement especially from an interface design standpoint as well as from how the tools are organized and offered to the end user.

Each time one of the two companies comes out with a new version, it beats the other one by adding new features and refining what did not work greatly before.

I expect therefore NetOp School to take soon the lead again, once they release a new version.

For now the crown rests with NetSupportSchool which provides the most comprehensive and useful set of functionalities a classroom trainer may ask for.

Hats to NetSupportSchool also for a completely revamped user interface which further simplifies use and access to all of the main functions.

NetSupport School does provide a fantastic array of training support facilities that will have any trainer wanting this tool after a 5-minute demonstration. You just wonder how one could have ever done training without such a tool.

In particular the ability to easily run Instant Surveys and Student Testing modules add a lot of value to an already exceptionally useful tool.

Extremely useful are also all of the new controls allowing the trainer to restrict application usage and browsing access to her students as well as the ability to launch any application on the students' PCs.

On the other hand NetSupportSchool may suffer from some driver issues and I strongly advise to update your graphics board drivers to the latest version.

Support for international languages is not as wide as for NetOp School which maintain a strong competitive edge in this area.

NetOp School remains also the undisputed leader in terms of technical reliability, stability and performance. At least according to my own testing NetOp provided me with a more responsive set of commands and never gave me any kind of errors.
NetOp School is a more stable and reliable solution also across a number of diffeent environments. It is less picky and sensitive to issues that would instead seriously bother NetSupport School. Other online reviews report of this issues as well. Please see:

NetOP School is also more quickly responding and appears to have a slight edge in performance, especially when accessing a group of networked PCs for the first time or refreshing a global thumbnail view of all students connected.

NetOp remains also undisputedly the more expensive of the two.
In a market where companies compete at undercutting each other you may wonder and question the strategy behind the price positioning of these two companies.

NetOp maintains a lead also in supporting more languages (Dutch and Chinese) and in being able to still support also Win 3.1.

While the text chat facility works well in both applications, sound is weak, and it is a much to be improved feature which is yet not really mature for serious training or collaboration work.

One area in which both programs have to make enormous improvements is still the one of usability and interface design.
Though I can hardly complain when I see the potential provided to me by these tools, I can't equally avoid to note the extremely poor understanding these companies have about how trainers really work and on how to make application interfaces easy to understand, simple to use, and transparent to the user.
By a far margin this is to me the area where one of the companies can make circles around the other and take off to take a solid lead. In this area NetOp interface is less "neat" but is is easier and more effective to use nonetheless its more dated appearance.

In terms of online marketing, communications, support and documentation NetSupport maintains a clear advantage providing well organized online information, an outstanding PDF manual, freely accessible online and lots of useful resources and information. As mentioned in my review I do have a few reservations about the effectiveness and quality of NetSupport School online support, as I have received myself scarce feedback and sometimes no response to specific questions submitted to them.

While until NSS version 7 NetOp had been the leader of this head-to-head competition, it is now NetSupport School that has taken the lead on this front.

Summary Pluses:

+ Student name login
+ Restrictions on which app to run
+ Instant surveys
+ Student testing
+ Big Brother features
+ Documentation
+ Lower price
+ Online site

+ More languages supported
+ Interface design, ease of use
+ File Manager efficiency
+ Autolink students to Internet pages
+ Stability, reliability
+ Performance
+ Technical support

Summary Limitations:

1) Both of these programs are born out of remote control application tools that both companies have been perfecting and selling for a long while. This heritage shows all of the way through. As these tools have been used mostly by technicians and IT experts to provide remote support, the interface and approach to accessing commands can be deeply rethought and improved.

2) Internet-based use is not easy to implement and yet to be further improved.

3) Voice over IP is yet not ready for prime-time.

4) Macs and Linux computers are not supported.

5) There is no forum or open support area offered by these companies. Only online feedback forms to be filled in are provided.

Competitive Intelligence

One would-be competitor that both companies can look up to to get some ideas is Linktivity and its WebDemo technology.
As Linktivity comes from the same roots as these two tools (remote control) it is interesting to see how it has developed and integrated a very similar toolset for a very different market: Web conferencing.

I think that if NetOp and NSS started looking beyond each other feature set we would all be in for some better design, features and functionalities.

Written and edited by

Robin Good
Ideas, Tools and Resources for Communication Agents

Readers' Comments    
2005-12-07 16:53:22

bud gillan

Did you review NetOp School V.4.0 in your Nov 14, 2005 update? I am asking if you have done a comparison of these 2 products with their latest versions. The original is really helpful but we are trying to compare the newest ones.

Thanks a zillion.

Bud Gillan
Palm Beach Co Schools

posted by Robin Good on Thursday, July 10 2003, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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