Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Monday, November 6, 2006

Single-Purpose, Distraction-Free, Screen-Sharing Tools

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Infoworld lead analyst and Test Center blogger in chief Jon Udell complains about screen sharing tools being too complicated and feature-rich. His request is for new tools to do one thing only while doing it very well.

Is he asking for too much?

Jon Udell - Photo credit: Glemak

As a matter of fact, Jon Udell is not asking for anything wild at all. His request is indeed very reasonable and expresses clearly the need for users of online collaboration tools to have just what they need.

I would fully agree with him, that dedicated small tools, or components / widgets dedicated to specific tasks are indeed a better and more sustainable approach to a wider adoption of online collaboration tools.

What instead surprised me of Jon interesting article, was his request for what he called a "radical idea": a no-frills screen sharing tool that would allow people to do screen sharing without having to read a manual first or having to wade themselves through a slew of panels and command controls.

There are in fact an increasing number of tools and web services that offer just that in fact, and it is too bad that Infoworld cites none of them.

I am sure Jon Udell, is well aware of Glance, one of the earliest and indeed best ever screen-sharing systems.

Glance is built around Jon's own very philosophy and it devotes all of its interest and resources to one-thing only: screen-sharing. No text chat, no IM, no VoIP, no annotation tools... nothing. Only, simple, one-click straight screen-sharing with PC, Mac and Linux attendees that has no learning curve.

If simplicity is all you are looking for, the only shortcoming Glance has, and this may be the reason why Jon failed even to mention such a unique tool, so close in concept and execution to his wishful description, is that with Glance the presenter needs to be on a PC. While attendees can be on any operating system platform, the Glance presenter has to be a Windows user.

Though he didn't mention it as a requirement (and I think he should have) I have listed here below some "no-frills", do-one-thing-only screen-sharing tools, a couple that can also be started from any computer platform.

But again, don't get fooled by the technology hype-side of this (any Mac can easily run Windows today) and find out how many screen-sharing tools are already out there, that do just one simple thing,....well.

Here is a short run-down on the ones that I have checked out in recent times. All of them go by the definition of what Jon Udell wrote:"...send me an invitation link by e-mail. I click the link and my screen-sharing client starts up.... nothing else on the screen...":

Single-Purpose - Distraction-Free Screen-Sharing Tools

  • Beamyourscreen
    Beamyourscreen looks like an almost identical copy of Glance. Simple, straightforward, with no additional functions. It suffers from the same limitation of Glance: host has to be on a PC. Beamyourscreen costs between €35 and €70 ($50 to $90)/month for five concurrent users.

  • ShareitNow
    Free for 1 presenter with up to 5 participants. Show only what you want participants to see. ShareItNow allows presenters to custom size the capture frame so you're not locked in to showing your entire desktop plus it adds a set of integrated annotation tools, custom cursor and a (US) toll free audio number that you can use any time you choose. Only for Windows.

  • GatherPlace
    Gatherplace offers a very simple, all web-based solution that does nothing but screen-sharing. Mac presenters are welcome too. At $29/month for 5-people capacity, this is a good alternative. Give it a try (14-day free trial).

  • Netviewer
    Netviewer is a truly minimalistic screen sharing and remote control tool that is extremely easy to use. Its interface takes up the space of a small dialog box. It runs only on Windows and it is targeted to a corporate type of use. Try out is available here (14-days free trial).

  • HelpMeeting Presenter
    HelpMeeting Presenter provides the lowest priced service in this category along with full cross-platform support, no software downloads for attendees, high quality picture display and up to 100 concurrent participants. HelpMeeting Presenter costs $29/month. Again, the presenter can be on any platform.

  • Bosco Screen Share
    This is another unobtrusive and straightforward solution to screen sharing that has a free tool available both for the Mac and the PC. The software is free.
    N.B.: The site seems to having be some problems but you should be able to download the software by right-clicking on the software download links on the referred page.

Excerpt from the original Infoworld article:

Infoworld Jon Udell writes

"There's one thing I wish screen-sharing systems would do well: screen sharing. I watch a lot of demos projected to my computer. It's always a struggle, both for the presenter and for me. Windows or Mac? IE or Firefox? Who has the latest version of the client? Who's the host? Which application is shared? Can you see my screen?


I've used every screen-sharing system and, from this perspective, they're roughly the same. None performs its basic function simply and well.

All are determined to add whiteboards, chat, and filing systems. In principle these are useful features but in practice, for most people most of the time, they're just not usable.

Why don't screen-sharing systems focus on doing one thing well?


A distraction-free screen-sharing system would likewise slash clutter. Suppose you send me an invitation link by e-mail. I click the link and my screen-sharing client starts up. What else, in addition to the screen that you're sharing, should I be seeing?

Here's a radical idea: nothing else.

(Source: Simple, single-purpose screen sharing - Jon Udell - InfoWorld Nov. 1 2006)

Related articles:

Glance - Review

One-Click Screen-Sharing

Interview with Rich Baker

Screen Sharing Tools: The Best Low-Cost Solutions - June 2005 Update

Best VNC-Based Screen Sharing Solutions: Slashdot Reports

Better Than Glance: Easy Screen Sharing And Remote Control With GoToMeeting

Screen Sharing And Remote Control Keep Getting Better With GoToMeeting v3 - Review

[ Read more ]
Readers' Comments    
2006-11-08 13:00:12

Robin Good

Gabe, you are very right. Thank you for reminding me about Unyte. Its facility to be an integral part of Skype has been further enhanced today by the release of the new Skype 3 (Beta) which can fully integrate Unyte as an "extra" that can be accessed from within any chat dialog box. Performance is not outstanding but Unyte is definitely a usable and very simple screen-sharing tool.

2006-11-08 12:05:20


I have been using Unyte, a free screen sharing tool from Web Dialogs. It integrates seamlessly with Skype, and is extremely easy to use for 1 to 1 screen sharing. It allows you to selectively share only open apps, or the entire desktop. And it allows the view to control the application remotely if you choose to enable bi-directional sharing.

2006-11-07 08:44:40

Robin Good

Richard - Vyew is a great tool but it is far from being, distraction-free and single purpose. Vyew has a lot to offer for those looking for a very cost-effective solution that allows for screen-sharing, annotation, text chat, multi-document sharing and a lot more. Though Vyew it is a super-cool tool I would recommend anyone in checking out, it has a rich interface and this is why I didn't consider it among these. Maybe I should re-think about this.

2006-11-07 08:10:36


Look at The services works fine and is free. They also have a free teleconferencing feature as well.

posted by Robin Good on Monday, November 6 2006, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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