One of the cleverest features in Apple’s iChat is the screen-sharing option that lets you view the desktop of another person’s Mac on your own computer. You can even take control of the other Mac in order to fix a problem or show them how to do something.
It’s really handy, but iChat does have certain limitations. You can only share screens between two people at a time, and it only works with Macs. The online screen-sharing service join.me works with both Macs and PCs, and allows you to share your screen with up to 250 people at a time. This is very useful for setting up online meetings and presentations where you can share information with your colleagues.
1. On the button To activate a screen-sharing session or to join a session that has already been started by someone else, just enter join.me (with no .com) as the address in your web browser. That will take you straight to the join.me website, where you’ll see two big buttons labelled Share and Join.
2. Click to share You can use the join.me service for free, although there is a subscription-based pro version available. Click the Share button to start a session and your web browser will download the software you need to control the screen-sharing session. Then just follow the prompts to install the software.
3. Entry code Once the software has been installed, you’ll see an orange toolbar appear at the top of the screen. Notice the numerical code displayed here – this is the access code that other people will need in order to join your screen-sharing session. Make a note of it, as you’ll need it later on in the session.
4. Joining in You’ll need to send the access code to everyone who wants to join the session – either by phone, email or instant messaging. Here’s Internet Explorer running on a PC being used by one of our colleagues. All they have to do is go to the join.me website, enter the access code, and click the Join button.
5. Show the world Our PC-using colleague can now see our Mac desktop displayed within a window in Internet Explorer. People viewing the screen-sharing session get their own toolbar – it’s green for viewers and orange for the person controlling the session (remember that – it’ll make things easier to follow).
6. Zoom in Here’s a neat trick. If our PC-using colleague clicks the Zoom button in his own toolbar (that’s the green one remember), he can zoom in his view of our Mac’s desktop so that it fills the entire screen of his PC. Alternatively, he can also shrink it down to 50 per cent of full screen if he wants.
7. Tool tips Let’s switch back to the Mac that’s controlling the screen-sharing session so that we can take a closer look at the (orange) toolbar. Notice that the people icon now displays the number 2, indicating that two people are taking part in this session – us on the Mac, and our colleague on his PC.
8. Down to business Click on the people icon and you’ll see that a third person has now joined the session. By default, the person controlling the session is called the Presenter, while others are labelled Viewers. Up to 250 people can join each session, so join.me can easily handle a business meeting with several colleagues.
9. The name game Each participant can enter their own name if they want – so we’ve now got Cliff as the presenter on the Mac, being joined by Karen on another Mac and Mark on a PC. As Cliff set up the session, the presenter’s orange toolbar provides him with a number of options for controlling the session.
10. In control If a presenter clicks on a viewer’s name they see three little icons that provide additional options. The x icon lets you kick someone out. Alternatively, the mouse icon allows you to temporarily transfer control to that person – similar to the remote control option in iChat, except join.me works with Macs and PCs.
11. File transfer The File icon allows the presenter to send a file across the internet to any viewer. If we switch back to Mark’s PC (green toolbar again), we can see that join.me is telling him that Cliff’s sent him a file. He can reject it, or accept it and download it onto his PC to edit or view as required.
12. Talk to me Back on the Mac, the presenter can check that everyone is ready before they get started. Clicking on the chat icon (the little speech bubble) activates the instant-messaging option. You can click on an individual’s name to send a message to that one person, or click All to broadcast the message to everyone.
13. Privacy issue If the presenter decides that they need a little privacy, they can just press the Pause button in the middle of the toolbar. This temporarily freezes the display of their Mac’s desktop on the screens of the viewers, enabling them to open up some other files that they may not want the viewers to see.
14. Meeting adjourned The join.me software downloaded at the beginning of this session has not yet been permanently installed on the Mac. When you quit join.me at the end of your first session you have the option to install the software permanently – which, of course, will save time when starting future sessions.