What is Remote Desktop Sharing?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

In the world of computers, a desktop refers to the background screen on a computer. It is also used to refer to the entire array of whatever is visible on the monitor. Normally, a user’s desktop can only be seen by someone who is within visual range of the computer’s monitor. Through a mechanism called remote desktop sharing, however, the view of the user’s desktop — that is, the same view that is seen by looking at the monitor at any given moment — can be shared in real time with another user who is out of range for being able to view the monitor.

Desktop sharing allows one person to access another's computer remotely.
Desktop sharing allows one person to access another's computer remotely.

Remote desktop sharing may be an operating system preference that can be enabled. It is most straightforward to activate among users who are sharing the same network. There are also both free and for purchase software applications for webinar software, which often includes a cross-platform desktop sharing tool as part of its online meeting features, along with videochats, slide presentations, audio chats, etc. This allows material to be shared in a secure way.

Under ordinary circumstances, a user's desktop can only be seen by someone who is within visual range of the computer's monitor.
Under ordinary circumstances, a user's desktop can only be seen by someone who is within visual range of the computer's monitor.

Remote desktop sharing can be used for educational purposes, as well as for secure sharing of very delicate information. For example, using remote desktop sharing, an instructor in an online course could demonstrate how to perform a particular action in a software program. A software developer could demonstrate functionality to a client, without releasing beta version software. A technical support person could gain a better understanding of an issue a customer was having by actually seeing the problem in action, without having to reproduce it on his or her machine.

Screen capture software provides an alternative, but asynchronous, way to share one’s desktop. Screen capture software takes a movie of one’s desktop, with or without voiceover narration. This movie can then be emailed or uploaded to share with others.

When using remote desktop sharing, it is a good idea to think in advance about what may be exposed. Items stored on the desktop or a finder window showing a list of documents could reveal quite a lot in the document titles. A dock showing much used programs could out a beta tester. Any messages that could pop up, such as when an instant message program is on, could also bring personal matters into a work meeting. Therefore, cleaning up one’s desktop before sharing is generally a sound practice.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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Discussion Comments

Logicfest

@Soulfox -- it is also important to remember that tools like desktop sharing simply weren't available outside of a common network until broadband Internet became standard. Trying to achieve the things you can with desktop sharing over a dial up connection was next to impossible.

Soulfox

The ability to share a desktop is something of an understated revolution. It is very possible to use that technology in conjunction with remote meetings, distance learning and other things where it would be advantageous to demonstrate something on a computer or pull up an app that runs a slideshow or something like that. Thanks to desktop sharing, people can participate in full audio-visual communications remotely rather than just voice communications.

Just think of the money a company using that can save to see how useful that technology is. A company could, for example, hold a board of directors meeting through a conferencing package that includes sharing rather than calling everyone together to meet at the same place and time at a standard location.

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