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Review: TeamViewer 6.0

08 February 2011, Nick Peers

The concept of taking remote control of one computer from another is nothing new – NetMeeting predates Windows 98 – but the goalposts keep changing and one version of Windows won’t necessarily play nice with another, never mind non-Windows platforms.

TeamViewer eliminates all these problems in one sweep, offering a single solution for sharing presentations, offering remote support or simply dialling home to retrieve a forgotten file or set the DVR. It works across Windows, Mac and Linux, and can even be accessed via a web browser or mobile device. Best of all, it’s free for personal use.

Quick and easy
TeamViewer isn’t just cross-platform, it’s easy to set up too. The main program installer contains all the functionality you need, or you can opt for cut-down versions offering a subset of features: Quick Join for joining someone else’s presentation, for example, or Host for setting up your home PC for unattended access. There’s even a portable version that can be run on any Windows computer via a USB stick.

Once installed, you’re good to go: forget about fiddling with firewall settings or trying to configure port forwarding on your router, TeamViewer is ready to connect the moment you open it. Each computer is assigned a unique nine-digit ID – all you need is this and a password to connect to that computer from another. A basic four-digit numeric password is supplied, or you can change it for something more secure and memorable.

Within seconds you’re up and connected – what’s shown depends on the option you pick. If you’re presenting something, others can connect through their own computer or a web browser to view your desktop or a subset of it (such as a specific program). If you’re accessing a computer for remote control or support purposes you’ll see the target computer’s desktop, and you’ll be able to control it as if sat right in front of it.

Accessing options
There’s a menu bar that appears across the top of the TeamViewer screen with everything you need to communicate with other parties (you can use a text-based chat window, communicate via audio and video, or – if presenting – use a whiteboard for collaboration purposes), plus tweak the window’s settings to your needs. In most cases, though, TeamViewer has it covered, automatically optimising the display based on the speed of your connection. There’s even an option to “swap sides” with your partner – giving them control of your desktop, plus a file transfer option: select this, and a basic two-paned window appears allowing you to transfer files from folder to folder on each computer.

TeamViewer also comes into its own when giving you unattended access to your computer while away: it’s even capable of bringing your computer out of a lower-power state like sleep or standby, so you’re not wasting electricity on the off-chance you need to set the DVR or retrieve a forgotten file.

Mobile access
You don’t even need to be sat at a computer to use TeamViewer – there are a selection of mobile apps for iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad and Android-powered smartphones for remote control purposes. The screen can obviously get a little cramped on the smaller displays, but it still looks remarkable considering the size of the screen, and is easy to manipulate considering you’re without a mouse or keyboard.

The sum of TeamViewer parts is a comprehensive application that’s irresistible – essential even – for personal and non-commercial use. Prices are quite steep for commercial and business use, however, but these are one-off payments – there’s no licence renewal and the cost for adding additional workstations is less prohibitive.

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