Using Screen Sharing in OS X Leopard

An intriguing but widely overlooked feature released with Mac OS X Leopard is the ability to share screens wirelessly with other computers in a super fast and easy way. This can be incredibly useful when you want to collaborate on a project together with someone else, or if you’re running several computers in different rooms around the home or office.

In this tutorial I will explain how to set up screen sharing, ensure security is fully considered, and outline how it can be done even if you don’t have a WiFi connection available.

Setting up Screen Sharing

To get Screen Sharing up and running, we’ll have to enable this feature on all of the computers that you wish to share. To do this, launch System Preferences, and open up the ‘Sharing’ pane under Internet & Network.

At the top of this window, you may want to give your computer a name. This will just make it a lot easier to find later on. In the list of services down the left hand side, locate Screen Sharing, and tick the check box next to it. You’ll see that Screen Sharing is now turned on.

Screen Sharing

Screen Sharing

Click on ‘Computer Settings…’ to access some privacy controls. Tick the first box if you’re happy for anyone to request screen sharing, but I’d highly recommend that you enable a password to keep you’re computer a little safer. With that done, click ‘OK’.

Access Settings

Access Settings

You’ll also notice that in this Screen Sharing window, you have the ability to restrict access to only a select few users. This is great if you know that you’d only like to share with a couple of other computers and no others. If this is the case, click on the plus sign and locate these users. Be aware though that if you’d like to view your screen through an iPhone or iPod Touch, you’ll need to make sure you have this option set to ‘All users’, otherwise it will not work. As long as you have a secure password set up, then you should be safe.

Make sure this is also done on all of the other computers you wish to share screens with, and you’re done!

What’s this about iPhones? Some applications from Apple’s App Store actually allow the iPhone and iPod Touch to share the screen with your computer, so you can control your computer wirelessly from anywhere in the building. Such apps include RemoteTap, Jaadu VNC, and Mocha VNC. They’re not cheap, but do a great job as long as you’re prepared to accept a slight lag.

Sharing Screens with Another Computer

To share screens, you’ll need to make sure that both computers are on the same WiFi network. Once confirmed, open up a Finder window on the computer you’d like to use. Below ‘Shared’ down the left hand side, you should find the other computer you are looking for. Select it, and then in the following options, click ‘Share Screen…’.

This will launch the Screen Sharing application which comes bundled with Leopard, and should show you the screen of the computer you are trying to view. If it asks you for permission, just type in a valid username and password for the other computer.

Initiating a Connection

Initiating a Connection

If you’d like to find this Screen Sharing application on it’s own, you can find it hidden within: /System/Library/CoreServices/Screen Sharing

You now have full control over the computer that you are accessing, and can move your mouse freely in and out of the other virtual screen. The small pair of binoculars in the menu bar show you that the screen is being shared. This way, if you are using the screen you can see if anyone is watching you or not. By clicking on this item, you can easily disconnect the viewer.

Viewing a Remote Desktop

Viewing a Remote Desktop

What if I don’t have WiFi?

Not to worry! If you’re stuck in a place without access to a WiFi router but you’d like to share screens, it’s a quick fix to create your own wireless network. Simply click on the little Airport icon in the menu bar, and then select ‘Create Network…’

Creating a Network

Creating a Network

Give your new network a name and password and hit ‘OK’. On the other computer, you can now go up to the same Airport icon in the menu bar and then select the name of the network you’ve just created. Now your two computers are linked via a network, as if connected to each other through a wireless router. This method is incredibly useful when you need to access other computers without a WiFi router handy, and should give you no troubles setting up screen sharing as described above.

Network Settings

Network Settings

Conclusion

As you can see, Screen Sharing only a matter of minutes to set up. Once initiated once, it will continue to work immediately time and time again, providing fast and easy access to other computers around the home or office.

This is ideal for collaborating on a project with someone else – be it a presentation, website development, or producing a film. You could even use it for something simple such as showing a whole bunch of different people a slideshow at the same time based on what is on your screen.

Feel free to let us know how (and whether) you use screen sharing. Is it a tool you find particularly useful?