Whether you need to lead a client through a presentation, go over iterations of a new design with some of your coworkers, or show your mother how to install Skype so she can videochat with the grandkids, we all need a simple and free way to share our screens with someone not in the room with us.
Enter Join.Me, a cost-free, registration-free, download-free app for sharing your screen over the Internet.
Working on PCs, Macs, iPhones/iPads, and Android devices, Join.Me is a dead-simple tool for screensharing on the fly. With free conference-call numbers and a built-in chat feature to ensure everyone stays on the same page during the meeting, Join.Me can connect you with one person or with 250.
Creating a presentation is as easy as clicking on a button. You don’t have fill out a form with your email address or give any salesperson your phone number. Just click the button, download a quick JAVA app (roughly 10 seconds on my DSL), and voila!, you’re ready to present.
The app runs automatically after download, so you don’t have to worry about knowing where the program was installed or scanning your desktop for a new icon. Wait a couple seconds, and a toolbar fades into view at the top of your screen, giving you a link to share with whomever you want.
After you send the link to your viewers (whether by copying and pasting the link into an instant message or sending it via email), all your viewers have to do is click on the link you send them. Their browsers will open, and right there in the middle of their browsers (i.e., there’s no app for them to download) is your screen.
If you’re sharing with someone who’s using an iOS or Android device, they’ll have to download the free Join.Me app from their respective App Store, but once they’ve got it installed, all they have to do is type in the right number.
Because the point of the entire application is to share your screen with someone else while you use another application, the user interface for Join.Me is minimal, relegated to a single toolbar.
Going left to right in the image above, you can:
- Click on the phone icon to get a free conference number to share
- Click on the chat bubble to bring up the chat window
- Click on broadcast tower to pause or resume screensharing
- Click on the person to get a list of who’s in the meeting
- Click on the mouse to share control of your computer with one of the viewers
For the viewer, the toolbar is much the same, except the middle button changes.
Instead of having a pause and resume button, the viewer gets a zooming option, which allows them to take your presentation full-screen on their monitor, fit your screen to their screen, or reduce your screen. In addition, the mouse button, instead of relinquishing control, requests control.
When you click on the participants button, it lists them by default as Presenter and Viewer 1, Viewer 2, Viewer 3, etc., But if you click on your participant name, you can change it to whatever you want, making it easier for people to know who’s who.
One thing I noticed while testing the app (which required starting several different meetings over the course of the day) was that it remembered my user names from before, so that once I started a second or third meeting, I didn’t have to change my participant names. I don’t know if it would keep that information over the course of several days or months, but I thought it was a nice touch.
In addition to sharing your screen, the presenter also has the option to send files to various participants (though not to mobile users), and, if they have more than one monitor, to choose which of the monitors they’d like to share.
Join.Me gives away a free conference number for every meeting, so if you’re presenting to more than one person, there’s no need to deal with three-way calling or tying up a conference line at your work. Just click on the phone button, get your free number and access code, and talk away (for international numbers, you’ll have to upgrade to the Pro version of Join.Me).
Along with the conference number, there’s a built-in chat feature that lets you chat with everyone on the meeting or just with one person. The chat window has a little drop-down box with all the participants in the meeting. If you choose “All,” then your message goes global; but if you choose one person, then your conversation remains private (this could be dangerous if you’re not paying attention).
One of the more useful features of Join.Me is the ability to share control of your computer (not your iOS or Android device, however) with one of your participants. Now, the next time your father calls looking for help on how to buy a song on iTunes, you can send him to Join.Me, then just take control of his computer and do it yourself.
As with other screensharing applications, Join.Me allows both the “sharer” and “sharee” to control the mouse on the host computer, which with professionals, shouldn’t be a problem, but with family members, can easily dissolve into a mouse fight.
For free and simple screensharing, Join.Me is the way to go. While I did stumble on some issues during testing — slow screen redraws, residual images from windows no longer on screen, and worst of all, crashes on the host computer that didn’t register on the participants’ screens, which (in a presentation) would leave your participants staring at a static image, wondering what happened — but for the most part, the meetings were error free. When they get those bugs fixed (which I’m sure they will, since there’s a pro version they want people to pay for), it’ll make Join.Me the best screensharing app I’ve tried.