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TeamViewer 5.0 review

TeamViewer is a very powerful cross-platform remote desktop sharing tool that has recently been ported to the Linux platform. Sukrit Dhandhania takes it for a test drive…

This article originally appeared in issue 89 of Linux User & Developer magazine. Subscribe and save more than 30% and receive our exclusive money back guarantee – click here to find out more.

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Team Viewer 01TeamViewer
Pros: A fantastic remote desktop app available for free (if you use it for non-commercial purposes). Some very advanced features, yet easy to use. A great option for the home user offering tech support to family and friends
Cons: Although it’s free for non-commercial users, every time you log out of a session you get a message to remind you. You then get directed to a webpage advertising its features and offering to sign you up for a newsletter

TeamViewer is a free remote desktop tool that has been around for a while on Windows and Mac OS. Now a Linux version is available. TeamViewer offers a bit more than just remote desktop sharing. It comes bundled with a host of other features such as the ability to manage share lists, record sessions and have voice conversations using VoIP.

To get started, head over to www.teamviewer.com and get the latest version for your distribution of Linux. They have RPMs and DEBs up for grabs, along with a source version if you don’t use a Debian or Red Hat Linux fork. For Ubuntu users they even have 32- and 64-bit options. Installation should be pretty straightforward, depending upon your distribution.

You can get started with TeamViewer within a matter of minutes. What is even nicer is the fact that you do not have to register. The moment you launch TeamViewer, it generates a user ID and password combination for you. So if you’re supporting a ‘newbie, all you have to do is to make sure she has TeamViewer installed on her computer. She can convey her username and password combination to you over the phone or via email. It’s a very well thought out implementation, and perhaps a big reason for the software’s popularity.

Although the beta launch for Linux has some feature limitations over its Windows and Mac OS counterparts, it contains the most essential features, making it a great option over more traditional cross-platform rivals such as VNC. Now you can help your friends, family and colleagues take care of their computer woes from far away without worrying about which operating system they use.

Linux is an operating system that is gaining in popularity and it has a good number of takers in general IT and, more specifically, in the IT support community. Many IT personnel use TeamViewer to help employees fix their computer problems. Until now, if they had Linux on either side they would have had to use an alternative desktop sharing option. Now they don’t have to worry about that. We’re sure the Linux community will welcome this move.
When you launch TeamViewer you are offered four modes of operation. The first is the client mode, wherein you pass your username-password combination to someone else and she connects to your desktop. The other modes of operation are where you connect to a remote desktop. TeamViewer calls it ‘Connect to partner’. Here you have three options: ‘Remote support’, ‘Presentation’ and ‘File transfer’.

TeamViewer image02

TeamViewer has been implemented keeping in mind several network scenarios. Some remote desktop tools require you to set up port forwarding, or open a port in the firewall, or even a static IP address. With TeamViewer you need nothing like this. Install it, launch it and begin using it.
In addition to remote desktop sharing, TeamViewer has some very smart features such as list management, file transfer, text and voice chat, even conference call options. This makes TeamViewer ideal for any organisation, or even a family living in different cities/countries. It can replace other instant messaging and file sharing methods.

The moment you connect to a ‘Remote support’ session, you can see some of the power that TeamViewer brings to the remote desktop sharing experience. Your session has a TeamViewer toolbar at the top of the window; using this, you can perform a bunch of tasks, such as initiate a chat conversation, transfer files and switch desktop sharing sides.

One striking feature about TeamViewer is just how easy it is to use, despite being packed with several advanced features. You have to keep in mind that a very large number of users of remote desktop sharing software are people who have little or no clue about how to use computers, so this has to be taken account of in the design of the software. And the TeamViewer team has, in our opinion, done just that.

We’re quite impressed with the features available in the Linux release of TeamViewer. We doubt there’s any other option, commercial or free, that offers nearly half the features that TeamViewer does for Linux. There are a few features that still need to be ported, but we think that given time, the Linux version will be on a par with the Mac and Windows ones. As such, on a feature level we don’t really see anything missing. It would be nice to be able to have a video chat option if we have voice and text options available, and a session record button is something that would be great.

Verdict: 5/5
We’re very impressed with TeamViewer. The features are great, the interface is fine and the lack of cost is great for home users. It’s usefulness for commercial use goes without saying, but home users can easily help their friends and family make the switch to Linux and support them from anywhere in the world.

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