Screens 4.0, which was released today, is a complete rewrite of the screen sharing app from the ground up that adds features previously available only in the iOS version as well as some exclusive macOS-only features. What’s made Screens my favorite way to connect to a remote Mac is that it has managed to abstract away the complexity that accompanies many VNC apps. That hasn’t changed with Screens 4.0, which is even easier to use and more versatile than before.
Posts tagged with "VNC"
Screens for iOS is a great example of an iOS app that has been at the top of its category for years and stayed there by not standing still. Longtime readers of MacStories will know that Screens has been a favorite from the earliest days of the site when Federico declared that:
Screens by Edovia has become the best VNC app I’ve ever run on my iPhone and iPad.
That’s as true today as it was in 2010, but with today’s release of Screens 4, connecting remotely to Macs, Windows PCs, and Linux PCs from an iOS device has never been more convenient and fast.
Since 2010, I’ve been using Edovia’s Screens for all my VNC needs: an elegant client with a polished interface and just the right amount of options, I’ve always been a fan of Edovia’s focus on elegance and simplicity combined with touch controls.
The iOS app has changed quite a bit over the years: notably, with iOS 7 Edovia took the opportunity to completely redesign Screens with a cleaner UI and updated gestures, adding on-disconnect actions, hot corners, and trackpad mode with subsequent updates that continued to strike a good balance between feature additions and intuitiveness. I don’t need to access dozens of Macs remotely every day – I only log into my local MacBook Air (when I’m in bed or in another room) and my remote Mac mini – but I know that Screens for iOS has everything I need.
Screens 3 is Edovia’s latest update to their Mac client, originally released in 2011. A free update for existing Screens 2 customers, Screens 3 is available both on Edovia’s website and the Mac App Store at $34.99, but only the Mac App Store version can offer iCloud sync across devices; because of this limitation, I recommend buying Screens from the Mac App Store.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Edovia’s take on VNC, Screens. Originally released in late 2010 for the iPad, Screens was also ported to the iPhone and later the Mac, allowing iOS and OS X users to connect to remote machines using standard VNC protocols (Lion logins are also supported by Screens), as well as Edovia’s own ScreensConnect utility to assign a unique hostname to computers behind networks that allow for outside access. To get an overview of Screens, you can take a look at some of your previous coverage.
Today Edovia is releasing a series of major updates to Screens for iOS and Mac, as well as ScreensConnect, which is now available at screensconnect.com to create a unique Screens ID for your Mac or Windows machine. I have been able to test the new Screens suite prior to its App Store release, and it’s still my favorite utility to quickly access my remote Mac mini, iMac, or MacBooks (Air and Pro) on my local office network. With its touch-driven UI, ease of use, and wide availability across devices (Mac, iPhone, and iPad for the Screens client; Windows and OS X for the desktop ScreensConnect utility), Screens is one of the most accessible VNC apps available on the App Store.
Since its release, I’ve always liked two things about Screens: touch controls and zero configuration. Once you download Screens, you’ll be able to search for computers that are advertising their screen sharing capabilities on a local network (on a Mac, make sure Screen Sharing is active under System Preferences -> Sharing), or add a machine that’s been configured to be reached using ScreensConnect. In the “Nearby & remote computers” window (a popover on the Mac), you’ll see computers from your local network, as well as those with an antenna icon next to them, indicating that they accept remote connections through ScreensConnect. The beauty of ScreensConnect, which is a free utility, is that it should make your computer accessible from outside your local network with literally no configuration, as the software takes care of (most) router settings and establishes a secure connection between a remote computer and Screens. As explained from the app’s Help section:
We could bore you with technical mumbo-jumbo but in a nutshell, Screens Connect monitors network changes, configures your router and sends this information on our server through a SSL encrypted connection so that Screens knows were your computer is and connect to it.
A note on ScreensConnect: whilst most modern routers support UPnP and NAT-PMP (required by Screens’ remote connection), some do not, so make sure you have a compatible model before considering Edovia’s Screens for its ScreensConnect functionality alone. I, for one, got ScreensConnect working just fine with my Fastweb connection in Italy (through Apple’s AirPort Extreme), as well as Telecom’s Alice (through an AirPort Express). Performance, as usual, depends on your Internet connection, so don’t expect ScreensConnect to magically improve speeds – there’s only so much smart connection scaling (from millions of colors to hundreds) can do.
Screens 2.0 comes with a new UI. Gone is the wooden texture of the previous versions, leaving room for a darker, more elegant background that will surely make your computer’s desktops pop. Whilst the change in visual presentation is welcome, much more functional is iCloud integration in version 2.0, which now allows you to keep your stored screens in sync across devices – and it’s just not “sync”, I was able to create a new screen on the Mac app, wait a few seconds, and see it coming up automatically on the iPhone and iPad, which were running Screens 2.0. Support for iCloud is fairly impressive and a godsend, because, honestly, adding the same screens over and over on multiple devices wasn’t really a great experience.
Alongside bug fixes, improved security and performances, and better support for wake-on-lan, Screens 2.0 comes with some additional new features. When controlling a computer, for example, Screens now displays a unified bottom toolbar that collects a series of shortcuts – including two types of keyboards, and an action button to grab a screenshot of the remote desktop (a new feature), disconnect, and open the Settings. On the iPad, this toolbar can be configured to become a swipe gesture area whilst in landscape mode, allowing you to associate a variety of commands to left or right swipes. The same app/Mac/window shortcuts can be configured with three and four finger gestures to perform directly on screen, and the selection here is very rich – for instance, you’ll be able to set up shortcuts to send the contents of your clipboard, or launch Mission Control.
Also new in Screens 2.0: you can reorganize screens in grid mode on the iPad, you can send the remote screen to an Apple TV using AirPlay Mirroring, and SSH Keys are now supported for SSH Tunneling. On the Mac, you won’t obviously get the iOS version’s custom keyboards and gesture support, but Screens 2.0 will support iCloud and auto-resume for ongoing connections.
With a new UI, better handling of remote connections, gestures, iCloud support, and a very intuitive touch-based VNC control system, Screens 2.0 is a fantastic update. ScreensConnect works as advertised, the iPad app benefits from the screen real-estate, and, overall, the app is very easy to use and configure. Screens, however, doesn’t come cheap, as the iOS app (universal) and Mac app will set you back $50 when combined. If you’re willing to pay for quality software and believe Screens’ feature set is right for you (make sure your router can work with ScreensConnect!), I’d personally recommend starting with Screens 2.0 for iOS today.
Screen Sharing is a feature built into Mac OS X for remotely controlling another computer through the use of virtual network computing (VNC). Apple’s native screen sharing client is buried in the operating system making it nearly impossible to find the app when you actually need it. On top of that, it really lacks basic features like being able to store a connection for future use. Due to these shortcomings, most people turn to third party applications for managing their VNC connections. A quick search in the Mac App Store will turn up some pretty great options including Edovia’s Screens. Although apps like these work extremely well, not everyone wants to spend that much to easily connect to a remote computer. This is why I created the Screen Sharing for Alfred extension. I wanted Alfred to be able to function as my VNC client and really extend the functionality of the Apple’s native Screen Sharing app.
Screen Sharing for Alfred adds the ability to store information about VNC connections and quickly access them with a simple keyboard command. It is written in a beautiful fusion of shell scripting and AppleScript so it is fast, efficient, and capable of interacting with the user through AppleScript’s GUI prompts. It also incorporates David Ferguson’s genius Extension Updater system in case any new features are added in the future. For those unfamiliar with Updater, it is an extension for Alfred that allows developers to make bug fixes and add new features to released extensions – then when users run Updater, it will download the latest version of any extensions that have updates available.
In the past months LogMeIn, makers of the Ignition app for iOS, have released a series of updates to enhance Lion compatibility on the desktop and improve the file sharing capabilities of the iOS client, which, as we detailed in our various reviews, is a great way to remotely access computers (Macs and PCs) over the air. LogMeIn Ignition isn’t the cheapest app on the App Store, but its rich set of features and support from LogMeIn (a company that, among other things, also produces a free VPN tool for OS X) make it a worthwhile purchase for those looking for a complete solution to control a computer’s screen and access to its files.
The latest version of Ignition, released today, adds a single, yet important feature called Cloud Bank that brings direct integration with Dropbox, Google Docs and any WebDAV server to the iOS app. LogMeIn Ignition was already capable of moving files between computers and iOS’ local document manager with an intuitive drag & drop menu and copy/move functionalities; nowadays, however, users are more likely to keep their documents in the cloud, rather than physically stored on a computer’s drive, and LogMeIn’s move towards integration with cloud-connected services is certainly welcome as a way to get files from the cloud and onto a computer remotely.
My Cloud Bank allows LogMeIn Ignition users the ability to take full advantage of being remote by connecting them to their files no matter where they are. We’ve extended the functionality of our File Manager feature and given users the benefit of using cloud storage services in conjunction with remote access and local file storage on their devices.
Think of Ignition as a bridge between the cloud and a remote computer. With Cloud Bank, Dropbox and Google Docs are easily accessible through Ignition’s usual interface, with the same copy menu from computer-based remote connections. You’ll be able to move files between Dropbox and a computer you’re remotely connected to, or get a spreadsheet from your Google Docs account into a computer without, say, giving the person that’s using the remote machine access to your Google credentials. With WebDAV support, users will be able to configure services like DropDAV, which turns Dropbox into a WebDAV server and works out of the box with apps like Pages and Keynote.
I look forward to seeing whether LogMeIn will ever consider adding support for iCloud files, as that seems the most logical step to seamlessly fetch an iOS user’s cloud documents. In my tests, Cloud Bank has been extremely reliable in dealing with large Dropbox transfers from the cloud to a computer I was remotely connected to via 3G.
LogMeIn Ignition is available at $29.99 on the App Store.
iTeleport, a popular VNC client for iOS that allows users to remotely connect to Windows PCs and Macs, has added a new feature in its latest update that lets iPhone 4S users launch applications just by using their voice. iTeleport, which I reviewed here, has always been a fine app to connect via VNC to OS X and Windows, and recently the app added full Lion support with authentication through the OS’ username and password. Unlike Screens by Edovia, another great VNC app for iOS and Mac, iTeleport doesn’t use its own online service to make computers available over the air, relying on Google logins instead (via Google Talk protocol).
With version 5.2, iPhone 4S owners will be able to open Mac apps by saying “Launch” followed by an app’s name. Once connected to a Mac, the keyboard icon in the upper toolbar of iTeleport will display the standard iOS system keyboard with a compose box on top of it. And because the iPhone 4S comes with Siri and dictation, the keyboard will also have the dedicated microphone icon next to the spacebar. What happens with iTeleport is that if you say “Launch iTunes” through Siri’s dictation, the app won’t transcribe your command in the text box – it will directly launch the app as you can see in the screenshot above. The developers have apparently figured out a way to parse dictated commands directly inside the app to let it recognize installed applications, and launch them in seconds. In my tests, voice recognition in iTeleport has been as good as you’d expect from regular Siri, and app names such as Evernote, Google Chrome, iTunes and Sparrow were recognized instantly.
iTeleport was already a solid VNC app and this new feature will allow iPhone 4S users to save a few seconds when using a Mac remotely. iTeleport for iPhone and iPad can be downloaded on the App Store, and you’ll need the iTeleport Connect app to make your Mac available over the air.
I’m a big fan of Edovia’s Screen VNC client for the iPhone and iPad. Whilst I still use LogMeIn when I need to access my computer’s filesystem remotely and I enjoy the service’s social features and network-recognition capabilities (when combined with Hamachi), my basic VNC needs can be easily satisfied with Screens, which provides a very intuitive interface to set up new computers, connect to them, and use them. I don’t recall a single time I haven’t used Screens at least once a day in the past few months to quickly connect to my iMac while I’m on the couch, and fire up some Spotify through the room. For quick connections, Screens is a great app – it even works on 3G and remote Wi-Fi networks thanks to a companion desktop app that will make your Mac available outside your local network.
In my overview of the improved Screen Sharing app in OS X Lion, I detailed how Apple enhanced the system utility with new clipboard features, per-user login, and possibility of grabbing a screenshot of the connected machine. With Screens for Mac, released last week, Edovia offers an alternative to Apple’s default Screen Sharing app that doesn’t have new breakthrough functionalities, but dramatically improves the organization of your remote desktops, and gives you more control over what you’re connecting to.
Screens, Edovia’s VNC client for the iPhone and iPad we’ve reviewed a couple of times on MacStories in the past, has been just updated to version 1.6 which, alongside a series of speed and performance improvements, brings full compatibility for machines running OS X Lion. With Mac OS X 10.7, Apple has changed a few things with VNC and remote user authentication, enabling features like Apple ID support and possibility of logging into a separate account while a machine is active on a different one.
The new Screens 1.6 allows you to log into a computer running Lion avoiding the additional login prompt you’d get when logging in with a VNC password (if you’ve tried VNC apps that haven’t been updated for Lion, you should be familiar with the login prompt). Screens, in fact, has a new OS authentication method that, by logging into a machine with your OS account name and password, skips the VNC prompt altogether and directly takes you to your desktop, with whatever is on screen, just like with previous versions of the app on Snow Leopard. Current Screens users willing to connect to a Lion computer should switch to the new setting for an optimal experience (that is, unless you want an additional login dialog). Bug fixes aside, Screens 1.6 brings keyboard support for more languages, and Windows VNC servers.
You can download Screens at $19.99 on the App Store.