Those of us who work at home or on the road sometimes need to reach out and touch someone. Collaborating with co-workers is very important, not only in order to get things done effectively, but also to keep in touch with the outside world. Skype is a commonly used tool for interacting remotely with others. It’s free, and it works well for text, audio and video chats. The latest version of Skype for the Mac and Windows has added a brilliant feature that takes collaboration to the next step. I have been using Skype to share desktops remotely with other Skype users, and it has been an outstanding experience.
An effective way to collaborate with co-workers remotely is through desktop sharing. One of the two workers, the host, invites the other to share his or her desktop for collaboration. The remote worker sees exactly what the host is doing on the local computer. This is good for a number of tasks — among them being computer support, design work, and collaborating on documents.
Skype makes sharing a desktop remotely as simple as pushing a button in the call window. In just a few seconds, the host’s desktop pops up in a window on the remote user’s screen. This window is resizable, up to the resolution of the host’s screen. Resizing the window is done with crisp resolution, no matter what size is used.
The shared desktop is updated in real time, which Skype does with almost no lag at all. The remote user can follow the cursor of the host on the screen, and see exactly what he or she is doing at any given moment. This is true collaboration; it is just like looking over the host’s shoulder to see what he or she is doing.
Yesterday, Kevin and I had a 30-minute collaboration session to work on two documents. We needed to jointly contribute to the editing of a Word document and an Excel spreadsheet. Kevin suggested that we go the Skype desktop-sharing route, and it was a great decision. Kevin shared his desktop with me, and we talked about the changes we wanted to make. I could watch the work unfold in real time in the window displaying Kevin’s desktop across the country. We accomplished in 30 minutes what would have taken us hours going back and forth via email. This collaboration made it seem as if we were in the same room working together, which in a way we were.
Today I collaborated with Simon of WebWorkerDaily. We needed to work on something together, and he rang me up via Skype. He shared his MacBook screen with me (pictured above), and we got our work done quickly. The Skype desktop sharing provided me with a remote window that was just as resolute as Simon’s screen, and I was able to follow everything that happened on his computer. We chatted while working on his computer, and it was a great session.
This was true remote collaboration, as I am in Houston and Simon is in the UK. That’s the beauty of Skype’s desktop-sharing method. The sharing, coupled with high quality audio chat, is outstanding for getting things done. I was impressed with the lack of lag in displaying the host’s screen. At times, it was hard to tell I wasn’t looking at my own desktop.
I have tried many different tools for collaborating remotely, and I must say that Skype’s implementation of desktop sharing is the best by far. It has been consistent in quality, and I’ve experienced no issues yet. Throw in the bonus of it being free, and Skype has created a winner.