Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

We Like: Screen sharing

Screen Sharing

Every now and then it strikes me how useful controlling a Mac (or PC, if you really want to) from a different device can be. It’s a feature that comes with every Mac—you go into the Sharing section of System Preferences and check the Screen Sharing button to turn it on—and I use it all the time.

At home, I use screen sharing to operate my Mac Mini server, which I rarely ever use directly. It just works in a window from my iMac, or I can drive it from my iPad with an app like Screens or a product like Luna Display. (Disclosure: Luna Display has sponsored my podcasts in the past.) Both products have their advantages. Screens allows you to type with a keyboard and connect from outside your home network; Luna Display requires special hardware but provides a crystal-clear, low-latency connection in your home. I use both. (The new Sidecar feature in Catalina really doesn’t compare, as it’s intended to be used to give your Mac a second screen—while you’re sitting at your Mac.)

As I’ve been reviewing macOS Catalina, I’ve realized that I can use Screen Sharing to quickly compare Catalina to macOS Mojave by opening a Screen Sharing window to my server (running Mojave) from my iMac (booted into Catalina). It’s much easier than switching back and forth or parking a laptop right next to my Mac. Every so often I have to leave my iMac on in my office, uploading something or encoding video, and before bed I’ll connect to it via Screen Sharing and shut it down. Convenient.

And then there’s travel. Having a Mac of my own, on my home network, accessible to me anywhere I go in the world is extremely convenient. (You have to set up your router to allow you to connect properly from outside the network.) I have remote-controlled my Mac mini server from all over the country and the world. I have used it process files that couldn’t be processed properly on my iPad, to access data that’s just on the server, to control smart devices on my local network at home, and a lot more.

If you are an iPad user, yes, Screen Sharing is a way to give you a Mac when you need it. It’s pretty great to be able to open an app on my iPad and have access to a Mac. If you aren’t using screen sharing, you should consider how it might make some aspects of your life easier.

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