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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Tip: Screensharing in Messages

My post yesterday on Screens Express got a number of readers wondering why I didn’t mention that an even simpler method of screensharing is built into OS X: Messages.

That’s totally true! And, yes, it is worth mentioning. This feature goes way back to the days when Messages was still iChat. In the past, screensharing was piggybacked on top of the AOL Instant Messenger protocol that iChat primarily worked with, but it’s since been updated to work with Apple’s own iMessage system.

Screensharing in Messages

As long as the other person is logged into an iCloud account in Messages on their Mac, you should be able to share their screen. Just select their contact name in the drop down menu at the top of the Conversations window, or go to the Buddies menu and choose either Invite to Share My Screen or Ask to Share Screen.

Your contact will get a notification to accept the invitation, and then you’ll be connected automatically. As with Screens Express, this ought to avoid any worry about firewalls and port-forwarding, for the most part. Extra bonus: Messages will also establish a voice connection so you can talk to the person as you share their screen.1 (The person whose screen is being shared also has the option to give the other person control of their screen, pause screen sharing, or end it all together.)

The benefits of using Messages are obvious: it’s free, it’s built into every modern copy of OS X, and it’s relatively easy to set up. However, it does require that both people have iMessage accounts—that may seem obvious, but if the person in question doesn’t have an iOS device, that may be less likely—and it’s better suited for folks with whom you do repeated troubleshooting. One reason I opted to go for the Screens Connect approach mentioned in my previous post is that it requires no user intervention at all.

But whichever way you decide to do it, screensharing is an invaluable tool in the troubleshooter’s arsenal, and this just gives you one more option to try when you need it.

  1. Just as a note, however: I tested this feature this morning and had mixed success with it. Using two iMessage accounts on separate machines, I eventually managed to establish screensharing sessions going in both directions, but it took a little bit of work.  ↩

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[Dan Moren is a tech writer, novelist, podcaster, and the Official Dan of Six Colors. You can email him at or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]