Web & communication software

Free Screen-Sharing Tool Helps Businesses Collaborate

A screen-sharing program can help train workers or update clients. They'll see your PC as if looking over your shoulder, even if they're across the office or around the world. But before you splurge on a paid service with unlimited connections, consider free and cheap alternatives. You can save if you only need to share a few times a month, or scale up if you need to buy more functionality.

One sharing service, Yuuguu fulfills my biggest demand for online collaboration; participants don't have to install anything. They just connect through a Flash-enabled web browser on any computer.

As the host, you'll download and install the free tool on a Windows, Mac, or Linux system and sign up for a free account. You'll launch a web conference through Yuuguu, and just give the participants the URL and access code to enter.

Up to 5 people can work in a free session together, and you're limited to 100 minutes of browser-based sharing each month. If each person installs the Yuuguu software, that time limit is waved; you could take this thrifty step within a business, but it's probably too much to ask clients or outsiders to install a program.

Paid subscription options expand these limits, starting at $15/month for a single user. Up to 30 people can join sessions, and you can conference with browser-based participants as long as you want. Yuuguu also sells a $30/month plan for 20 users, and other alternatives.

Yuuguu also provides voice conferencing through Skype on PCs or standard telephones. United States participants can dial in for free--less the cost of any national long distance fees--and international callers are charged on a per-minute basis.

While screen-sharing presentations make Yuuguu most appealing to me, additional features might suit your business. The host computer's keyboard and mouse control can be passed around in screen-sharing sessions, turning the service into more of a live collaboration tool. You can text chat throughout sharing, plus Yuuguu works as a general instant messaging client, connecting to users on AIM, Google Talk, Skype, Yahoo, and MSN Messenger.

Yuuguu's paid screen-sharing options might be compelling enough for your business to buy. But its free core connects to anyone in a web browser without spending anything.

Zack Stern is building a new business from San Francisco, where he frequently contributes to PC World.

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