capsule review

Mikogo

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Mikogo

    PCWorld Rating

    This completely free desktop sharing solution gives TeamViewer a run for its money.

If you're reading this, you may well be the go-to "tech guru" for your friends and family. Think back to the last time you tried to help someone with a computer problem over the phone without seeing their screen; was it fun? I didn't think so. Mikogo is a powerful presentation and remote-control solution you could use in those cases.

One of Mikogo's key advantages is that it is free. Free as in beer, and not just for non-commercial use. The better-known remote-control program TeamViewer is free for personal use, but it employs a propriety algorithm to detect commercial use, and if it feels your usage pattern isn't "personal" enough, it may just shut down on you. That's something Mikogo would never do.

To test Mikogo, I used a long-distance link. Performance was reasonable, given the fact the remote computer was a lightweight netbook over a WiFi link. I started by sharing my own desktop, and my fellow tester was able to see everything I was doing clearly and with a low lag. He could zoom in and see my 24" monitor clearly using the netbook's tiny 11" screen. He also had a large red pointer to show things around the screen. With a few clicks, we switched things around, and suddenly I was viewing his desktop and pointing things out.

Mikogo is designed primarily for presentations, and so has a slightly different feature set than TeamViewer or GoToMyPC, another well-known remote control product. For example, you cannot set up unattended access and have your computer just wait for a connection. Mikogo requires someone to be present on both sides of the link to establish a session. On the plus side, you can draw things on the screen using the "whiteboard" feature, and even let other users draw on your screen.

It is easy to start hosting a Mikogo session: You simply need to get the client and run it (no installation required). Once in the app, click the "Start Session" button, and you'll get a simple nine-digit session code. Give this code to the other party (or parties) you wish to host, and they'll be able to instantly connect to your computer and see what you're doing.

When giving a presentation, you may not wish to share your LOLcat wallpaper or other personal documents that may be open in the background. Mikogo's interface lets you select exactly what applications you wish to share over the link; any windows you did not select will simply be invisible – you can work with them locally, but the other party will see nothing. This is a very powerful feature, and a boon for presenters. Unfortunately, Mikogo's own window is hidden by default, so you cannot see the presenter's Mikogo interface. This makes remote support difficult: It's not easy to explain to a novice user how to make Mikogo's interface visible, so having them set any session-related options is made needlessly tricky.

One area where TeamViewer surpasses Mikogo is file transfer: Mikogo lets you send files to the other side, but does not offer an easy way to specify where you want to put them. TeamViewer lets you set an explicit location and just "plant" the files exactly where you want them on the other computer--a very useful feature.

At the end of the day, Mikogo does work, and works well. It may not have all the perks and extras TeamViewer or GoToMyPC offer, but it's free, and its basic functionality is robust and impressive. It is one of the best free screen-sharing tools available today.

--Erez Zukerman

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This completely free desktop sharing solution gives TeamViewer a run for its money.

    Pros

    • Free; High-quality link

    Cons

    • Confusing enrollment process
Related:
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.