Remote desktop applications

Handling

The options for using the remote desktop applications mentioned in this article are varied and differ in their methodology, protocols used, and the licenses they are subject to. In fact, all the vendors have free variants on offer, although only TightVNC and its derivatives such as TigerVNC and the terminal server X2Go offer completely free software under the GPL.

As a common denominator in the area of functionality, all candidates in the test access remote machines. The VNC variants' field of activity is in the LAN, as well as in SSH-secured access to their own infrastructure from a distance. A variety of functions, as TeamViewer or AnyDesk offer their users, is usually not needed by them. Access to the desktop of the remote machine and data exchange is usually enough.

TeamViewer and AnyDesk are proprietary but offer free versions for personal use. They can be put into operation by less technically experienced users more easily than the VNC variants. Likewise, NoMachine NX is simple to handle thanks to its graphical user guidance, whereas the free variant X2Go does not create any great problems for moderately experienced Linux users.

One alternative, that requires very little effort and is ready for use in a minute, comes in the form of Google's Chrome Remote Desktop [16], which you can install as a browser extension.

The tested applications' user-friendliness varies; all candidates do well in typical usage on questions of the speed and quality of the display. Here, TightVNC is especially suited for slow connections due to its compression method. An easy-to-operate, versatile, and free piece of software comes in the form of X2Go.

If the license does not play a role, the proprietary newcomer AnyDesk is an option. It sets new standards in terms of compression, speed, and display quality with the specially developed DeskRT video codec. Here, there is still a limitation on Linux: If the controlling part uses a Qt-based graphical interface, it occasionally crashes. According to a statement from the developer, a solution is imminent.

The diversified portfolio of remote desktop applications covers many areas of use. Besides functionality, selection of license and commercial costs are among the deciding factors. In private application, experience shows that user-friendliness outweighs license considerations. As usual with Linux, the headache of decision-making falls on the user and depends on their own intended use (Table 1).

Table 1

Comparing Remote Desktop Applications

 

RealVNC

TightVNC

TeamViewer

AnyDesk

NoMachine NX

X2Go

Platforms

Linux, Windows, OS X, Solaris, HP-UX, AIX

Linux, Windows, Android (Viewer)

Linux, Windows, Chrome OS, OS X, Android, iOS, Windows Phone (Viewer)

Windows, Linux, BSD

Windows, OS X, Linux, Solaris, Sharp Zaurus, Sony PlayStation 2, HP Compaq iPaq, Android, iOS

Linux, Maemo, Windows

License

GPL/proprietary

GPL

Closed source

Closed source

Closed source (since version 4.0)

GPL, AGPL

Protocol

VNC

VNC

Proprietary

Proprietary

NX protocol

NX protocol v3.0

Desktop sharing

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Data exchange

Commercial only

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Chat

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

No

Videoconferencing

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

No

Free version

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Encryption

Commercial only

No

Yes

Yes

Yes (SSH tunnel)

Yes

Automatic port forwarding

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

On the market since

2002

2001

2006

2014

2004

2007

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