How to Use iChat Remote Screen Sharing in Mac OS X Lion

Remote Screen Sharing is available in Mac OS X Lion, but it was introduced in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. And it’s possibly the most useful iChat feature of all time. It lets you control another Mac anywhere in the world, or another Mac user can control your Mac from any location.

So now when Mom calls you and says, “I’m trying to get my mail, but the thing that I click disappeared,” you don’t have to try to decipher her description and explain how to replace the Mail icon in the Dock. Instead, you calmly say to her, “Mom, just open up iChat, and let me show you how to fix that.” Here’s how it works:

  1. She launches iChat on her Mac. You launch iChat on yours.

  2. She clicks your name in her buddy list and chooses Buddies→Share My Screen (or you click her name in your Buddy list and choose Buddies→Share Remote Screen).

  3. A window pops up on Mom’s screen, where she grants you permission to control her screen; when permission is granted, you can see her screen on your Mac and control her Mac with your mouse and keyboard.

    More specifically, after she grants you permission, you see a proxy image of her screen that says Switch to Momofyours2011’s Computer.

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  4. You click anywhere in the little Computer window (Momofyours2011’s Computer), your screen changes, and instead of your stuff, you see Mom’s Desktop.

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    At this juncture, your mouse and keyboard are controlling your mom’s computer, which you see full-screen on your computer.

  5. To go back to your Mac screen, just click the Switch to My Computer window at top left. The remote computer screen disappears, and yours comes back.

Before you get too excited about having all that control, note these few conditions:

  • You and the other user must both be running Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, or Mac OS X 10.7 Lion.

  • You and the other user must both have iChat accounts (on MobileMe, AIM, Jabber, or Google Talk).

  • You and the other user both need high-speed Internet access.

You can combine this feature with the iChat file-sharing feature to collaborate with others on documents or projects.

When you share your screen, the person you share it with has the same degree of access to your files that you have. It follows that you should share your screen only with people you deeply trust. Furthermore, if you have files on your Mac that you would prefer that the other person didn’t see, hide them deep in a subfolder somewhere or delete them before you begin your screen-sharing session.

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