Cloud storage platforms like Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, and SpiderOak are fantastic for transferring files between devices, backing up data, and accessing content from anywhere. Some also come with some basic apps for editing files, like word processors, spreadsheet editors, and more. All of those things work great until you come across some of the limitations of using such services. For example, sometimes you need more than just the files on your other computer; you need programs and hardware on that computer as well, and cloud storage isn’t meant to be used for that.
What if you could access your home or office computer from anywhere? What if you could log in remotely and take advantage of all the files, applications, and data you have stored on it? More importantly, what if you could access said computer remotely with any device, even a smartphone or tablet, and use it just as if you were sitting in front of it?
You’d have access to all your files and documents, software applications and tools, and even the power of said computer. It’s no secret that desktops are often more powerful, especially when it comes to using editing and graphic design programs.
We’re going to take a look at five remote desktop apps that will allow you to take your work — or computer — with you, no matter where you go.
Splashtop is a comprehensive remote desktop application that supports a wide variety of devices, including iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Mac. Once the application is set up, you can access your remote machine from nearly any device. You can even use devices to connect cross-platform, like if the remote app is installed on a Mac and you’re tapping in with a PC, or vice versa.
You’ll need a premium account if you want to access your machine from outside a local connection, otherwise whatever devices you’re trying to connect with need to be on the same Wi-Fi network. The connection is protected by 256-bit AES encryption, so everything you do is secure.
The only thing you can’t do with Splashtop personal — which is the consumer version of the service — is transfer files between devices via the open connection. Apparently, that feature is reserved for the commercial version, but you can always use cloud storage services to do that — or a direct connection via your local network.
Most of the apps are free, but you will have to pay a small fee if you’re using the iPhone or iPad versions. If you want to access your remote machine from anywhere via the Internet, you’ll need to subscribe to the Anywhere Access Pack for $16.99 a year.
2. Parallels 2X Client
2X Client is specifically designed to allow you to access a remote Windows PC from a mobile device. It supports the whole gamut, from iOS and Android to Windows Phone and Blackberry.
Like Splashtop, you’ll get full desktop access on the go, and you can run any desktop application. What sets 2X Client apart from the competition is the option to designate gestures to custom actions. This makes navigation and function much simpler on a touchscreen device.
It also supports file sharing, which is a feature you won’t find in a lot of free remote desktop applications.
With TeamViewer, you don’t need to register for an account, and you can access the client without installing any software on your mobile computer — although, obviously you need it running on the remote machine. It works on both Windows and Mac and there are several mobile apps available.
It will tailor the desktop resolution to meet the current connection, and actually changes the native resolution on the remote machine, but you can disable this feature if you want. The app also incorporates gesture and touch-based controls so you can easily navigate a full desktop on a mobile device.
Since TeamViewer is primarily a collaboration tool, there are several sharing features you won’t find elsewhere. In addition to file sharing, you can screenshare presentations and hold online meetings between a team of users. Resourceful users could take advantage of these features on a consumer level too. For example, you can use the online meeting support to remotely help family members or friends.
TeamViewer is free to use for individuals.
4. LogMeIn Pro
LogMeIn Pro is a remote desktop application that is available for both Mac and PC computers. You can log in remotely using any device, including iOS or Android phones and tablets.
It supports file sharing, media streaming and playback, remote printing, application use, and much more. What’s special about LogMeIn is that you can share your remote machine with other users by extending access. With this feature, you can have a small team or multiple folks browsing a single machine at once. Of course, LogMeIn does have different price points for individual and commercial use.
Once you’re up and running, it’s fairly easy to use and everything is handled for you through the service. Just install the related apps on all the devices you’d like to connect with and you’re good to go.
LogMeIn is $99 annually for individual use, and you can install the remote desktop software on up to two computers at a time.
VNC stands for Virtual Network Computing, which is essentially a remote control platform. RealVNC is the official client of VNC, and it’s not technically a traditional remote desktop application. The reason for this is that it’s considered a “live” tool, as it sends keyboard and mouse commands to the remote machine and the display feed back to the connected computer. This also means that RealVNC can do a bit more than regular remote desktop apps.
You can sync clipboard data, transfer files and media, and more.
To get it up and running, you install the client on the remote machine, and a “viewer” on the other devices you’d like to connect with. RealVNC or VNC in general is great because you can use the official client on the remote machine and you can use any number of third-party clients on the other devices. If you’d prefer to use a free mobile app, you can do just that.
A software key is entirely free for personal use.