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In the world of computers, a desktop refers to the background screen on a computer. It is also used to refer to the entire array of whatever is visible on the monitor. Normally, a user’s desktop can only be seen by someone who is within visual range of the computer’s monitor. Through a mechanism called remote desktop sharing, however, the view of the user’s desktop — that is, the same view that is seen by looking at the monitor at any given moment — can be shared in real time with another user who is out of range for being able to view the monitor.
Remote desktop sharing may be an operating system preference that can be enabled. It is most straightforward to activate among users who are sharing the same network. There are also both free and for purchase software applications for webinar software, which often includes a cross-platform desktop sharing tool as part of its online meeting features, along with videochats, slide presentations, audio chats, etc. This allows material to be shared in a secure way.
Remote desktop sharing can be used for educational purposes, as well as for secure sharing of very delicate information. For example, using remote desktop sharing, an instructor in an online course could demonstrate how to perform a particular action in a software program. A software developer could demonstrate functionality to a client, without releasing beta version software. A technical support person could gain a better understanding of an issue a customer was having by actually seeing the problem in action, without having to reproduce it on his or her machine.
Screen capture software provides an alternative, but asynchronous, way to share one’s desktop. Screen capture software takes a movie of one’s desktop, with or without voiceover narration. This movie can then be emailed or uploaded to share with others.
When using remote desktop sharing, it is a good idea to think in advance about what may be exposed. Items stored on the desktop or a finder window showing a list of documents could reveal quite a lot in the document titles. A dock showing much used programs could out a beta tester. Any messages that could pop up, such as when an instant message program is on, could also bring personal matters into a work meeting. Therefore, cleaning up one’s desktop before sharing is generally a sound practice.