VNC/Remote Control client apps review

Here is a brief overview of the four VNC/remote control clients that I found useful.

First up is Chicken of the VNC.

It’s a dead simple app with no bells and whistles.

It’s a free program and it does the job quite well. There are no annoying ads or purchase reminders or time limits. It has decent options or profile presets. Connects to both Mac and Windows VNC servers. Should work with Linux servers as well, although I haven’t tried. You can select colours displayed (useful for slower connections), encryption types (although I didn’t find this especially useful), key modifiers (for alt, ctrl, shift, windows key) and middle click emulation. Chicken of the VNC also has full screen mode (with scroll bars if needed) and a simple list of servers. You can select exclusive mode (do not allow anyone else to connect) or view only mode. The viewer window has no options, simply the screen of the other computer. Clipboard transfer is also supported, however it only works from server to client, and it doesn’t work for non-unicode characters. All the options can be saved as profiles and applied to connections individually, so you don’t have to go back and reset them for every different server. Finally, it lets you save the password.

There are some other things it’s obviously lacking.

For one thing, it hasn’t been updated in a few years and it doesn’t look like there will be any more work done on it. Secondly, there is no “zoom” option – the screen is always displayed at 100% view, so if you’re looking at a huge screen you’ll have long scroll bars. Finally, there’s no encryption, no file transfer, no advanced commands, and most of all, it’s sluggish. If the computer you’re controlling has lots of images displayed, it will be painfully slow even over the local network. Once you’re viewing a computer you can’t switch between view only and control mode or change number of colours displayed. NOTE – if you’re using native mac remote control and VNC option is not enabled – Chicken will NOT work!

You can download Chicken of the VNC here.

Next one is VNC Viewer by RealVNC.

It is also a free program, also connects to Mac and Windows servers. It’s quite a bit faster than Chicken, and supports file transfer (but only if both client and server are RealVNC apps). It has quite a bit of options, more colour settings than Chicken and supports encryption. You can also adjust all the options on the fly. Zoom feature is quite useful if you want to make the connection window small yet still see the entire screen you’re controlling.

As you can see here it has quite a bit of options while viewing a remote computer:

Some shortcomings include obvious lack of server list (although it does keep a history of servers you have connected to). Like Chicken, it doesn’t work with native Mac server (only if you have VNC option enabled). Also if you want to switch between english and let’s say russian keyboard layouts – typing will work only in english.

You can download VNC Viewer here.

Jolly’s Fast VNC is also a decent, but semi-free application.

You can download the full version and use it for free, however every few days it will pop up an annoying reminder asking to renew your temporary license or buy it. This also means that if at some point the author decides to cut off the free licenses, you’ll have to either pay the ridiculous $40 that he’s asking or use another program.

As you can see it has a somewhat decent server list, options can be specified for each connection individually. One big bonus this app has over the previous two is that it can connect to native Mac servers (using username and password). It also supports connection encryption. Another very neat feature is a zoom “lens” – basically it shows the area near the mouse cursor at 100% view and everything around is shrunk to fit into the viewer window.

Some things are still finicky – clipboard transfer works sporadically, especially in View Only mode. There’s no file transfer and ability to type in different keyboard layouts is sketchy at best. Finally, once you’re connected to a server, the settings cannot be changed. If you want to switch between view only and control mode you need to disconnect and re-connect again. Colour Depth is one of the options, however I have not found it useful one bit, the connection speed is about the same. Although it’s decent on local network, it can become unusable over the internet.

Check it out here.

Finally, and probably the best program I’ve seen so far is Apple Remote Desktop.

Although it comes with a hefty $300 tag, if you’re a network administrator, it’s invaluable. It has everything you can expect – remote control with ability to view only, curtain control (blanks the server screen while you’re controlling it). File transfer, remote program installation, remote application start, user log off, shut down, restart, unix console, advanced reporting, scheduled tasks, clipboard transfer, zoom feature. Basically if you can think of it, this program probably has it. And any options can be selected in real time while viewing, as well as set per each server individually.

You can check out more info on this one here.

Bottom line – if you have one computer you usually need to connect to and you want a simple light program, your best bet is VNC Viewer. If you have several on a local network that you usually manage, Chicken will do the job. But if you don’t mind annoying BUY ME reminders every few days or have $40 laying around then Jollys VNC is the one for you. But if you’re in a business environment, ADR is a must have application.

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