I’ve been using Crossloop for the last week, and I give it two thumbs up! As I mentioned in my original post, it’s a remote desktop app for the rest of us. Its strength is its simplicity, the team have obviously spent a lot of time figuring out how to remove the usual clutter of network configuration and the setup dance you normally have to go through to make a remote desktop connection.
This is especially important in the situation I most often want to do remote desktop access, where I’m trying to sort out a computer problem for a less experienced friend or relative. Since my relatives are all 6000 miles away, I can’t be there in person as much as I’d like, so I have to talk them through the problem on the phone. I’d love to be able to see what’s on their screen, but never considered asking them to install a remote desktop application since they’re expensive, tricky to set up, and time-consuming to use. I’d imagine that most computer support lines are also in the same position, they’d love to see what their customers are seeing, but it’s just too difficult to set up.
The first great thing about Crossloop is that it’s free! It’s not only the financial cost that this saves, it also removes any messing around with payment systems or serial numbers, making the download and install process very fast.
To start using Crossloop, you download the application, and run the installer. There’s no options in the install process, which keeps things nice and simple. The only downside is that the app is PC only, hopefully the team will produce a Mac version in the future.
Once it’s downloaded, you launch the app and it shows you a single window with two tabs, one for looking at someone else’s screen, and the other for making your screen viewable by other people. The windows both use large fonts and a minimal layout of buttons and text boxes to make it easy for any level of user to work with.
One key innovation is the use of an ‘access code’ for controlling remote sessions. This is an auto-generated number that you see when you start trying to show other people your screen. The beauty of it is, all the other person needs to do is type that same number into their ‘join session’ window, and Crossloop will locate and connect you to that session. This is a brilliant approach, since it removes the usual hunting around for IP numbers or network locations that other applications require, which is a big hurdle for most users. The metaphor is very much like a phone number, and since it’s long and auto-generated for each session, it’s unlikely that someone malicious can gain access to your screen through it.
When someone joins a session you create, you get asked if you want to allow them, with a simple dialog showing their Windows user and computer names, which gives you another level of security.
I found using Crossloop in general to be head and shoulders above the alternatives for ease of use and speed. There were a few minor things I’d like to see improved though.
One slight down-side is that the Windows firewall sometimes warns about the network communication being done by Crossloop, asking it it should be blocked or allowed. This wasn’t a big problem, but did add an extra step to talking someone through using it.
Going into fullscreen mode, for example with a game, ended the session, which was understandable (capturing DirectX fullscreen mode is difficult), and the session was automatically ended pretty gracefully.
The image compression seemed to produce JPEG artifacts around text. It was still very readable, but it would be nice if there were some way of progressively improving the quality for unchanging pieces of text, as it makes reading text tougher, and got more noticeable in longer sessions.
One clever touch was the addition of a feedback dialog asking you to rate the session after it ended, and offering you the chance to share Crossloop with your friends. Hopefully this will give them some good data to keep improving the product, and spread the word about this great way of working remotely.
Overall, this is a great product that I’ll be using for all my remote trouble-shooting, and I highly recommend it.