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TeamViewer 12 free edition, First Take: Now with mobile-mobile control

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I've used TeamViewer to remotely control other people's PCs for a long time. It's the easiest, fastest and most reliable way to get remote access to the computers of friends and relations who think it's worth asking me to fix their technical problems.

TeamViewer is free for personal use, and it's the free version I'm examining here. Business licenses start at £31.90 a month. Paying users get access to some additional features that are suited to a corporate environment such as a remote devices dashboard that can help with performance management, and quick rollout from a host environment. Broadly, though, the connectivity and remote-control features in the free and paid versions are the same.

TeamViewer 12 retains the simplicity and ease of use that made version 11, which I looked at early in 2016, a winner for me, while adding some compelling new features.

Setup is straightforward -- certainly simple enough to talk a non-techie person through the download and install process. The download link is right at the top of the TeamViewer home page (I wish every software provider made downloading this easy), while installation requires just a couple of clicks.


TeamViewer 12 is easy to install, configure and use, even with a non-techie user at the remote end.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

Once the app is installed and running, the user interface separates the information needed by controller and controllee. Again, this makes it easy for the non-technical person to find the passcodes they need to give to the controller. The person with a computer to be controlled first relays an ID and then a password to the person taking control, who punches these numbers into the control panel. This is dealt with via a quick phone call.


Controls in TeamViewer 12's PC client.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

It takes just a few seconds for a link to be made and for the controller to see the controllee's screen. At this point, it's possible to move a cursor around the screen, click and select items, and, in short, take total control of the computer at the other end of the connection.

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Both parties have control of the remote computer, making it possible to watch as you talk the person at the other end through whatever actions are required.

Not only this, but TeamViewer 12 caters for communication by video link, file sharing and a whiteboarding space. So, the voice call that might have been used to set up the connection can be abandoned. Everything is encrypted, too: TeamViewer 12 uses RSA 2048 public/private key exchange, AES (256-bit) session encryption end to end.

Apps for mobile devices broaden the scope of where and how TeamViewer 12 can be used. While I have to say from experience that it's a little tricky controlling a desktop computer from an Android handset, it can be done, and at times when there is no alternative on offer it's a real boon.

All that's been described thus far implies that a human being is sitting at each end of the connection, but TeamViewer 12 also caters for 'unattended access', where a computer can be accessed at any time provided it's switched on.


Control hints in TeamViewer 12's Android client.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

There has been a lot of work on the back end to make TeamViewer 12 more efficient than its predecessor. Although I've yet to use it in anger to fix a remote computer, in testing it certainly feels faster and more responsive. It claims to allow file transfers up to 20 times faster than before, at speeds up to 200MB/s. More usefully for me, some of the jerkiness seems to have disappeared from remote control sessions, suggesting all-round speed improvements behind the scenes.

New for version 12 of TeamViewer are mobile-to-mobile control and screensharing. This means you can screenshare and take control both from and with Android, iOS and Windows. Indeed, TeamViewer 12 claims to be the first to support remote access to Windows 10 Mobile devices.

This significantly broadens the possibilities for TeamViewer 12. Of course, it also means I can now look forward to troubleshooting handsets and tablets for friends and family as well as PCs. It also means that shared access to ideas through whiteboarding and file sharing are also on the cards. That might prove extremely useful at times.

Mobile-to-mobile connections aside, the embellishments in TeamViewer 12 are more about building on a firm foundation than they are about bringing anything radically new to the mix. That's fine by me. It's easy to over-complicate through constant fiddling, and I'm pleased to see that isn't the case here. TeamViewer 12 is likely to remain my 'go-to' choice of remote-control software.

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