Join.Me Review: Free & Easy Screen Sharing from PCs to iPads

by Daniel Dern Reads (10,113)

Do you think that you (or your company) might want to do screen-sharing some day from a Windows PC or Mac to iPads and/or other devices? If so, LogMeIn, Inc. now offers a solution — available in both free and paid versions — which is very easy to and use and quite functional, if not without a few small drawbacks. As we’ll examine in this review, Join.Me “sharers” can create “share” sessions that let other people see what’s happening on their displays. “Joiners” can then access the sessions to watch.

Join.MeCompeting against offerings like GoToMeeting, WebEx and VNC, Join.Me is just one of a number of available cloud-enabled screen-sharing services. These services can come in handy for Web conferences, online meetings, and — depending on the specific features of the service — collaborative activities such as document and design reviews.

Using Windows PCs and Macs, Join.Me sharers can share their screens with other Windows and Mac OS X users, as well as with users of iOS and Android OS mobile devices.

A joiner can access a screen-sharing session using either a Web browser that supports Adobe Flash or Join.Me’s iOS or Android OS app. (Just in case you’ve lost track, Apple’s iOS doesn’t support Flash.) Both mobile apps are free.

As for the Join.Me screen-sharing service itself, it’s available in both Basic (free) and Pro ($149/per user/per year) editions. Features of Join.Me Basic include a pop-up attendee list; audio connections through VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol); “click-to-chat,” for exchanging files with other users; and the ability to share a session with up to 250 other participants.

The Pro version adds unified audio; dial-in via an international phone number; and the ability to schedule meetings, lock meetings, personalize the Join.Me URL and screen background; add users to the account; and swap presenters.

You’ll need a Join.Me account to create a session to share, although not to be a “joiner.” Multiple users can share a Pro account, handing off control among themselves. However, for multiple people to each be able to start their own meeting, each of the presenters will need a separate Pro account.

LogMeIn’s free iOS app for Join.Me is compatible with iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. Requiring iOS 3.2 or newer, it works with both cellular and W-iFi Internet access.

Join.Me

Easy To Use

To use Join.Me on your iPad, you’ll have to install the iOS app first. You’ll also require both Internet connectivity and a session to join.

Annoyingly, LogMeIn doesn’t offer sample sessions on its Web site for taking the iOS app out for a spin. Accordingly, for the purposes of this review, I created a free Basic account on the Web site and used my Windows Vista notebook to create Join.Me sessions. I then joined the sessions from both my iPad and Windows XP desktop, connecting the machines to the Internet through my office WiFi.

I discovered that creating a joinable session from a PC is quite easy. You simply start the Join.Me application and tap the large orange “Share” button. This generates either a nine-digit number or a personal meeting code — the choice is yours — which you provide to other people.

Join.Me

You might share the number or code via text message, email, a web announcement, hard copy, or simply saying it over the phone.

From my iPad, I then started up the Join.Me app, entered the ID code for a Join.Me meeting I’d just begun on my Windows Vista notebook, and then tapped the green button. As promised, I was then connected to the screen-sharing session.

Join.Me rather promptly displayed the ThinkPad’s entire desktop on the iPad, except for the notebook’s Join.Me floating toolbar, which was only visible on the ThinkPad’s screen.

With the ThinkPad and iPad placed side-by-side, I was able to watch whatever I did on my Windows notebook from my iPad, including Web browsing, YouTube videos, and playing a DVD.

Interestingly, quite often, the image quality on the iPad often turned out better than what I saw directly on the notebook. The difference was particularly noticeable for photos, videos and other graphics.

Join.Me

By clicking on the Phone buttons on the Join.Me toolbar on each machine, I added an audio connection. I was able to establish a VoIP audio session for watching a YouTube video. However, I did not receive the audio on the iPad when I played a DVD on the notebook.

In the iOS app, Join.Me has a small menu taskbar, made visible by swiping at the bottom of the screen, with icons for Audio, Presenters List, Chat, and Disconnect.

I found that you can use Join.Me on the iPad in portrait or landscape mode, and that you can pinch-zoom the image.

I also conducted a few quick “chat” messages to and from the other machines using Join.Me’s Chat feature.

Not Entirely Perfect

Even though my notebook and iPad were right next to each other, however, the signal needed to travel from the PC, up the Internet to LogMeIn’s servers, and then back down again. The delay between the primary machine and the iPad was slight but still noticeable — typically, about a second for the video and somewhat less for web browsing, cursor movements, text entry and other activities.

Join.Me

Also, video images on the iPad sometimes showed brief “artifacts” (garble, like you sometimes see over a cable TV connection if there’s a loose wire, bad weather, etc.). So Join.Me might not be the best approach to sharing prolonged video.

I noticed a few other flaws, too. When I had a VoIP audio connection going for Join.Me with other activities happening in the foreground, Join.Me put a bright-red reminder bar across the top of the display right next to the power icon, saying “join.me (Recording).” Yet Join.Me was not recording. It doesn’t even offer that feature, currently. Instead the reminder bar indicated the audio activity, albeit poorly.

Also, although the Pro version lets you “lock out” unwanted users, there’s no way in Join.Me Basic to prevent people from joining. On the other hand, the odds of an unwanted person “crashing” a meeting seem kind of low, considering that people need to know the meeting ID number in order to join.

Conclusion

Although there seems to be some room for improvement, Join.Me is a good choice if you’re looking to do screen-sharing from a Windows PC or Mac to iPads, and possibly to other devices.
 
Essentially, the service works well, and it’s very easy to use for presenters and joiners alike. You can’t beat the price of Join.Me Basic. If you want to add more advanced features, such as personalizing the interface or locking out unwanted visitors, you can always invest in Join.Me Pro.


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