A few years ago, we sat in awe in our office meeting as a screen flickered to life in the conference room.

The features in a new software were being explained, live, by someone sitting in Denmark. We could see the live demonstration of the software. We were also able to stop and ask questions from here. He would go back in his live presentation and explain again.

After the meeting, we enquired how it was done. It was WebEx, we were told by the office techies. Could the software be used in our office? Yes, but it would be expensive, we were told.

WebEx is a screen sharing software, something similar to remote desktop sharing. It helps the person at the other end understand how a software or system works as we sit and operate it in our screen, while the other person watches it from elsewhere.

If WebEx is expensive, what do we do if we have to do something similar? It turns out that WebEx has a free plan where one host can share with three persons, which is quite nice. Anything more would require paid plans. Why do we need something like WebEx? For offices, it is pointless to send engineers or technical persons to far away places just to explain how a software works.

What is more cost-effective is to ask the engineer to explain to others using screen-sharing software remotely through Internet.

Seeing is believing

It doesn’t mean that screen-sharing is useful only for offices. It can be used even by you and me to explain things to our friends and relatives. There are many who may not be conversant with how some software works. Making them see how it is done is better then sending long wordy e-mails or trying to explain things by phone.

Now, if WebEx is expensive, how do we do it? The situation is not the same as it was years ago when the meeting (mentioned above) was held. There are screen-sharing software, many of them free, that can be used to educate and help employees or friends.

One of the most popular software now is ‘Join Me’. The host (who has to share the screen) has to install a small plug-in. Once installed, he gets a unique number, which he has to share with others. Once they get onto the join.me web site, they have to enter the number by clicking ‘Join Session’ or just key in the number after the join.me/ URL. At once, they will be able to have a look at the host’s screen and whatever he does, in real time. If they have an iPhone or Android phone, they can join the session through the Join Me Android app.

This could surprise many: video chat software Skype, too, has a screen share facility. You can share your screen as you chat. As Skype itself says, you can “show friends and family photos without having to send them — even give gran a quick demo of how you use e-mail, so she can start using it too.”

Screen capture software

What if you have problems or not comfortable with live screen-sharing? If so, you can use screen casting software instead. There are several screen casting software such as Camtasia available for download, but what is catching on is online screen casting.

With sites such as Screenr.com, screencast-o-matic.com and screencastle.com, you can record something as you work on your computer and share it online, without even having to save the recording in your computer. Some even offer the option of embedding the screen video in web sites.

The advantage of using online screen capture software is that the user at the other end does not even have to download the video and worry about compatible players. He can click on the URL and start watching the tutorial.

As these videos can also be embedded in sites or shared through social media, you can even help out your friends by sharing the video link through Twitter or Facebook.