I remember the name of a play (or musical) from when I was in high school.

Your arms too short to box with God

I remember it exactly that way, missing apostrophe and everything.  And it’s true – if you get into a fight with God, the one who created everything, be prepared to lose, regardless of the style of fighting.

And that same sense of being overwhelmed, of insufficiency, might be what prompted Microsoft to create today’s cool tool.  SharedView (what is this – did everybody run out of spaces all of a sudden?) is a neat tool to reach out and share a screen with someone, whether they are in the next room or across the continent.

Just like most of the tools I recommend, you have to download it, install it, and run it, which is pretty simple.  The problem of incompatible DLLs, strange settings for IRQs, or weird stuff in your config.sys – those are all pretty much history.  And that’s a good thing.

This program, though, does have a couple extra requirements.  First, you have to have an internet connection.  Even if you are going one desk over, and can touch the person you’re going to be sharing a desktop with, you still need to have an internet connection.  It’s a Microsoft thing.  I personally think that they are taking the Google approach – give something away for free, but collect all the data you can while using it.  I could be wrong, and that doesn’t bother me.

The second thing that you need to run this program – a requirement, not a recommendation – is an email address from Hotmail.  Yes, they are free.  No, I don’t know why MS is doing this.  If it makes you feel better, you can attribute it to the same psychosis as the people who think Russia is controlling our weather.  Stuff that makes you say “Oh, that’s interesting” and keep moving along.  I don’t use my Hotmail address for anything else – I have never checked my email there.  I could be the millionth customer and have a fabulous prize package waiting for me.  I’ll never know.  Oh, well.

So you have downloaded and installed the program, you have your internet connection, and you have your Hotmail ID.  You still need another person – that’s inherent in the practice of sharing.  I have shared with people at work, with my parents, and with people I’m supporting.  Finding another person is on you – no people downloads here.

What you will have to do in order to share is simple: run the program.  Sign in with your shiny new Hotmail address.  You’ll see something like this:

and then you start a session.  It does the work for you, generating the links and even providing a one-click way to copy the whole set of instructions:

Now you copy and paste those instructions into an email that you send to the person, or even into an IM chat.  On their end, they click on a link, give their shiny new Hotmail ID, and the two of you are connected.  Not sharing, but connected.

Next up, one of you shares.  If you’re teaching somebody something, you’ll probably share.  If you’re helping them with a problem, they’ll probably share.

(this is from a Microsoft page)

You can decide what you want to share, and you can see who is running the mouse if they take control.  Their initials show up as part of the mouse icon – a neat twist, unless you’re sharing with the George Foreman family.

This all works best if you are talking voice to the person on the other end of the shared screen – you can describe what it is that you’re doing.

The only down-side to all this is that there’s a limit of 15 people who can share at one time.  This is not a big problem normally, unless you’re trying to teach a class for twenty students.  The obvious solution is to split the class.  But now I’m solving problems that don’t exist yet.

SharedView: another product that Microsoft got right.