Mac tip: Quick screen sharing with on-board tools

Screen sharing on the Mac with on-board tools

I've had a Mac for several decades now, and yet a customer - who has little idea about the Mac - was able to show me an extremely practical tip recently. It's about screen sharing for remote access over the Internet - without any TeamViewer or AnyDesk.

Mac Screen Share application

There is a small tool called "Screen Sharing" in a folder that is well hidden from the user. If you want to search for it, you can find it via this path:

Macintosh HD / System / Library / CoreServices / Applications / Screen Sharing.app

But it is much easier to call it up. The first way goes like this: You press the CMD + space bar to bring up Spotlight and then enter "Screen sharing" in the search field. A small text field now appears in which you can enter the Apple ID of the other user whose screen you want to see.

Fortunately, there is no need to know the path to the screen sharing app. Spotlight helps start up with no problem.

Fortunately, there is no need to know the path to the screen sharing app. Spotlight helps start up with no problem.

Where can I find my Apple ID?

If the other user is not sure what the e-mail address of his Apple ID is, the best thing to do is to send him to “System Preferences” and there to the “Apple ID” area. At the top left there is the email address directly under his name.

Screen sharing is hidden in the messages app behind the share button.

The screen sharing is hidden in the messages app behind the info button and the share button, which can be seen in the bar with the blue circles.

Start screen sharing from the Messages app

The second way to start screen sharing is through the Messages app. If you have opened a chat with the other user there, click on the little info symbol in the top right corner (sometimes it says “Details”). Now a view appears with (usually five) blue circles and the option "Share". If you click on this, you can choose between the following options:

  • Invitation to access my screen
  • Ask for screen access.

In the first case you give the other person access to your screen and in the second case you ask if you can see the other person's screen.

If you click on the share button, you get two options to choose from: share your own screen with someone or ask if the other person would like to share their screen with you.

If you click on the share button, you get two options to choose from: share your own screen with someone or ask if the other person would like to share their screen with you.

In any case, a window opens for the other person asking for the appropriate access rights. Once that's done, you can share your screen and help other Mac users or get help over the Internet.

No iPhone and iPad support

As far as I could see, screen sharing only works between Macs and not between iPad or iPhone and Mac. That's a small caveat, but to be honest, I'm glad that I no longer have to resort to third-party software to access another Mac in an emergency.

When someone else sends you an invitation to share your screen, you can accept or decline the invitation.

When someone else sends you an invitation to share your screen, you can accept or decline the invitation.

Is screen sharing active? Recognizable by the icon in the menu bar ...

If you are afraid that someone will secretly look over your shoulder when you are sitting at your Mac, you can relax. Apple has taken precautions here. As soon as someone wants to access their own Mac via screen sharing, you first have to agree in a window that this access is allowed.

When this has happened, you can tell from a pulsing icon in the menu bar (looks like the program icon from the screen sharing app) that a connection is open here. If this cannot be seen, there is no screen sharing.

You can also find the screen sharing via this icon by clicking on it and then choosing the option to stop sharing.

If you close the screen share on the Mac, the connected user receives this message.

If you close the screen share on the Mac, the connected user receives this message.

Did you already know this way of screen sharing between Macs? Or is he new to you too? I'm sure it has been around for a few macOS versions. It was new to me, but I will probably use it more often in the future.

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2 comments

  1. Beatrix Willius says:

    The problem with screen sharing is that sometimes it just doesn't work. Without an error message. I've never seen that with other screen sharing programs. That's why I always use multiple options.

    • Jens Kleinholz says:

      Hello Beatrix! Ok, that hasn't happened to me yet, but I haven't used the Apple solution extensively either. Let's see what happens next. So far I can't report anything bad.

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