Is there a free/open source alternative to teamviewer that will allow me to help a friend running Ubuntu 14.04 with the default unity desktop?

Some years ago Ubuntu had a way to share screen/mouse built in (I think it was called "share desktop") but I can't find it in 14.04.


  1. I want a shared desktop session not a separate one. I'm already able to VNC to a separate session but I need to see and click what my friend sees.
  2. I don't want to change my friends Unity desktop. He has trouble adapting to such changes.
  • I use Team Viewer with Unity, and i am perfectly able to control it even with my android phone, i don't see where the problem is. – Dzero Mar 30 '15 at 8:27
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    A few (very personal maybe) reasons: I prefer open source S/W whenever possible. I don't like that teamviewer is running in the background even when I don't need it (which is 99% of the time). I don't like that the company behind teamviewer can decide it's not free for personal use at any time. I didn't like it that last year it was warning me that "commercial use is suspected" when it was not commercial at all (although it never stoped working to be honest). I don't like that it pops up a "Thank you" window that wants me to click it after every session. – ndemou Mar 30 '15 at 8:40
  • @karel I think that question is very generic and very old (a lot has changed from 10.10 to 14.04). Anyway the accepted answer is about the client side of the desktop sharing part (remmina) were I care mostly about the server side. – ndemou Mar 30 '15 at 8:48

If you're able to log in to your friend's machine over ssh, you can create a shared VNC session.

First, when you're ssh-ing, forward the VNC port too:

ssh -L 5900:localhost:5900 username@your-friends-machine

Then, on your friend's machine (ie, in the ssh session) run x11vnc to serve a shared-desktop VNC session:

x11vnc -safer -localhost -nopw -once -display :0

Then, on your local machine, connect to this VNC session over the forwarded port:

vncviewer -encodings 'tight copyrect' localhost:5900

[the -encodings 'tight copyrect' argument isn't strictly required, but it prevents vncviewer from disabling compression, which it will do when connecting to localhost]

  • Thanks Jeremy! It failed when I tried to connect using remmina but worked with xtightvncviewer :-) – ndemou Mar 30 '15 at 9:05
  • What happen if my friend network only allow 443 port? (ScreenConnect has it for 443) – user25165 Aug 10 '16 at 8:43
  • @YumYumYum: if the network only allows port 443, then you won't be able to ssh to the machine. One workaround may be to reconfigure your friend's ssh server to use port 443 instead, and the you would add -p 443 to that ssh command-line. Since the VNC session runs over the ssh connection, only that one port (for ssh) is needed. – Jeremy Kerr Aug 12 '16 at 3:30

Gnome Empathy (installed by default until 16.04 and available to install in 16.10*) has a "Share My Desktop" feature.

I have only tested with a Jabber account but it works. I used accounts at movim.eu.

See the official gnome help for instructions on how to use this feature


*: On 16.10 use the software centre or sudo apt-get install empathy

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