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Review: Windows Remote Desktop Client for Mac 2.0 (beta)

August 28, 2007 | In Apple, Microsoft

As many mac users would know (even though we hate to admit it) there are sometimes where we need to run a Windows based application. Most recently for me, this has been the application to submit my tax return to the government. For recent mac purchasers, this problem has been solved with solutions like Boot Camp, Parallels and Fusion, but for old-timers like me who haven’t made the switch to an Intel based mac yet, we still have to have a Windows PC around or go through the painful virtulisation software that is available to run Windows on our PowerPC CPU’s.
However, there’s one other solution that has been great for me, and that is the ability to use my Windows based PC (back in my parents house) remotely through the Remote Desktop Server/Client setup. Thankfully, Microsoft has recently released a beta of the client, which offers quite a few new features over the previous version, and a couple of things that I’d like to see changed.

Universal Binary

This is really a no brainer, but an important step-up from the PowerPC only version that preceeded the new beta.

Built for the Mac

Unlike the previous version (1.6), the 2.0 beta has been intergrated nicely with the Mac OS X user interface and experience. There’s now an option to go Full Screen, and like in DVD player, the menu bar pops out when you place your cursor at the top of the screen to allow you to drop back to the normal size. You can also resize the window and the remote desktop will scale accordingly.
The added functionality of a preference pane, and the inclusion of the default shortcut of Cmd+, is also worth a mention. Within the preferences, they’ve grouped everything under tabs, similar to the previous iteration of the software, but with far more added functionality. The keyboard mapping feature has been updated and makes for a Mac to Windows transition a breeze.
RDC_Preferences
The brand new Preferences pane which adds some great functionality to the RDC client.
RDC_KeyboardMapping
Keyboard Mapping features

A new Connection Window

While a minor change, the new connection window has taken receipt of a new Vista-like graphic. Unfortunately, it looses the ‘Options’ disclosure triange which allowed for a user to quickly change the information about the connection they were about to establish. This selection has been moved to the Preferences pane, but it would have been nice to see it in both locations for better ease of use.
RDC_1.6_Connection
The old Remote Desktop Connection Window
RDC_2.0_Connection
A refreshed RDC 2.0 (beta) screen.

As you can see above, Microsoft has followed Apple’s lead with the UI design by doing away with the brushed metal look and going for the gradient look now found in iTunes and several other Mac applications.

Other Features

Microsoft also claims a host of other features, most of which I haven’t been able to try out but some are worth a mention here.

  • Multiple Sessions
    Lets you connect to multiple Windows-based computers at the same time.
  • Improved Printing Support
  • Remote Desktop Protocol 6.0
    Allows for connections to Windows Vista machines

Stability

Despite being a beta product, I’ve found this version to be very stable. I’ve only had one crash which occourred when I closed the connected session window by clicking on the red button at the top left corner of the window. The scaling works extremely well, and moving from window to full screen view makes for no trouble at all. Microsoft seems to have worked hard on this, all-be-it light weight, application, making sure that stability hasn’t been compromised with the addition of more Mac like features that the end-user will no doubt take advantage of.

If you’ve used the RDC client for Mac in the past, I highly recommend you get the latest beta. It’s a much needed overhaul to a robust application that has served me very well over the past 2 and a half years since I first got my PowerBook. The RDC Client for Mac beta is available from Mactopia at http://www.microsoft.com/mac/.

- james

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