Only GoToMyPC is easier to set up than LapLink. To connect to another computer, all you do is install the software and give the remote computer a name. LapLink offers a slew of connection options, such as a direct parallel or serial cable or via a Web browser. You also decide which services to allow, such as file transfer or remote control. LapLink's pop-up Quick Step screens lay out the setup process in plain English--a blessing to rookies. (Vets can disable this help by clicking Quick Step in the Help menu.) We connected our first pair of computers for remote control in less than 10 minutes.
LapLink's interface is clear-cut and easy to operate, especially with the addition of the LapLink Shortcut bar at the left side of the window. Much like the Microsoft Outlook Shortcut navigator, LapLink's icons give you instant access to tasks such as file transfer and remote control.
When you control your host computer remotely, a window opens within the LapLink window to display the host's screen. A simple toolbar makes it easy to access commands that let you disconnect from the host, tweak security settings, and so on. And when you select file-transfer mode, you'll see a handy split-screen view, with one pane for each of the computers on the connection. LapLink's file-transfer skills remain the best of any remote control app we reviewed--synchronizing folders and files on the two machines is a breeze. So if you're using remote control mostly to move files between PCs, LapLink is your best bet. It beats the simplistic file transfer in GoToMyPC hands down.
Name that computer
The remote control session itself is straightforward. You'll see the host's display on your remote PC's screen (you can enlarge the former to a full screen if you like), and, using the mouse and keyboard, you can open documents, grab e-mail, launch a browser, and run programs. You can even print to any printer connected to the host or redirect print jobs from apps on the host to a printer jacked into the remote PC. If there's someone at the other end, you can use both text- and voice-based chat to carry on a conversation to, say, troubleshoot problems on the host PC.
LapLink's additional strength lies in its flexibility. You can dial the host directly, modem-to-modem--great for controlling a computer that isn't jacked into an always-on Net connection--or use the Internet to make the link. You can also access machines through TCP/IP and IPX networks; via infrared wireless (Windows 95/98 only); or by connecting them with the in-the-box parallel, serial, or USB cables. (The first two are in the box, but the USB cable costs an extra $20.)
Not all Net
New to version 11.0 is something LapLink calls Surf Up, which lets you connect to a LapLink-equipped host using just a browser and a Net connection, à la GoToMyPC. But though Surf Up is a step in the right direction, it only transfers files--no browser-based remote control in sight.
To control a host using the Internet, you must sit in front of a remote PC running LapLink. Thankfully, you don't need to know the host's IP address, as you do with WinVNC. Instead, you publish the host's name (which you make up; it can be something as simple as an e-mail address) to LapLink's directory server, then connect to it from the remote by specifying the name.
A LapLink-controlled computer runs surprisingly fast, even over a slow analog modem connection (we tested at several speeds, down to as slow as 28.8Kbps). Windows zip open and screens redraw faster here than with GoToMyPC; credit LapLink's aggressive compression for the speed. Boost the bandwidth to a broadband DSL or cable connection (or even a 128Kbps ISDN line), and the lag time between clicking an icon on the remote and seeing the result in the host window is barely noticeable.