Messages Screenshare feature

The Messages app has included a way to initiate screen sharing with an individual that you’re talking to, starting with the release of OS X Yosemite, but it is a severely under-used feature. Screen sharing from the Messages app includes a lot of useful features that could displace all those expensive VNC apps you might be buying from the App Store or Mac App Store.

In this tutorial, we’ll be showing you how to start a screen sharing session with an individual you’re messaging via the Messages app on your Mac.

How to start screen sharing from the Messages app on Mac

The feature is very much hidden from plain sight, but it’s not impossible to access. Your Mac’s Messages app has a function built into it to launch the hidden Screen Sharing app built into macOS, and it’ll connect you to that person using your and their iCloud account.

If you’re interested in initiating a screen sharing session with someone you’ve been iMessaging on your Mac, you can follow these steps:

1) Launch the Messages app on your Mac and choose an iMessage conversation with a person you want to share screens with.

2) Click on the Details button at the top right of the Messages app.

screen sharing from os x messages app

3) From the pop-up menu, click on the screen sharing button.

Screen sharing option in Messages app on Mac

4) Choose from the menu that appears whether you want to share your Mac’s screen, or request to share the other user’s screen.

Ask to share screen

Note: We are going to be asking the other user to share their screen with us for this tutorial. Props to Sebastien for being available!

5) After clicking on the “Ask to Share Screen” button, macOS will then tell you it’s waiting on a response from the other person.

Waiting for response

Note: If you wish to cancel this request, you can click on the “X” button to the right of the progress bar.

6) Once accepted, your Screen Sharing app on your Mac will launch and you’ll see a preview of the other user’s screen, as shown below.

Shared Mac screen

It’s worth noting that at this point, you’re only viewing their screen, not controlling it; but there are options built into the app that let the other user provide you with access to controlling their screen if they want you to. You’ll also be able to talk to the other person while you share the screen, which is a particularly useful feature if you’re trying to guide someone through a process of doing something.

What the other person sees on their end

Assume for a second that you were the person on the other end that was receiving the request to share your screen instead of being the person that was asking someone else to share their screen with you – what would you see?

First, you would see a notification banner at the top right of your Mac’s screen, just as Sebastien did when I tried to connect with him:

Screen being shared

Here’s a closer look:

Notification banner

After clicking on the “Accept” button to accept my request to share his screen, Sebastien then saw a screen sharing icon in his Menu Bar, which he could click on to see who was connected, allow me to control his screen, mute the microphone, pause the screen sharing, or end the screen sharing session with me:

Screen sharing controls

Here’s a closer look:

Screen sharing options

Why you would want to share your screen

Screen sharing is particularly useful when you’re troubleshooting and are asking for someone with more expertise than you to help you without making them drive over to your house to look at your computer. Obviously, if you are having internet issues, then this wouldn’t apply.

It’s also useful for when you want to provide a presentation to someone, because you can have someone watch your screen as you explain something to them. Whether it’s a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation, or you’re simply trying to show someone how to do something on your Mac, this feature can be incredibly useful.

Moreover, we think Apple made a good choice in making the feature available from the Messages app in macOS, because typically, when you need someone’s help, you’ll reach out to them in a message first to ask “Hey, are you busy? Do you think you could help me?” and at that point, it’s very easy to initiate a screen sharing session to better describe what’s going wrong.

Conclusion

The ability to initiate a screen sharing session from your Messages app is easy to do and will come in handy time and time again for Mac users. Unfortunately, the app doesn’t allow macOS users to connect to users of other platforms, such as Windows, Android, or iOS.

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If you found this tutorial helpful, let us know in the comments below.