David Tebbutt, SmallBizPod Blog

It’s always good when you stumble across free software that does a ‘good enough’ job. Of course, the minute you stick your hand in your pocket, the game changes. You suddenly expect 24×7 support and service level agreements.

Last week at Office 2.0, I met some folk from Yuuguu. It’s an early-stage UK-based company which has come out with a free service which enables you to see when someone’s around, to text-chat with them and to share your computer screen with them. Or you can give them control over your keyboard, mouse and screen. I tell you, watching someone else plunder your files and folders at will can be somewhat unnerving.

A piece of software has to be installed on any computer that is going to participate in the service. The free version allows up to 30 concurrent users. (It says here.) I guess that’s so you can do a presentation. That many people would make for a weird conversation.

The service can incorporate Skype telephony for a per-minute charge. Or you can make your own separate call. It makes real-time collaboration easy and it currently runs on Macs, PCs and three versions of Linux. I tried it between two PCs. And it worked quite well. I have seen other, better, systems but they weren’t free.

The Yuuguu name worries me a little because it doesn’t sound very businesslike, even though it does mean ‘fusion’ in Japanese. But at least it is businesslike in execution. It has recognised that audit trails are important and it stores all activity, including the content of the instant messaging sessions. It does not, however store the content of the screens being shared nor, I’m pretty sure, would it store telephone conversations. Which is pretty much how you’d want it.

Yuuguu plans to introduce advertising into its free edition and will be offering professional and enterprise editions with advanced features and no advertising.

The desktop element takes just a few minutes to install and get running. And it’s a cheap (ie free, apart from your time) way to collaborate or present through screen sharing and IM.

I’d say it has to be worth a try. You have little to lose and much to gain from this kind of service.

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