Mac Screen Sharing Using the Finder Sidebar

Screen Sharing Made Simple

Screen Sharing Using the Finder Sidebar
In the main pane of the Finder window, you should see a Share Screen button. There may be more than one button, depending on the services available on the selected Mac. We're only interested in sharing the screen, so click the Share Screen button. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.
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Screen sharing on the Mac is a delight. With Mac screen sharing, you can reach out and help troubleshoot an issue, show a remote family member how to use an application, or access a resource that isn't available on the Mac you're currently using.

Set Up Mac Screen Sharing

Before you can share a Mac's screen, you must turn screen sharing on. You can find complete instructions in the following guide:

Mac Screen Sharing - Share Your Mac's Screen on Your Network

OK, now that you have screen sharing enabled, let's move on to how to access a remote Mac's desktop. There are numerous ways to make a connection to a remote Mac, and you'll find a list of the different methods at the end of this article. But in this guide, we're going to show you how to use the Finder sidebar to access a remote Mac's desktop.

Using the Finder sidebar to access screen sharing has many benefits, including not having to know the IP address or name of the remote Mac. Instead, the remote Mac displays in the Shared list in the Finder sidebar; accessing the remote Mac takes just a few clicks.

The downside of the Shared list in the Finder sidebar is that it is limited to local network resources. You won't find the Mac of a long-distance friend or family member listed here. There's also some question about the availability of any Mac in the Shared list. The Shared list is populated when you first turn your Mac on, and again whenever a new network resource announces itself on your local network.

However, when a Mac is turned off, the Shared list sometimes doesn't update itself to show that the Mac is no longer online. That can leave phantom Macs in the list that you can't actually connect to.

Aside from occasional Mac phantoms, accessing remote Macs from the sidebar is my favorite way to make a connection.

Configure the Finder Sidebar to Access a Remote Mac

The Finder sidebar includes a section called Shared; this is where shared network resources appear.

If your Finder windows don't currently display the Finder sidebar, you can make the sidebar viewable by selecting 'View, Show Sidebar' from the Finder menu. (Note: You must have a window open in the Finder to see the Show Sidebar option in the View menu.)

Once the sidebar displays, you should see a section called Shared. If not, you may need to set the Finder preferences to display shared resources.

  1. Open a Finder window, and select 'Preferences' from the Finder menu.
  2. Click the Sidebar icon.
  3. In the Shared section, place check marks next to Connected servers and Bonjour computers. You can also select Back to My Mac, if you use that service.
  4. Close the Finder Preferences.

Using the Finder Sidebar to Access a Remote Mac

Open a Finder window.

The Shared section of the Finder sidebar should display a list of shared network resources, including the target Mac.

  1. Select the Mac from the Shared list.
  2. In the main pane of the Finder window, you should see a Share Screen button. There may be more than one button, depending on the services available on the selected Mac. We're only interested in sharing the screen, so click the Share Screen button.
  1. Depending on how you configured screen sharing, a dialog box may open, asking for a username and password for the shared Mac. Enter the required information, and then click Connect.
  2. The remote Mac's desktop will open in its own window on your Mac.

You can now use the remote Mac as if you were sitting right in front of it. Move your mouse onto the remote Mac's desktop to work with files, folders, and applications. You can access anything that is available on the remote Mac from the screen sharing window.

Exit Screen Sharing

You can exit screen sharing by simply closing the shared window. This will disconnect you from the shared Mac, leaving the Mac in the state it was in before you closed the window.

Published: 5/9/2011

Updated: 2/11/2015