Apple Remote Desktop 3

Apple’s long-awaited update of its remote-desktop management software is a massive upgrade, with tools that will make most IT professionals drool. Whether it’s used to manage a few Macs in a small business or thousands of computers at a large corporation, Apple Remote Desktop 3 is ideal for users who need to support multiple computers on a network. Although it’s not perfect, making the jump from version 2 is well worth it.

Power tools
IT professionals have come to expect powerful remote-desktop management features, but most casual Mac users would be amazed at just what Apple Remote Desktop 3 can do. Want to install application updates, fonts, or templates on 100 networked computers? No problem. Want to show a colleague in Belgium how to use Excel, and you’re in London? Ditto. Need to monitor what 30 students are doing in a computer lab? Easy. We thought that the last version was powerful, but many of Apple Remote Desktop 3’s new features are astounding.

The first improvement is the addition of remote Spotlight searching. With Apple Remote Desktop 3, it’s possible to search for files on remote computers running Tiger. Once found the file can be copied to your computer. (Although we did encounter a false warning when we did this – one of the bugs experienced in testing.)

In Apple Remote Desktop 2, it was only possible to copy files to a remote computer. Version 3 has added Remote Drag and Drop and Remote Copy and Paste functions, so it’s now possible to copy remote files by dragging them to and from the remote window. This works well once you get the hang of the resistance encountered when moving from the remote computer’s boundaries to your master computer.

The first few times we tried to copy files from a remote computer to a MacBook Pro, the file halted at the border of the remote window. It is necessary to drag a file with authority to break through, not an easy task with the MacBook Pro’s trackpad. Remote Copy and Paste also lets you add material to the clipboard of the administrator Mac or the remote Mac, which can be very useful for copying text between computers.

Since the idea behind Apple Remote Desktop is to administer Macs from afar, the prospect of manually setting the Apple Remote Desktop permission on each computer seems silly. Apple Remote Desktop 3 users can configure the preference settings for managed remote computers and even create new user accounts easily, without ever touching the remote computer.

Apple has included a Remote Desktop widget that gives an instant view of remote computers through Dashboard, without even having to launch Apple Remote Desktop. And Apple Remote Desktop 3 adds Automator support – over 30 Automator actions are now included.

Software installation
One useful feature is Apple Remote Desktop’s AutoInstall of software. With AutoInstall, Apple Remote Desktop loads the software packages in an update queue; online computers are updated immediately, other Macs receive updates when they connect to the network.

Apple Remote Desktop 3 can generate reports on hardware and user logs. We found the Application Usage reporting feature somewhat underwhelming, however. We ran a report about a computer that had been used for more than ten hours, running more than 12 programs during that time, yet the Application Usage report showed only one application: the screen saver. It turns out that the usage report logs when an application launches and quits, and since the programs were launched the previous day and remained open, the report was empty.

Apple Remote Desktop 3 can optionally encrypt all communications and file transfers between computers with 128-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption. This slows down data exchange, but it is a necessary safety measure in many corporate environments.


Apple Remote Desktop 3 is an essential program for any IT professional who needs to manage Macs remotely, Upgrading to version 3 is a no-brainer. Despite some bugs, and a relatively weak reporting feature, the sheer number of tools available – Spotlight searching, drag-and-drop copying, and AutoInstall – is amazing.

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