Ubuntu comes with Vinagre pre-installed - it appears as "Remote Desktop Connect" in the system menu. This tool can connect via the RDP protocol to Windows type systems and it also speaks VNC to most other platforms. While it works, it is not exactly a joy to use so I sometimes use Tsclient to connect to Windows servers and TightVNC to connect to VNC servers. Neither of these tools is perfect either so I decided to look to to see what alternatives are available. After a bit of experimentation I hit upon Remmina as the best overall tool that can be used to connect over either VNC or RDP to remote desktops.
- It has a lot of flexibility about resolution. As well as allowing you type in any arbitrary screen resolution you can also ask Remmina to pick a resolution that is optimized to the screen you are using.
- There are a number of Hot keys that can be used to quickly access common features e.g. change the window size to match the current resolution or visa-versa.
- It integrates the local and remote clipboard so you can easily copy text from a local application to a remote one.
- It is easy to get files to or from a Linux machine, but configuring shared drives on windows can be much more tricky. Therefore Remmina helps you by configuring your local home folder (or any other directory you specify) as a shared folder via Samba and then automatically connects to that shared folder from the remote session it establishes on a windows machine.
- It has a handy applet which integrates with the system tray and allows you to quickly connect to any of your configured servers.
However, Remmina is not perfect. The main problem is the almost total lack of documentation. The project website has the FAQ about where to find documentation "Remmina was designed to be hopefully work for most people without the aid of any documentation". Although this is not really a grammatical sentence it is close to being true, but here are a few things that it would be useful to know before you start using Remmina:
- Most UI elements in Remmina can also be accessed by a combination of keys on the keyboard. When you hover over a control in the UI with the mouse the equivalent key combination will pop-up.
- All of the hot key combinations are accessed by first pressing the ctrl key on the right of your keyboard For example when you hover over the "Full Screen button" in the UI you are told that the keyboard equivalent is "Control_R+F". I initially thought that this meant that I should press the ctrl R and F keys at the same time, but it actually means that you need to press the right hand ctrl button and the F key at the same time.
- Because the right hand ctrl key is used by Remmina, you will often need to use the left hand ctrl key to use the applications on the remote machine. For example, most editors use the ctrl key combined with the right or left arrows to navigate through the document a word at a time. If you are editing a document in a remote window that you opened via Remmina, you need to use the left ctrl key for this type of navigation because if you use the right crtl key Remmina will interpret your ctrl arrow key presses as instructions to switch to a different active remote connection.