Manage remote desktop sessions with CoRD for Mac

Scott Lowe shows you how to manage remote desktop sessions between Macs and Windows with the free CoRD tool.

More and more, people are turning to Macs over their trusty old Windows computers.  According to this recent article at OS X Daily, Macs now enjoy 15% of the U.S. share of the desktop market.  This is much higher than it was just a few years ago and shows rapid growth.  Moreover, even some administrators are either choosing or finding it necessary to switch to or supplement their Windows PCs with Mac OS X-based desktops or laptops.

As Macs continue to make their way into the enterprise, the tools we're used to need to be replaced with tools that are native to Mac OS X. Obviously, it's also possible to simply run a tool such as VMware Fusion, Parallels, or VirtualBox; but, if you want to remain strictly in OS X, you need to start making some adjustments.

In this article, I'm going to discuss the first step I took on my journey. Before I get started, let me say that I've become platform agnostic. I'm very comfortable switching back and forth between platforms and simply want to be able to get my work done on whatever platform I happen to be using at the time.

I hate Microsoft's Remote Desktop Connection tool for Mac OS X. It's sluggish and extremely prone to crashing. It crashes... a lot. It hangs up... a lot.  And keeping multiple connections open at the same time is a chore. So, I gave up on it and switched to a free tool named CoRD.

According to the CoRD web site, "CoRD is a Mac OS X remote desktop client for Microsoft Windows computers using the RDP protocol. It's easy to use, fast, and free for anyone to use or modify." CoRD is an open source tool that provides remote desktop connections to RDP-based servers. It also allows you to save your connection information in a list so that you can quickly and easily reconnect to servers later on.

In Figure A below, you can see a Windows 7 desktop as viewed from within CoRD.

Figure A

The remote desktop feature in action (click to enlarge)
If you want to set up a new remote desktop connection to a Windows system, you use the Inspector, shown in Figure B. On this screen, provide a name and IP address for the machine to which you'd like to connect. Here, you also provide a user name, password and domain for a user account that has permission to access the remote system.

In the Session Preferences section, you're able to specify the screen size you'd like to work with as well as the number of colors and devices you'd like to forward. In the Performance & Audio section of the Inspector, you can choose, among other things, whether or not you'd like to enable ClearType and audio. Remember, the more options you enable, the more bandwidth that is necessary to support the connection.

Figure B

The Inspector is where you configure a remote desktop connection.
I'm not going to go over every options page available in CoRD, but do want to show you the two main configuration windows. You can see these for yourself in Figures C and D. In Figure C, you see all of the general preferences that are available for CoRd. Here, you can decide, for example, whether or not you want the app to look for new releases and can decide whether or not to scale the size of large remote monitors. In Figure D, you can see the default options that will be used for sessions established via CoRD. By default, the screen size is 1024x640, but you can change this to a new default value. You can also choose which performance options to select and deselect.

Figure C

The General preferences window in CoRD

Figure D

CoRD Default preferences


CoRD was just the first replacement tool I needed to find once I started using Mac OS X more and more. It's an outstanding tool and you can't beat the free price tag!

By Scott Lowe

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...