Welcome to my first article for Design and Motion! I’ve decided to review the new Autodesk Remote Application.
What is Autodesk Remote?
Autodesk Remote is standalone app used to share your Autodesk software (or any software really) from your system to a remote computer or to an iPad. This provides access to not only your software but also the data on your system, potentially from any computer connected to the internet.
What do you need to use Autodesk Remote?
- Autodesk Remote is provided free of charge but only to Autodesk Subscription Customers… so you need to be on subscription.
- You need an Autodesk Account.
- You need two computers: One to act as the host (aka the one you want to access) and another computer (or an iPad) ready to remote.
Installation is as simple as described by Autodesk and it takes no time at all to download and install. Download the app (~5.6MB) onto both the host computer and computer you will be remoting from. Once downloaded run the installer and in a minute the application is installed. Log in (on both systems) using your Autodesk account.
A few “gotchas” to be aware of before downloading:
- It only works with Windows 7 (32- and 64-bit) and Windows 8 (64-bit) so any holdouts still on XP or Vista are out of luck, and this goes for both the host and the remote system.
- The mobile version is currently only available for the iPad, doesn’t work with the iPhone nor is there an Android equivalent.
- Although other products will work, the iPad “companion” product is optimized for multi-touch gestures for Autodesk Inventor 2013 & 2014.
The note on the Exchange page says that It is currently only available in North America but the FAQ states that it is supported outside the continental USA “only localized in English. Connection speeds will vary from locations outside North America”.
You might be asking what the minimum requirements are for Autodesk Remote? Upload speed is 2 Mbps (wired), 3 Mbps (wireless) on 4G/LTE with 4 to 5 bars. It is NOT supported on 3G.
After installation on your host system, start Autodesk Remote and login using your Autodesk ID. The App provides two tabs: Share and Connect. The Share tab is used to setup the computer as the host. Just click the share option ON and the system is ready.
Autodesk designed Remote to transverse stateful firewalls.… huh? If you are like me this might not be a term you have heard before, but for most of us it doesn’t really matter. All it means is that you should be able to get Autodesk Remote up and running without a lot of firewall (if any) configuration.
There are ports (and domains) that cannot be blocked. These are not ones that would normally be blocked but if you are having connection issues or want to see which ports need to be available check out the readme.
The only configuration to be concerned with are the ‘Keystrip’ settings, if you will be using Remote with an iPad and only you want it configured differently than the “out-of-the-box” settings.
After installing Autodesk Remote on the remote computer start it and logon using your Autodesk ID. The Connect tab will show any system that you have configured to be a host and Autodesk Remote is running on those systems (logged in with your Autodesk ID).
NOTE: The names of the host systems will default to computer name but this can be overridden.
When you select a computer to access, Remote will automatically lock that computer and show you the Windows Login screen. Click the ‘Select to Unlock’ button on the top of the window to unlock and you are connected. Once connected and logged in you will see the computer desktop and you can use not only your Autodesk applications but anything installed.
On the iPad
Setup and usage is almost identical as it is on a PC. Once the app is installed and started, login using your Autodesk ID. Select the computer you want to connect to and click the Unlock button that appears on screen.
A few of the standard gestures when working with Inventor:
- Tap to select
- Single-finger drag for Orbit, two-finger drag to Pan
- Pinch to Zoom out, Spread to: Zoom in
- 4-finger touch to reset / refresh
What I learned right off the hop is that you do NOT use the regular Windows login procedure until you have clicked the big white “Select to Unlock” button. I had some situations where the unlock button took some time (1-2 minutes) before it appeared, then a couple of instances where it never appeared and I ended up restarting the host system. If you do not “Select to Unlock” the system will immediately lock itself.
Inside the Firewall
For my first attempt at using Autodesk Remote I decided to try it locally within the same subnet. I set up two of our engineering systems as hosts and was using my system as the remote. It’s a tough thing to quantify but without telling someone, I don’t think they would know they are running Inventor over a remote. I feel the performance was slightly better than using Microsoft Remote Desktop.
The only connection issue I had was when I opened a large assembly in Inventor (not in express mode) on one of the hosts from the host system. While the assembly was loading my attempts to connect failed until Inventor was done processing. So a warning to not panic when you can’t initially connect, you might have to be patient and wait it out.
Two minor annoyances: you can’t maximize the Remote window and sometimes the mouse gets “stuck” to the Remote window and it’s difficult to set it free. I was impressed that the clipboard was shared, meaning I could copy and paste between the host and the remote system.
Outside the Firewall
Next was using a computer outside the comfy confines of the company firewall. I used a Win7 Ultimate system with an ok internet connection, nothing blazing fast. The first two attempts to connect failed for no apparent reason and without changing anything it connected… three times a charm it would seem… again the patience thing.
Once connected I was very impressed with the performance and reaction of the connection, as it was very easy to manipulate the model in Inventor (pan, zoom, orbit, etc). After testing Autodesk Remote, I logged into the same system using Logmein and it did not respond with the pans, zooms, and orbits as well as the Remote session did. I’ve always found working with Inventor difficult via Logmein but not so much with Autodesk Remote, this has impressed me.
But as much as the computer-to-computer remoting impressed me, the iPad connection blew me out of the water. It was quick to connect and the performance was superb. Although the graphics do degrade a bit during the view manipulation, they are quick to “snap” back after I was done. Once I got a handle of the gesture shortcuts it was easy to pan / zoom / orbit, as well as performing tasks such as opening, even selecting components to open from within the Assembly.
What was not so much fun from the Ipad was geometry manipulation and sketching, but to be fair I didn’t expect to be able to do any of this easily from the iPad. The most annoying aspect of using the iPad version is that I could not find any method to flip monitors, accept for disabling (disconnecting) the second monitor.
If you are considering PC-to-PC remote access options there are alternate options (both free and pay), such as; TeamViewer or Logmein which provide a wealth of options compared to Autodesk Remote.. For example:
- There is no option to wake on LAN meaning if the host system goes into hibernation or is shutdown there is no way to remotely “Wake” the computer and have it power back on.
- There is no way to limit remote access to only certain accounts on the host system.
- There is no method to blank the screen or lock access on the host system while you are remoting. Anyone could walk up to the host system and have full access while you are connected.
- Autodesk Remote requires the application to be downloaded and installed on the remoting systems. Some (like Logmein) do not require any application installation just a plugin for your web browser.
However, if you are looking for the “quick and dirty” option with very little in the way of setup and configuration, this is the product for you. Its performance was also very impressive, so I am now considering using it full time when I need to carry out Inventor (and Vault) related tasks remotely. I just need to remember to turn off my monitor when I leave the office so no one else around can see what I’m doing!
I’ll also be keeping my Logmein Pro account for when I need to transfer files between systems or need to access my machine from a temporary location (where I don’t or can’t download / install the Autodesk Remote app).
Another area where Autodesk Remote does shine is with the iPad…. IF your intention is to use it as a vehicle to show off your models and drawings and NOT use it as a way of working with or making changes to your drawings and models.
If you decide to use Remote make sure you read through the readme and FAQ as there are some known issues and it lists the ports and domains required to be open for Remote to connect.
Feature Image courtesy of Autodesk