TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Apple Remote Desktop 3

Volume Number: 22 (2006)
Issue Number: 6
Column Tag: Focus Review

Apple Remote Desktop 3

The latest and greatest in remote control for Macs in the lab or the enterprise

by Michael R. Harvey

Apple Remote Desktop has always been a great, and useful tool, even back to it's ANAT days. Back in the mid 90's, the Apple Network Administrator's Toolkit was mainly a window sharing, observation and control tool best suited for school lab environments. It grew into Apple Remote Desktop, adding features and usefulness to more and larger labs, as well as adding features that made it more attractive to business installations.

It's here!

Version 2.2 had a great feature set; sending Unix commands and getting the results back, installation of .pkg and .mpkg installers, and a myriad of other goodies, some of which even worked. With the release of version 3, Apple has stepped it up again. Improvements to the GUI, layout of the tools, better command and control, and reporting that even works!

New and improved

The interface of ARD 3 is, we think, a great improvement over 2.2. The one thing that might catch you is the smaller size of the text. If you're squinting now to read the screen, it's time to up the prescription. Figure 1 below shows the old ARD 2.2 interface, figure 2 shows the ARD 3 window.

One of the great things about the main window of Remote Desktop 3 is the amount of information available. At a glance, you get a better snapshot of the state of your client systems. Much better than what the 2.2 GUI showed you.

Another enhancement is the listing of scheduled, active, and past actions taken. In 2.2, actively running tasks and the history were displayed in a pane of the main window below the client list. When you clicked on the Saved Tasks icon, the main window was completely replaced with that listing. Now, those

Figure 1: ARD 2.2 main window

features are listed in the left column (the bottom pane of the main window is gone altogether now) in hierarchical lists. In 2.2, the history would clear every time the program was quit and

Figure 2: ARD 3 main window

relaunched, but now you can set, in the preferences, how many and/or for how long the history will preserve.

Yes, you can actually know what's there

With ARD 2.2, there was the potential for some great reporting tools. They didn't happen to actually work, however. Some admins were able to get reports back, some of the time. Most were not. You had to resort to shooting out various Unix commands and deciphering the results to glean useful inventory and other data from client machines. Now, however, reporting actually works reliably.

There are a myriad of reports you can query the client systems on, gather and hold that data in a SQL database. That database can live either on the administrator's workstation, or on a Task Server (see below). Also, because the database is standard SQL, you can run custom queries, scripts, and reports against it, exporting that data for use in other applications.

All the usual reports are there. Versions, system overviews, hardware, and software differences, among others. A new feature in ARD 3 is the ability to use Spotlight to query for specific files and folders, the information updating as changes occur on the client systems.

Task Master

New to version 3.0 is the Task Server. What this feature boils down to is the ability to off-load scheduled tasks (reporting, installations, etc.) to another copy of ARD running on a server. This lets you free up an administrator workstation, lets multiple admins run various task from a single location, and lets you consolidate your inventory and reporting data. By running

Figure 3: Setting up a memory report

Figure 4: Gathering the report data

all of that from a Task Server, you have everything residing in a single SQL database.

It's scriptable

The Remote Desktop application now has a fairly extensive AppleScript library attached to it. You can control and command ARD for most things using AppleScript, although it does lack in a few areas, such as reporting and application preferences. Apple includes a fairly long list of prebuilt Automator actions that make use of the AppleScript dictionary. MacTech columnist John Welch has good coverage of the AppleScript integration, as well as several example scripts up on his web site, <>. Look in the April archives. You can get a look at the Apple included Automator functions by opening the up the app's contents, then navigating through the Library, to the Automator directory (Figure 5). We're willing to bet that AppleScript and Automator support are going to be the new features, along with the Task Server, that will really make a difference for admins as time goes on.

Figure 5: The location of the included Automator actions in ARD

Complete copy

Added in Remote Desktop 3 are more options for copying files to client machines. Before, it was copy replace, and little more. Now, as you can see in Figure 6 below, there are several more options provided, most notable being the ability to encrypt the data as it is streamed over the network. This can be particularly useful for transmitting sensitive data over open networks. The encryption of copies, as well as commands, lets you send out password data without having to worry about it being sniffed out, compromising your systems.

Roll your own

While it would be nice for either all third party vendors to provide their installers in .pkg format, or for Apple to include support for the myriad other installers available out there, it just isn't so. That's not the end of it, however. Package Maker has been a part of Xcode from day one, and with version 3, it is now included in the install of ARD (for both 10.3 and 10.4). We won't go into detail on Package Maker here (that's a whole separate article's worth of information), but suffice it to say, it's an incredibly useful tool for getting files, and updates out to the clients. There are also instructions, beginning on page 108 of the user manual, for what to do to get third party installers run on clients.


There is a very thorough and complete manual provided in PDF format with Remote Desktop 3. At 184 pages, it is heftier than you would think it needs to be, but provides plenty of information for both new ARD admins, as well as old hands. It

Figure 6: The copy set up window.

Figure 7: Package Maker

covers areas including setting up admin access privileges using Directory Services (pgs. 62-65), VNC control set up and options (Chapter 7), and PostgreSQL Schema Samples (Appendix D), among many others. Making sure to keep TCP and UDP ports 3238 and 5900 open (mentioned several times in the manual) helped us out during testing.

Best of the Rest

Of course, there are tons more features in version 3 than just those listed above. Scheduling, messaging, locking out computers, computer smart lists (like those you'd find in iTunes), observing (one or more systems) and controlling, to name a few. Some are familiar to users of earlier versions, some are new, but all of them are useful, and make the program ever more valuable.

Figure 8: Observation of multiple client computers with status icons displayed

In Closing

At $499 for one admin seat that will control an unlimited number of clients, ARD is a steal. For $1000, you can set up a Task Server, have an admin workstation, and be able to manage, control, assist, update, and inventory any number of computers. Reporting that works, and AppleScript integration alone are more than worth the price of admission. Task Server is icing on the cake. If you manage any number of Macs, Apple Remote Desktop is quite simply a tool you cannot do without. We can't recommend it enough.

Michael Harvey is the Reviews Editor for MacTech Magazine. He is also the Senior Systems Administrator at the Ventura County Star newspaper, where he routinely breaks stuff to ensure you get a good review of new products. Since the December gift guide issue, he has received not one email guiding him to cool dive sites, and is very disappointed.


Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Nisus Writer Pro 2.1.2 - Multilingual wo...
Nisus Writer Pro is a powerful multilingual word processor, similar to its entry level products, but brings new features such as table of contents, indexing, bookmarks, widow and orphan control,... Read more
calibre 2.40.0 - Complete e-book library...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital librarian... Read more
Vivaldi - An advanced browser...
Vivaldi is a browser for our friends. In 1994, two programmers started working on a web browser. Our idea was to make a really fast browser, capable of running on limited hardware, keeping in mind... Read more
OmniPlan 3.0 - Robust project management...
With OmniPlan, you can create logical, manageable project plans with Gantt charts, schedules, summaries, milestones, and critical paths. Break down the tasks needed to make your project a success,... Read more
Yummy FTP 1.11 - FTP/SFTP/FTPS client fo...
Yummy FTP is an FTP + SFTP + FTPS file transfer client which focuses on speed, reliability and productivity. Whether you need to transfer a few files or a few thousand, schedule automatic backups, or... Read more
Tweetbot 2.1 - Popular Twitter client. (...
Tweetbot is a full-featured OS X Twitter client with a lot of personality. Whether it's the meticulously-crafted interface, sounds and animation, or features like multiple timelines and column views... Read more
MacPilot 8.0 - Enable over 1,200 hidden...
MacPilot gives you the power of UNIX and the simplicity of Macintosh, which means a phenomenal amount of untapped power in your hands! Use MacPilot to unlock over 1,200 features, and access them all... Read more
Typinator 6.7 - Speedy and reliable text...
Typinator turbo-charges your typing productivity. Type a little. Typinator does the rest. We've all faced projects that require repetitive typing tasks. With Typinator, you can store commonly used... Read more
Adobe Lightroom 6.2 - Import, develop, a...
Adobe Lightroom is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $9.99/month bundled with Photoshop CC as part of the photography package. Lightroom 6 is also available for purchase as a... Read more
ForeverSave 2.1.4 - Universal auto-save...
ForeverSave auto-saves all documents you're working on while simultaneously doing backup versioning in the background. Lost data can be quickly restored at any time. Losing data, caused by... Read more

Super Sharp (Games)
Super Sharp 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: Your finger has never been so sharp! Cut with skill to complete the 120 ingenious physics levels of Super Sharp and become a cut... | Read more »
Assembly - Graphic design for everyone...
Assembly - Graphic design for everyone 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Photography Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Assembly is the easiest most powerful design tool on the App Store. Create anything you can... | Read more »
YAMGUN (Games)
YAMGUN 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: The invasion has begun! Protect the walls of the citadel against waves of enemies! But watch out, you will soon run out of ammo...... | Read more »
Royal Bounty HD (Games)
Royal Bounty HD 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: New World Computing Approved "Hi Guys! looks good so far! keep up the good work. I worked on HoMM 3 and 4 creating all of the... | Read more »
Swords & Crossbones: An Epic Pirate...
Swords & Crossbones: An Epic Pirate Story 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Camel Up (Games)
Camel Up 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
The Martian: Bring Him Home (Games)
The Martian: Bring Him Home 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Based on the best selling novel and critically acclaimed film, THE MARTIAN tells the story of Astronaut Mark... | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: September 21-30, 2...
Leap Into Fall With 148Apps How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you're looking for. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out above... | Read more »
Tweetbot 4 for Twitter (Social Networki...
Tweetbot 4 for Twitter 4.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Social Networking Price: $4.99, Version: 4.0 (iTunes) Description: *** 50% off for a limited time. *** | Read more »
Mori (Games)
Mori 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Stop, rewind and unwind with Mori. Time is always running, take a moment to take control. Mori is an action puzzle game about infinitely... | Read more »

Price Scanner via

Save up to $350 with Apple refurbished iMacs
Apple has Certified Refurbished iMacs available for up to $350 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac – $1949 $350 off MSRP - 27... Read more
Mac Pros on sale for up to $300 off MSRP
B&H Photo has Mac Pros on sale for up to $300 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax in NY only: - 3.7GHz 4-core Mac Pro: $2818.99, $181 off MSRP - 3.5GHz 6-core Mac Pro: $3699... Read more
5K iMacs on sale for up to $150 off MSRP, fre...
B&H Photo has the 27″ 3.3GHz 5K iMac on sale for $1899.99 including free shipping plus NY tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. They have the 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $2149, $150 off MSRP... Read more
Twelve South Redesigns BookArc For Today’s Sm...
Twelve South has announced a redesigned version of their very first product, BookArc for MacBook. Tailored specifically for the newest generation of MacBooks, BookArc holds the new, smaller Apple... Read more
Phone 6s Tips & Tricks – Tips Book For iP...
Poole, United Kingdom based Tap Guides Ltd. has announced the release and immediate availability of iPhone 6s Tips & Tricks, an in-depth eBook available in the iBookstore that’s priced just $2.99... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $994,...
Best Buy has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro available for $994.99 on their online store. Choose free shipping or free instant local store pickup (if available). Their price is $105 off MSRP. Price valid... Read more
Is The iPad Pro Really A Serious Laptop Repla...
Probably not, at least for productive professionals and other power users. Steve Jobs declared that we’d entered the “post-PC Era” with the advent of the original iPad in 2010, a phrase we don’t hear... Read more
Wednesday Deal: 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros f...
Adorama has 13″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $130 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax for NY & NJ residents only: - 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro: $1199.99 $... Read more
uBar 3.0 for Mac OS X – Custom Dock Replaceme...
Brawer Software has announced the release of uBar 3.0, an important update to their popular app and window manager for Mac OS X. uBar allows users to position it whichever side of the screen they... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro (refurbished) avai...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros available for $829, or $270 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Customer Support P...
Job Description:Customer SupportSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the Read more
Software Engineer, *Apple* Watch - Apple (U...
…the team that is revolutionizing the watch! As a software engineer on the Apple Watch team, you will be responsible for building world-class applications and frameworks Read more
*Apple* Online Store UAT Lead - Apple (Unite...
**Job Summary** The Apple Online Store is a fast paced and ever evolving business environment. The User Acceptance Testing (UAT) lead in this organization is able to Read more
Hardware Systems Integration Engineer - *App...
**Job Summary** We are seeking an enthusiastic electrical engineer for the Apple Watch team. This is a design engineering position that entails working with Read more
Touch Validation Design (EE) - *Apple* Watc...
**Job Summary** Help launch next-generation Touch Technologies in Apple products. The Touch Technology team develops cutting-edge Touch solutions and technologies that Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.