Come and get it! RDC for Mac v2 beta

Today’s the day! As Craig (our fearless leader) announced a couple of weeks ago, we have now made a beta of Remote Desktop Connection Client for Mac, version 2, available. You can download it from Mactopia (scroll down to get to the RDC v2 beta, it’s listed under ‘other products’).

For me, RDC is one of those little apps that nicely fits a need. In my office, I have a Windows XP box that lives under my desk. I don’t have a monitor hooked up to it. Its primary reasons for existence involve booking travel through the corporate travel agent and filling out expense reports. I only access it through Remote Desktop Connection.

RDC v1 is a great little app. It saves me from having to have an extra monitor sit on my desk. But it’s not a perfect little app. Like a lot of software, it was originally developed by someone on the team to scratch their own itch, and … well, it shows. It’s perfect for the original developer’s own use, but it’s not perfect in other situations. One of the issues with RDC v1 is discoverability. I’ve long since lost count of the number of feature requests that we’ve had for allowing the resize of the RDC screen. That feature has always been there, you just had to know where to go to find it.

We decided that it was time to update RDC. There were several reasons behind this decision, including a new Remote Desktop Protocol, the need to be able to connect to Vista, and the OS X switch to the Intel architecture. Instead of updating the existing code, we decided to re-develop RDC v2 from the ground up using the latest Remote Desktop Protocol. At WWDC 2006, we announced that we would update RDC, and we’ve had a team working on it ever since.

One of the major differences in RDC v2 is that we’ve completely redone the UI. I did a usability study of RDC v1 that revealed several issues. Users had a hard time getting everything set up on their Mac as well as on their Windows machine. Users couldn’t figure out how to share files between their two computers, and some didn’t believe that it was possible at all. People didn’t realise that there was online help available for it, and often didn’t even install it. For RDC v2, we wanted to address these UX issues and make RDC a more Mac-like app. Our new UI isn’t hugely obvious when you first look at the application — the UI has always been quite minimal, and we’ve retained that in RDC v2. RDC v1 uses a disclosure triangle to show you the connection options. In RDC v2, to be a better Mac citizen, we’ve moved these options to a standard Preferences menu. This should improve the discoverability of many of the features that we’ve always had built in, such as being able to view your Mac’s hard drive when you’re connected to your Windows computer.

Another UI change is that we now support dynamic screen resizing. In RDC v1, you couldn’t change your screen size while connected to a Windows computer. Now you can, and you can enter full-screen mode during a session too. I love this because I use RDC on my laptop. When I’m in my office, I hook my MacBook Pro up to a big 23-inch external monitor. Using RDC on that is different than using it on my MBP’s screen, and now I can switch between them dynamically.

One feature request that we have received frequently was the support of multiple sessions in RDC. System administrators want this feature because they often need to connect to many machines at once. Users of RDC v1 who want this feature can probably name a couple of workarounds, but they were all pretty messy. RDC v2 supports this natively. You can connect to multiple Windows machines by saving connection settings for all of the Windows machines that you want to connect to. Then, you can simply launch those saved connections from the Finder.

My favourite new functionality in RDC v2 is a security feature. In RDC v1, you could share files with your Windows box, but you had to open up your whole hard drive to the Windows box. This never really concerned me — after all, my Windows machine is in my office and I’m the only person who has access to it. But it meant that I had to dig through the whole file system to get the file that I wanted. Now in RDC v2, I can choose what I share with my Windows machine: nothing, the whole hard drive, or a specific folder. I’ve been using internal builds of RDC v2 for a few months. I’ve found that, when I need to transfer a file from my Mac to my Windows machine (or vice versa), I just share the Mac folder where the file lives. Then when I browse my Mac’s files from the Windows box, I just see the one folder which is exactly where I need to be. It’s a very small thing, but it saves me a bit of time.

This is a beta, which means that we’re not quite done yet. We’ve still got some issues to iron out. We want to release it to you so that you can give us feedback about it. To send feedback about the RDC beta, use Microsoft Connect. Several members of our team, including myself, will be reading your feedback to make improvements to it before its final release.

Comments (53)

  1. My very first Microsoft project is now out in the wild: RDC v2 beta.

  2. Grant says:

    Thank you!!!

    It was getting to the point were I’d rather use rdesktop — simply for performance — rather than use the official PPC client.  CoRD had some neat UI concepts, but still doesn’t respect localization/keyboard settings properly.

    This will make life much easier for alot of us!

  3. L. Kraven says:

    With the original RDC, it was simple enough to cause the client to connect to the console session of the server by modifying a saved RDC file.

    With the new version, it looks like you’ve moved to an XML based file– how do you connect to a console session on the target server now?

    Cord is lacking in a lot of departments, but one of the great things is that connecting to a console session is as easy as checking a box.

  4. Tony says:

    I wonder why the MacBU would waste an iota of time on this when there are clearly higher revenue items on the table.  Yes, there are small percentage of people who need to remotely connect to another computer.  And yes, there are even a smaller percentage of those that own both a Mac and a PC.  So, if you’d assume that the use of remote clients is prevalent in 5% of the desktop/laptop world, and you further assume that Apple’s tiny global market share is better than it’s 2005 1.3% of the desktop market, and you assume every Mac owner has a PC (we don’t), we’re talking about a group of people producing a free product for the use of .01% of users.

    MacBU, get onto the real work.  Office 2008 or 2009 or whatever you’ll call it when you finally produce it.  I bet there is a bigger calling for Excel VBA support than a lousy remote client…

  5. Chris says:

    I just wanted to make an off hand comment instead of bothering with the feedback system:  Carrage returns are not recognized when pasted in.

    Otherwise, great update!!

  6. It’s a package installer!

    Someone FINALLY GETS IT!



  7. Jess Gibson says:

    Nadyne ,

    Downloaded RDC v2 and so far so good.

    Did not know that you could access your Mac drives/folders from inside RDC. Now I know and have set up a shared folder on the Mac – Learn something new everyday.

    Like the new preferences – makes it easier to set up the application the way I want.

    I disagree with Tony – this app makes it very easy for a Mac user to operate in a PC-focused company. There are apps the company uses that are PC only – with RDC all I need is access to the network and I can run the PC only apps on my PC.

    Now if only RDC could restart my PC after a power failure at the office – sort hard to do when I am out of the country 😉

  8. cjvino says:

    Thanks for the update. This goes a long way in my job where I have a lot of Windows boxes to connect to. Keep up the good work!

  9. Jason R. says:

    This is a cool app if you just need to remote into a user session on a PC. For going the other way, there’s always VNC or Timbuktu, but the first one is lousy and the second one is nice but expensive. RDC is both decent and free, a nice combo.

  10. Adam says:

    This is *fantastic* news.  RDC is one of the 3 apps I use most on a daily basis – to VPN to my computer at work & to connect to the other machines on my home network.   The full-screen mode on Cord just didn’t cut it for me.

    I’ve been playing around w/the beta for an hour and the new features are great.  It seems much snappier than the old version.

    One feature suggestion – support for monitor spanning.  Other than that, everything on my wish list is checked off.

    Thanks for the great work!

  11. mat says:

    Has anyone else noticed that their windows machine begins beeping as soon as it gets a connection from the new RDC? At first, I thought it was just because a friend of mine connected from outside my LAN this evening, but when I downloaded and tried tonight, it did the same thing….

    Oh, and the beeping continues even after the remote closes the session and goes on until you login to the server machine.

  12. Jason says:

    I love RDC, it is a wonderful thing, but why oh why does it require an installer? Granted, a standard package is much better than a custom installer, but we’re talking about one app bundle here (I checked the file list. I *have to* when an installer is used, it’s just good sense). Why can’t I just drag the app off the disk image like any good Mac app?

  13. Steven Fransen says:

    There is no beta 2 listed only beta 1 on website did it get pulled?

  14. Chad says:

    I have a similar set up at work.  My Mac is my main machine, but my headless PC sits underneath the table.  I love being able to send my RDC session to my second monitor, so it appears that I am working with both Mac and Windows, yet only need to use one mouse and keyboard.  Yes, there are KVM switches, but I tried a few options, and none of them worked very well for my needs, but using RDC is the current best solution for my workflow.  RDC isn’t a speed demon, but for my usage, it works well enough.

    In response to Tony:

    I, for one, am someone who much prefers RDC over VBA for Office.  My company does not make use of Office VBA, so that is of no use to me (it is actually a good thing, since the only virus I’ve seen on a Mac was due to an Office macro virus, originally intended for Windows machines, but it was still dangerous enough to cause Word to lock up).  But RDC is a program I use on a daily basis, and it saves me from having to use another set of peripherals for my PC.

    This re-write does make RDC feel more like a proper modern Mac application, instead of a semi-awkward Carbon app, which almost feels like a port from the Mac Classic days (not that I ever remember RDC being available for Mac OS 9, just some Carbon-based apps felt like it).

    However, it isn’t all milk and honey, and there are a couple of gripes or improvements I still can see with RDC2.

    1) Main window appearance – It just looks way too dark.  Lighten the background to a lighter gray, or just do away with the gradient background all together.  Oh, and please, please don’t use brushed metal.  I have NEVER liked the look.  And considering that the brushed metal is fading fast, it would not be a good idea to use that theme.  The same goes with the button.  Perhaps a standard Aqua button would be more appropriate than the Calculator-type-button.

    2) Create New Session (& Open Recent) – RDC2 claims to be able to open multiple connections, yet it appears to me that you have to create a session and save it, and then you can open multiple saved sessions.  I would find it useful if under the File menu there was a New Session item which would pull up a new main window so I could arbitrarily connect to computers, without having to save each connection.  (But maybe I’m missing something?)  Also, having a Open Recent menu to pull up the most recent connections would be useful.

    3) Search for local machines – Perhaps it would be a nice extra feature to be able to search out on the local intranet for machines to connect to…  I’m thinking along the lines how Chicken of the VNC or Apple Remote Desktop can probe the network for available machines.

  15. Janus says:

    How about an Office 2008 beta?

  16. nadyne says:

    Steven – Are you referring to RDC or the file format converter?  If it’s RDC, this is the first beta of version two.  You can download the final release of version 1 (v1.0.3) at Mactopia as well.  If you’re talking about the file format converter, we removed the first beta from the website because the second beta fixes bugs and adds support for PowerPoint.

    Chad – Thanks for the feedback.  If you haven’t yet, please submit your feedback on MS Connect ( to make sure that it gets entered into our system.

  17. Chris Randall says:

    Another voice for console mode, please!

  18. L. Kraven says:

    Console mode– answering my own question.  In the address window appending "/console" will get you to the console session.

    IE, if you are connecting to " /console" in the address window will get you the console session.

  19. Michael Curtis says:

    Looks great and is very snappy. Can’t the console option be a preference? I only want to be able to connect to the console session.

    Any chance of adding a library window where you can setup a list of machine you use regularly? I know their is the pull down, but an mmc type look would be great.

    Best wishes


  20. Djidji says:

    OK, really – very welcome update indeed! Multiple sessions, Universal Binary – all nice and shiny! One thing though, I can’t figure out this – I double click on the app’s icon and I see a list of previously used hosts. I choose one of them and BOOM! I have to enter my username and password! Guys, who uses this? Admins, right? What do admins do? They connect to multiple hosts using different usernames and passwords. Please, please give me the option to add those to my keychain because no, not all of my windows-based hosts are centrally managed.

  21. Gary Eary says:

    Hello there Nadyne,

    I want to thank you for RDC2 (beta). As an IT manager for a company thats all Mac OS front of house but Windows 2003 Server in the back office this is just great for me. I already used all the features of the original version, but this goes one better allowing multiple sessions. I am also very impressed with the more ‘Mac OS’ look and feel. This product really is proof that at last you guys are listening at the MBU and doing what we want. If you look at the feature list its almost exactly what everyone has been asking for. As for the splash-screen someone said it was ‘brushed metal’ it isn’t its the new Leopard standard for gradated grey that looks smooth. As for the installer, this is EXACTLY the way it should be executed. Well done MBU. I’m looking forward to Office 2008. Lets hope you guys put all the EXCHANGE features we want in Entourage or maybe even ‘Outlook 2008 for Macintosh’ but perhaps I’m just dreaming…

    Thank you once again for this. You guys get bashed everyday and for your hard work you deserve a good word so here’s mine.


  22. Adobe – Feature Request/Bug Report Form (tags: adobe bug) Cell Phones Light Up Operating Room During Blackout — Cell Phones — InformationWeek (tags: ingenuity surgery doctors argentina) WANTS FOR SALE (tags: art funny shopping culture) Mac Mojo : Come

  23. Chris Parker says:

    Where do we post bug reports Nadyne? Here?

    The software looks great but I have an issue where I can’t type into the RDC window at all. Mouse movements appear to be captured but when I try typing anything at all nothing happens.

  24. DAddYE says:

    Why don’t work under Leopard?

    Leopard is cooming and this beta don’t work on it!

  25. Todd says:

    Why is a Windows Live ID required for feedback?

    I’m not really interested in yet another id/password – so I guess my feedback doesn’t matter.

  26. MaLer says:

    Good, that you have "multisesion", but current aproach, that you need to open FILE with settings from Finder is not very friendly. There should be nice and easy "New connection" command. BTW, works on Czech W2k TS with Czech keyboard without problem so far.

  27. nadyne says:

    Djidji – Admins aren’t the only people who use this.  The example of my own use is definitely not one of an admin.  ðŸ™‚  Anyway, that option is there.  Open the preferences, and the first item is for login, including allowing you to save that information to your keychain.  

    Chris – Please use MS Connect (linked in my original post) to submit bugs.

    DAddyE – If you’re using Leopard, you’re under a pretty strict NDA with Apple.  If you have issues with applications running under Leopard, you should submit them through the usual Apple channels.

    Todd – MS Connect has a few advantages for us and for you.  On our end, MS Connect hooks directly into our internal bug reporting tools, so it automagically gets into our database.  For you, you can search the other bugs that were reported by other users.  You can vote on other bugs (which means that you say that this issue is important to you and you’d like us to prioritise fixing it — this is especially great for suggestions for additional functionality or for changing something).  If we need additional information from you (for example, we need to ask a question about your set-up), we can easily do it through MS Connect and capture that information.  And you can track the status of your submission (as well as seeting the status of the other submissions).  In other words, using MS Connect means that you’re not just throwing your feedback over a wall and hoping that something happens.

  28. Schwieb says:

    Chris Parker, you can submit bug reports to the same MS Connect site that Nadyne linked to at the bottom of her post.

    DAddYE, Leopard is currently in Apple private beta and as such, Microsoft is under NDA with Apple in regards to Leopard.  We’ll be looking into compatibility issues with RDC and Leopard, but cannot comment on it any more than that at this time.

  29. Steve says:

    Unable to leave feedback in the appropriate place, so I’ll leave it here instead.

    0.  Not signing up for Windows Live ID just to leave feedback. I don’t trust you that much.

    1. Why is this an installer instead of a simple .app to drag and drop. I don’t trust you that much.

    2. Still can’t open more than one connection at a time. OOP should make this easy. I often want/need to connect to multiple systems at the same time. (Well, I used to, but thankfully don’t any more. Still, applies here.)

    3. Can’t seem to have more than one set of settings. Must I use the same display resolution for every connection or be forced to manually change it all the time? (Either by resizing or setting it before connecting)

    4. The hostname is cut off in the icon.

    5. Along the same line as 3, having different username/password per connection is not easy. Also, stretching/zooming out is horrible.

  30. Chris Parker says:

    Thanks Nadyne, Schwieb. Not sure how I managed to miss that at the bottom of the post…

  31. Lucky Lou says:

    Thanks for maintaining this product and giving us an early crack at it. Oh yeah, thanks for the free part, too!

  32. mhornyak says:

    Please add support for a menu item to start a new session.  It’s tremendously easier than having to find the session files in the Finder.

    (I’ve filed this on MS Connect as well, but the bugs keep getting closed.)

  33. Chad says:

    Steve –

    I understand your wariness about having to sign up for a Windows Live ID to submit feedback.  I bit the bullet and registered to be able to submit "official" feedback.  The process was (sadly) about as painful as filling out the loan paperwork to purchase a house.  You have to sign up for the ID, agree to several terms and conditions, then click on links on e-mails sent to you to activate your account, then you need to fill in more information for your account once it has been activated, and THEN you need to register for which products you even want to submit reports to.


    Sorry, but that is a very painful process.  I can understand that this helps the MS employees in tracking their requests and bugs, but that process was so unfriendly, I can see why a lot of people wouldn’t even bother!  Take a page from apps like Nisus Writer or Safari’s bug report which allows you to send a report straight from the application.  Several of my own applications just have a menu which lets you send an e-mail to submit feedback.

    I also understand the apprehension about installers.  Since many Mac apps can just drag and drop, one wonders what an installer is installing, and where is it putting the files?  Since not all of these installers come with an uninstaller, it becomes a one way street.  From what I’ve noticed, an RDC folder is created in the ~/Documents folder, and the RDC application is placed in the /Applications folder.

    As for the host name being cut off in the icon, is it a fairly long name?  My computer name is the IP address, so that fits OK, but I would suspect that areallylongname.atsomedomain might be a bit too long to fit appropriately in the icon.  The IM client Adium also has that problem if a user with a long username who is sending you a message, and the badge on the Adium icon can’t display the full name.

  34. Elliot says:

    This is all very nice, but how about getting Office out the door on time?

    Oh wait, Craig Eisler just announced that it’ll be delayed.  Sweet.

    Oh, and look at that, Word ’04 just crashed again on my Intel iMac.

    The only thing I hate more than Microsoft products is the fact that I’m forced to use them by people ignorant of alternatives.

  35. Mike says:

    Wow, you’d think that as you announce a major delay of an already slow to market product, something would appear on the "official" MBU blog. The lack of communication, lack of outreach to the user base, and lack of an ability to get a quality product to market on time is going to drive users to other options.

  36. Clay says:

    The multiple sessions feature does not seem to work on my 10.4.10 MBP.

    When I have a connection open, I choose Open a Saved connection file, and choose the file. The Dock icon changes to reflect the (cut off in the middle, as all connection titles are) title of the 2nd connection, but nothing else happens. No second window is created.

    I also can’t launch a second instance of the RDP client. Without multiple sessions this is useless. Back to CoRD for me.

    nice try.

  37. Clay says:

    Edit: I was able to open a second session by going to Finder and opening an RDP file from there. It then created a new RDC window – in a separate process.

    My original comment stands – this is as useless as the first version. Why can’t you have multiple session windows in the same RDC process? Using Expose to switch between windows speeds things immensely, why should I have to switch apps when they are the same app?

    For that matter, why should I have to go OUT to finder, and open a file there, when RDC has an (albeit clunky) "Open Saved Connection" menu option?

    CoRD has a nice sidebar interface that groups all your connections together in a single window. I was hoping you would have taken a clue from that good interface design, but I guess that was too much to ask.

  38. Greetings from the Macintosh Business Unit at Microsoft! We appreciate the interest many of you have

  39. rix says:

    Thank you for this long awaited update!

    What I particularly like in some alternative RDP clients (like rdesktop) is support for seamless windows. Could it be possible to have this feature in the future?

  40. Just found Cord says:

    I use the official MS Office for Mac, because it works better and has a better interface than NeoOffice and other open source alternatives.

    In the case of RDC for Mac, CoRD has a much better interface for connecting to multiple sessions within one simple window.

    I appreciate you putting work into the official client, but why the clunky ‘save session’ fuckaround to use two or three sessions?

    Out of interest, have you tried using CoRD?  It’s quite nice.

  41. ericw says:

    The main thing I used to use this for was getting to IE and/or Outlook for things I just couldn’t do on the Mac. One of these was setting up complex multisite meetings. Unfortunately the lack of time

    zone support was a killer for this last need; does the new version correctly handle a different client vs server timezone? My schedule presented in GMT was very distracting.

  42. Snugharbor says:

    Yes but the ironic thing is you can’t use it for Mac to Mac only Mac to PC. Why oh why can’t we have both? Yes there are ones out there but they are either expensive or not that good.

  43. nadyne says:

    Snugharbor – It turns out that it’s not quite as ironic as it appears at first glance.  The methods for connecting to a Mac and to a Windows box are very different.  They use completely different protocols.  Putting both of them into the same app isn’t easy.  Given that there are several alternatives out there for Mac-to-Mac connections, I’m not sure that adding that to RDC would be the best way for us to spend our resources.

  44. Darren says:

    Good to see the new Mac version of RDC, I will certainly be making use of this.

  45. Darren says:

    I’m concerned about the direction that office 2008 for the Mac appears to be taking! There doesn’t seem to be any support for VBA or scripting across platforms. It almost seems to suggest Microsoft is marginalizing Mac office on purpose, to force users to buy windows to host a windows version of office. Is Microsoft saying that to do enterprise level scripting in office apps you need to forget about the Mac because we are dropping support for the sort of extensive complex macros used?

    If scripting can be made cross platform (as it should) it will encourage the take up of office for Windows AND Mac. If not, what is the point? It might very well encourage customers to seek another office suite which will be cross platform scriptable, using something like python for both Windows AND Mac thereby shrinking the office market for Windows users as well.

    Any thoughts?

  46. Samuel says:

    Firstly, thank you very much for this update as a tool I use every day, it’s comforting to see that you continue to develop and support it.

    My only notes on the new version;

    1. Better support for multiple sessions, some way of creating a new session while an existing one is open, rather than opening them from saved connection files.

    2. Bug fix

    [Command + W] on preferences pane doesn’t close the window. Who wants to have to use their mouse? 🙂

  47. Keith says:

    now how about some msn  action > request remote assistance support in the mac version of messenger. don’t know how it would be possible some some level of rdp:// should be able to do the trick.

  48. Adam says:

    Can RDC 2 access Windows Server 2008 Beta?  I would like to setup a test box with Server 2008 to be used eventually as an application server for our Macs rather than use Parallels or VMWare.  From what I’m reading, Server 2008 lets you open an instance of a program without having to open an entire instance of Windows, which is the downfall of the other virtualization solutions.  Is what I’m wanting to do even possible? If so, that would be fantastic.  Thanks for the help.

  49. Would you please release an intermediate build of RDC for Mac v2 beta.

    The bug that your keyboard layout within RDC switching to AZERTY when having a US International  keyboard layout (like Rainer Brockerhoff’s) is selected at your mac, seems to be solved since the 31th july 2007 build of RDC v2.

    I do wish to try this being solved myself, before the final product is being released. A private message at c at vakantieland dot nl is also welcome.

  50. nadyne says:

    Adam – Your question is answered in the RDC v2 beta readme.  ðŸ™‚

    Q.  Will RDC for Mac 2.0 support Windows Server 2008?

    A.   At this time, we have not tested RDC for Mac 2.0 beta with Windows Server 2008 and user experiences may vary. The final version of RDC for Mac 2.0 will support Windows Server 2008.

  51. Adam says:

    Thanks Nadyne.  You’re a champ.  I’ll give it a go and see what we come up with. – Adam

  52. Andrew says:

    What is the "dynamic screen resizing" supposed to do? When I enable "fit to Window" and resize the window, the client just scales the output. The post talks about resizing for a 23" screen, which to me strongly implies changing the resolution on the remote end.

  53. Mac Mojo says:

    From Mac Mojo Guest Blogger David Liu of the MacBU RDC team Greetings from the MacBU RDC team! My name