How often do you connect to a Windows Terminal Server by RDP in a day? If you are a Windows admin, you probably do this more often than anything else. RoyalTS and visionapp Remote Desktop (vRD) are two useful free tools that allow you two manage your remote desktop connections more professionally than with the Remote Desktop Connection utility that comes with Windows.

Michael Pietroforte

Michael Pietroforte is the founder and editor in chief of 4sysops. He has more than 35 years of experience in IT management and system administration.

With Remote Desktop Connection (RDC), you have to enter the server name and your credentials manually. This method is quite longwinded, especially if you are using different RDP settings depending on the server you want to connect to. Another option is to save an RDP connection file for every server on your desktop. But if you have many servers, your desktop will soon be cluttered with RDP files.

The Windows Server 2003 Administration Tools Pack includes the Remote Desktops utility which lets you organize your RDP connections more effectively. However, RoyalTS and vRD are more sophisticated tools. Like Remote Desktops, you can store your RDP connection in a hierarchical structure with folder or categories. This makes it much easier to find a connection if you have to manage many servers.

vRDAnother advantage is that you can easily switch between desktops if you opened multiple terminal server sessions at the same time. This applies especially to vRD which organizes open connections in tabs and also offers an overview pane with thumbnails of all desktops. The terminal server session can be displayed in a pane or if you prefer to work in full screen mode you can also launch it in an external window.

Like with RDC, you can save your credentials with both tools. Note that it is always a security risk to save passwords even though they are encrypted. But if you are not worried about this, then you probably like vRD's feature to centrally store credentials. You can assign different credentials for each folder. Whenever you create a new RDP connection, it will inherit automatically the credentials from the parent folder.

RoayalTSRoyalTS doesn't offer this functionality, but it has another feature which is at least as useful: the Smart Size Mode. It can scale the remote desktop content dynamically whenever you resize the window. So you won't see scroll bars if the remote desktop doesn't fit in the window. This feature is quite useful if you have multiple remote desktops open at the same time. RoyalTS needs .NET 1.1. It doesn't seem to work with .NET 2.0 or 3.0. But it is no problem to install different .NET versions on the same machine.

I tried RoyalTS 1.3.2 and visionapp remote desktop v1.5 also under Windows Vista and didn't encounter problems with both tools.

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21 Comments
  1. jcmoriaud 12 years ago

    There's now a new player: mRemote found here:

    https://sourceforge.net/projects/mremote/

    still in beta but already the faster at connection time and ergonomically better.

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  2. chuck 12 years ago

    I used RoyalTS until I had the need to use a custom port for RDP. I experienced lots of problems attempting to do this within their app (not sure if this has been fixed as it has been a few months and I believe they have a newer release that I have not yet tested).

    This prompted me to look around and I found Remote Desktop Manager ( http://www.devolutions.net/ ). Not only did I get what I wanted from their app (the capability to use a custom rdp port) but also found that it allows me to use VNC via their interface. Another item I liked about Remote Desktop Manager (curently at revision 3.0) is that it sits in the system tray and allows you to select a remote machine via a quick right click! It's a nice app...

    Chuck

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  3. Michael Pietroforte 12 years ago

    Thanks a lot for the tips. I might review these tools soon.

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  4. Jason 12 years ago

    Terminals is an open source alternative found on Codeplex: http://www.codeplex.com/Terminals It has a clean interface and does everything I need it to and then some.

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  5. Michael Pietroforte 12 years ago

    Interesting. I didn’t know that there are so many other free RDP management tools. Thanks again!

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  6. Dennis 12 years ago

    There a free add-on for Royal-ts, it's called Royal Phone Book, its scans your AD for computers. This way you can easely create your connection list. By now, Royal TS version 1.42 is allmost out, build on the .net Framework 2.0. Many bugs discribed here are fixed!

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  7. Kevin 12 years ago

    I've tried Royal-TS and Terminals and found that I prefer RD Tabs. It's not open source, but it is freeware. The very latest version can be found in the support forums or by the AutoUpdate feature. It's got tabs, remembers credentials, special ports per connection, console mode, etc. Works on Vista as well....

    http://www.avianwaves.com/Tech/Tools/RDTabs/

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  8. Michael Pietroforte 12 years ago

    Kevin, thanks for the link. I am currently preparing a comparison table of all RDP clients mentioned here. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

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  9. jeutix 12 years ago

    Hi!

    Don't forget iShadow Desktop from http://www.ishadow.com.

    The main-feature to use TS Royal (the 1.4.2 is the actual version) is the right-click and "connect to console" directly. Other programs don't have this feature.

    Greetings
    Udo

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  10. Bob 12 years ago

    vRD is very nice, however the splash screen for it is not remote desktop friendly. So if you use RDP to connect to another desktop where you use vRD you will have to wait patiently while the splash screen loads.

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  11. Alex 12 years ago

    One comment on Remote Desktop Manager from devolutions.net.

    This client is in a class by itself. Yes it is very small (<800k) and requires no install (as long as .Net 2.0 is there), and yes it offers both VNC and RDP support, but... it does not actually include either RDP or VNC engines! The only thing the app does is launching of the external exes... Yes it can simplify loading remote connections but so could batch files. Again, nothing is specifically wrong with the app, but it should not be compared to RoyalTS, vRD, iShadow, etc. without noting this difference.

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  12. Mark 12 years ago

    Don't forget Remote Desktop Gadget by Frameworkx http://www.frameworkx.com/solution.aspx?id=405
    Sits in the system tray and good for those one-off connections we all make periodically. Also available as a Sidebar Gadget for Vista.

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  13. Michael Pietroforte 12 years ago

    Alex, you are right. That is in an important difference. I wasn’t aware of that.

    Mark, thanks for the tip.

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  14. George 11 years ago

    Thanks for your comments and links, guys.

    I switched from vRDP to RDTabs, for the following reasons (YMMV, of course):
    - screen layout (more space available for a tab)
    - keyboard shortcuts
    - more configuration options

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  15. Fred 11 years ago

    I can connect on a custom port with Royal TS 1.4.1 (and probably earlier) without trouble.

    In the "connection" tab of the settings form put the I.P. address or host name in "Host" without mentioning the port (it wouldn't recognize it); setup the RDP port separately in the "Advanced" tab. (It's of course a bit awkward that these 2 related settings are so distant in the interface.)

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  16. cerminkace 11 years ago

    How about portable remote desktop manager i know terminals & mRemote portable but not sure other..

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  17. [...] Re: VNC auf 64 bit Server Die freien Lsungen die ich bisher gesehen haben setzen alle auf VNC auf und sind ebenso langsam. Warum reicht dir RDP denn nicht? Es gibt ja inwischen RDP Verwaltungstools die RDP verwenden, aber mehrere Sessions darstellen knnen und so weiter... ..z.B. https://4sysops.com/archives/royalts-...agement-tools/ [...]

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  18. RoyalPITA 9 years ago

    RoyalTS and vRD are no longer free. RoyalTS last free version was 1.5.x. VRD has a crippled free mode after trial expires (only 3 concurrent connections, among other things).

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  19. Shawn 9 years ago

    Microsoft now has a free RDP connection management tool. Not as good as Visionapp, but nonetheless, is still a good tool for managing hundreds of Windows servers.

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  20. Shawn 9 years ago

    I forgot to add the link for the Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection Manager download.

    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=4603c621-6de7-4ccb-9f51-d53dc7e48047&displaylang=en

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  21. Doug Scott 4 years ago

    Not many of the above Remote Desktop apps are still around. http://devolutions.net/, http://terminals.codeplex.com/releases/view/121477, http://www.avianwaves.com/Tech/Tools/RDTabs.aspx, http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/confirmation.aspx?id=21101, and the one that started it all (VisionApp 1.5) is still around, but not from the author.

    I have always found VisionApp application to work the best. About the only issue I ever have is it will occasionally get hung on something, and just beep with any keystroke or mouse click. Clicking somewhere with in the apps window usually fixes it though.

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