Timbuktu Pro, which is available in both Mac and Windows, is clearly aimed at Mac users. The PC version, while functionally similar to the Mac edition, appears to be something of an afterthought, since functionality is limited.
Whilst flicking through the features of the Windows XP package, we were struck by the similarities between the software's features and those of the remote assistance option of Windows XP. You can, for example, chat and interact across both applications, although this product has a file transfer facility.
It is only when you compare Timbuktu Pro with other PC remote access software that you will realize what's missing. Scripting facilities, available on the Mac version, and audit files (although there is a basic log file) are not present.
What is present are the wealth of graphics and security features seen on the Mac edition; screen blanking, password ageing, master password protection; user level privileges - the list is extensive.
The software is user-friendly. Netopia maintains a dynamic IP address lookup facility based on users' email addresses. This allows users to find the IP address of another user on, say, a dialup internet connection.
Our initial worry was that this facility is a hacker's aide, but the service is opt-in and can be limited to specific groups of users, so Netopia has clearly thought through the security implications.
Once installed, the software can be configured quickly for a variety of communications infrastructures, including dialup, DSL, LAN/WAN and RAS setups.
There's no client version as such - users must install a copy of the software on each machine requiring a connection. This curious feature probably stems from the Mac editions, since the client/server concept was not introduced on the Mac until a decade ago.
Graphics and documentation on the software are excellent. Other features not seen on competing packages for the PC include a notify function, which allows a user to be told when a remote machine is back online and `available.'
Overall, Timbuktu Pro is a well-designed application, but its Mac origins mean that the PC's communications flexibility is overlooked. Against comparable freeware, Timbuktu Pro looks lackluster.