Just like the name suggests, remote desktop applications (RDP) allow you to access a server remotely and fully control it.
They have many practical uses, from simple tasks such as helping a user install software or troubleshoot an issue to really complex system administration tasks. Some of the largest IT companies in the world rely on RDP for critical maintenance work.
RDP software must be usually installed on both the remote computer (which in this case acts like a server) and the client.
While some versions of the Windows operating system include a RDP client, alternative applications are better, with more features and multiple OS compatibility. We will review and compare three of the best options in this article.

x2go

x2go is actually a complex terminal server software that provides many features, RDP being just one of them.
It has two components: the server part and the client, and is available for Windows, MacOS and the most popular Linux distributions.
This versatile RDP software needs a very low bandwidth, so it is very well suited for networks with poor speed. It supports a number of useful features, such as desktop sharing and remote sound.
Another important advantage of x2go is that desktop binding tools are available for all of the most common Linux graphical environments. The installation is also very easy, since both the server and the client require only a single package.
While x2go is a very powerful RDP tool, it also has a number of serious disadvantages. The most critical of these is incompatibility with some of the modern desktop environments.
It is fully compatible with MATE and the lightweight LXDE and XFCE, but the server version will not work on the latest Gnome and KDE, without various tweaks and workarounds. The client doesn’t have these issues and runs on every operating system and GUI.
Due to these limitations, x2go is an option only for the supported desktop environments or older operating systems that still use obsolete versions of X.org.

noVNC

While the name of this software suggests that it is not using the VNC protocol, that is not actually true. The name simply reflects the intention of its developer to support multiple protocols, which are yet to be implemented.
Unlike x2go, noVNC only offers a RDP client and not a server application. It is compatible with any standard VNC server, as long as it includes WebSockets support.
While a number of VNC servers offer native support, others don’t and a WebSockets to TCP socket proxy must be configured. Websockify is a sister project of noVNC that makes the setup of such a proxy very easy.
The client itself is actually built on a JavaScript library and runs in any browser with HTML5 support. The only incompatible browser is the old Internet Explorer 10, the applications works smoothly on all others, including the browsers found on mobile phones.
Installation is very easy and straightforward: you only have to execute the included launch script. The script will generate an URL, paste it in your browser and the remote connection is established.
As a simple HTML client, noVNC doesn’t provide many advanced features. It does support copy and paste from the clipboard, various VNC encodings, as well as desktop scaling/resizing.

SPICE

SPICE is a very complex and ambitious project that aims to offer a complete remote access solution with powerful features, designed for the control of virtual machines.
It is powered by the protocol with the same name and consists of three components: the server, the client and a number of packages that are required to make the application fully functional.
SPICE has been developed to operate in LAN environments with high bandwidth and it aims to provide a very high-quality connection.
As a result, it is by far the richest in features of the three applications compared in this article. It offers very high quality video streaming, image compression, multiple monitor support, two way audio playback and capture, encrypted connections, USB and smartcard redirection, folder sharing and many other features.
SPICE also includes a simple JavaScript web client and a server application that acts both as an X and a SPICE server.
SPICE server installation is not complicated, the easiest way is to include the package when you create a virtual machine, so the service will be enabled by default.
The client is also very easy to install on Linux and Windows, but a client for MacOS is not available at the moment.

It is time to go back to the original question and decide which of the three applications reviewed is the best software for Remote Desktop Connection.
The choice is quite easy: noVNC is a simple but very effective RDP client that gets the job done. While x2go is more powerful, it doesn’t support the latest desktop environments, while SPICE only works with virtual machines on the local computer or LAN.

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