Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Multiple computers operation with one keyboard and mouse

synergy: [noun] a mutually advantageous
conjunction of distinct elements

If you have multiple computers (with same or different Operating Systems) on your Office or Home desk, the software presented might get your full attention. It is like having dual (or multiple) monitors management, a KVM switch, and VNC remote desktop operations at the convenience of one small open source utility.


Synergy lets you easily share a single mouse and keyboard between multiple computers with different operating systems, each with its own display, without special hardware. It’s intended for users with multiple computers on their desk since each system uses its own monitor(s).

Redirecting the mouse and keyboard is as simple as moving the mouse off the edge of your screen. Synergy also merges the clipboards of all the systems into one, allowing cut-and-paste between systems. Furthermore, it synchronizes screen savers so they all start and stop together and, if screen locking is enabled, only one screen requires a password to unlock them all.

Virtual Monitor Screens

With synergy, all the computers on your desktop form a single virtual screen. You use the mouse and keyboard of only one of the computers while you use all of the monitors on all of the computers. You tell synergy how many screens you have and their positions relative to one another. Synergy then detects when the mouse moves off the edge of a screen and jumps it instantly to the neighboring screen. The keyboard works normally on each screen; input goes to whichever screen has the cursor.

You can arrange screens side-by-side, above and below one another, or any combination. You can even have a screen jump to the opposite edge of itself. Synergy also understands multiple screens attached to the same computer.

Copy-and-paste Between Computers

Do you wish you could cut and paste between computers? Now you can! Just copy text, HTML, or an image as you normally would on one screen then switch to another screen and paste it. It’s as if all your computers shared a single clipboard. It even converts new lines to each computer’s native form so cut and paste between different operating systems works seamlessly. And it does it all in Unicode so any text can be copied.

Synchronized Screensavers

Do you use a screen saver? With synergy all your screen savers act in concert. When one starts they all start. When one stops they all stop. And, if you require a password to unlock the screen, you’ll only have to enter a password on one screen.

Synergy is open source and released under the GNU Public License (GPL).

System Requirements

* Microsoft Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Me (the Windows 95 family)
* Microsoft Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP (the Windows NT family)
* Mac OS X 10.2 or higher
* Unix
* All systems must support TCP/IP networking.

Install and Use

For your convenience, I will offer you description provided by Matt Valerio on how he installed and configured the system.

In my case, I installed Synergy on both my desktop and laptop (both Windows XP) and plugged them into the same LAN. (It will also work over wireless, but is a little laggy.) I wanted to share my desktop’s keyboard and mouse, so I configured Synergy on my desktop with the “Share this computer’s keyboard and mouse” radio button clicked.

Then I needed to configure the Screens and Links, also on the desktop. This essentially lets me give names to each machine (I just called them “desktop” and “laptop” for simplicity) and also specify the “links” between them. It’s really easy. I wanted to configure Synergy so that when my mouse goes to the right of my desktop monitor, it gets teleported over to the left side of my laptop monitor. I also wanted the left side of my laptop monitor to teleport over to the right side of my desktop monitor. The second rule may seem redundant in this case, but if you don’t define it, then if you mouse from the desktop to the laptop, you have no way of getting back to the desktop! You can go crazy with the rules if you have more than one machine, creating a twisted maze of links and relationships between screens. For usability, though, it’s a good idea to keep things “topologically simple” to not fry your brain.

Once I get the desktop configured, I just click the Start button and it hides in the tray waiting for clients (e.g. my laptop) to connect.

Then on my laptop, I start Synergy and configure it to use my desktop’s keyboard and mouse. Click Start and the icons on both machines will show a yellow lightning bolt to indicate connectivity. Moving the mouse around actually jumps between screens! Sweet! You’ll also be pleasantly surprised when you discover that copy/paste works between machines as well.

Now I can have a “Dual” Monitor setup. It’s not quite the same since the screens are connected to completely different machines, but it does help considerably.

Lately I’ve been developing some distributed system software with WCF, and this setup has been very beneficial since I can easily move the mouse between two computers to test both client and server.

Developers’ website: http://synergy2.sourceforge.net/


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