Sharing Your Keyboard and Mouse with Synergy

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Date: Wednesday, December 15th, 2004, 22:27
Category: Archive

There are a lot of ways to share keyboards and other input devices across various computers. There are KVM switches, remote-desktop applications like Apple Remote Desktop and VNC, and there are ways to give computers multiple displays to further increase the width and height of your pixel farm. Read on…


There are a lot of ways to share keyboards and other input devices across various computers. There are KVM switches, remote-desktop applications like Apple Remote Desktop and VNC, and there are ways to give computers multiple displays to further increase the width and height of your pixel farm.
Some users will end up with more than one computer however, not just more than one display. Amidst the multi-headed landscape there are offices all over the world where someone has their PowerBook alongside a Windows PC, or a slick new PowerMac G5 next to their reliable Sun workstation.
I don’t know about you, but I find it frustrating giving up desk space to keyboards, trackballs, tablets, and mice, in addition to the display (or as many as four displays) sucking up room on my desk. Maybe one day I will have that corner office with all that space (and a murphy bed, please) but in the meantime, I have been using something that saves me from the use of multiple input devices sucking up space.
Synergy.
Synergy lets you use the same keyboard and mouse that you have attached to one computer, on other computers. This is more exciting than it sounds at first because it gives you so much more than that. It supports a variety of OS’s and doesn’t really care what type of input devices you’re using.
In my case I run the synergy server on my dual G4 workstation running OS X Server at home. I keep the laptops tucked up and away on my desk, off to the sides of my cinema display, lids open and displays on and run the synergy client on my Thinkpad and the PowerBook.
Now, from the center display, I can mouse over to the thinkpad to the left, or the PowerBook on the right. It’s a lot like using a multi-headed machine like that, except that of course all three displays are autonomous and self-contained computers on their own.
Synergy also supports shared clipboards, so I can select and perform copy/paste operations between computers. It has, however, been easily confused by command-tab operations and Expose keys, and it really only wants to let me use the mind-numbingly good QuickSilver on the PowerBook, but I’m still hopeful that I’m missing something.
The developers of Synergy are pretty Mac-friendly and there are pre-compiled binaries available. The documentation is easy to understand, and even if you’re not horribly at home in the Terminal, you should be able to get it rolling with little to no difficulty.
So far I’ve really enjoyed using this software, admittedly I’d rather have a big surly tricked out G5 on my desk at home, but because I don’t, I find myself divying up processes among machines in a way I didn’t really do before. Now I will often do my browsing on one machine, sync up with the office via the Thinkpad, treating that as my Outlook and Messenger station, and encoding video in the background on my PowerBook off to the right while I watch a movie and work on the workstation in front of me.
Do you use Synergy? What are some tips you have for fellow readers?

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