One Keyboard, One Mouse — Multiple PCs: synergy2

I commonly work on a desk with two or more computers, each having its own monitor, keyboard and mouse. It often got confusing which mouse and which keyboard to use when.

To be my saviour, Erik (see his blog as well) has pointed out a software called synergy2 to me, a software that emulates a KM-switch (Keyboard-Mouse-Switch) across multiple plattforms. The user simply configures the arrangement of the monitors on his desk (M1 is left of M2, M2 is above M3, …) and the mouse can be moved from computer A to computer B. Keyboard input follows the mouse in this case.

Still, every computer needs its own monitor, but I now have one single keyboard and one single mouse to handle them all. To be honest, after using this software for two weeks now, I can’t imaging working without it any more.

synergy2 claims to work with heterogenious Microsoft Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP/2003, Mac OS X 10.2+, and any Unix X Server 11r4+ with XTEST extension.

Besides the really nice fact that one needs only one keyboard/mouse any more there are two additional goodies in using this software:

  • synergy2 (if configured to do so) synchronized the content of the clipboard among the clients. This really comes in handy if you are using one PC for research on the web and another one to work.
  • A nice feature is to synchronize the screen savers on the various computers so that all screen savers turn on at once and none turns on while you are working on another computer.

synergy2 works quite simply by defining a server (the computer with the real keyboard and mouse) and attaching clients to this server. The protocol used is unencrypted so be sure to use it only within trusted networks. You could however tunnel it over ssh to have an encrypted channel.

During my two weeks of experience in heavily using this software I only found some minor bugs/itches in using it: sometimes when coming back from screen saver on a client computer running Windows XP Prof with an XP-greeting screen and activated password after screensavers, the virtual keyboard is stuck with a simulated key, resulting in not being able to enter the correct password. As this is my notebook I could always fix the problem by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del manually on the notebook’s native keyboard. Another way to get around this without using a native keyboard is to unlock the server screen and tell the synergy2-server to “Force Reconnect”. Unfortunately in the latter case the reconnect process takes several seconds before the slave screens can be re-entered with the mouse.

So, if you are using several PCs on the same desk at the same time, each with its own monitor, you should definitely give synergy2 a try. I’m quite sure, it will revolutionize your everyday’s work just as it did in my case.

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