Synergy: One App to Control All Your PCs

Synergy makes it possible for users to share one keyboard and mouse with multiple computers running at the same time, even if the computers use different operating systems. And the best part? It's free.


You Can't Detect What You Can't See: Illuminating the Entire Kill Chain

On-Demand Webinar

Posted November 20, 2007

Lee Underwood

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Many people use more than one computer for writing, programming, designing, and Web development. I personally use three: two desktops and one laptop. Switching between the different keyboards and mice can be a bit tedious, especially if you have a few slide-out drawers. Also, it would be nice to be able to do a screen capture on one computer and then paste it into a document on another.

Many people have two monitors for one keyboard and one mouse. Why can't we use one keyboard and one mouse for two or more different computers? Well, actually you can. And it's pretty simple to do — you just need to have a bit of synergy.

syn·er·gy [n., pl.]

  1. The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.
  2. Cooperative interaction among groups, especially among the acquired subsidiaries or merged parts of a corporation, that creates an enhanced combined effect.

The Solution

Synergy is the creation of Chris Schoeneman. It is a built-from-scratch reimplementation of an older program called CosmoSynergy. It allows a user to share one keyboard and one mouse with multiple computers. The computers don't even have to be running the same operating systems.

The best part? Synergy is free! It's developed under the open source GNU Public License (GPL).

Synergy works with any combination of the following operating systems: Microsoft Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP; Mac OS X 10.2 or higher; and Unix, Linux, Solaris, and other variants. In my 'synergistic' group, for instance, I'm running MS Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Ubuntu Linux.

It is necessary to have all of the computers on the same TCP/IP network. If you're working with more than one computer, chances are pretty good that you're already on a network. (If not, we can help there, too.)

Aside from using the same keyboard and mouse, you can cut and paste text, images, and code between the different computers. It's like having a common clipboard. It works seamlessly, so you don't even know you're working on different computers and (perhaps) different operating systems. It doesn't support drag and drop, because, according to the Synergy Web site, it's very difficult and would probably take a long time to implement.

If you find the mouse jumping between screens, pressing [Scroll Lock] will keep the cursor on the current screen. When you want to switch back, press [Scroll Lock] again to turn it off. If you use screen savers, Synergy can have them work in unison (sort of 'synergistically').

You just designate which one sets the timing. This activates the others. If they're password-protected, unlocking one will unlock all the others.

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