I work and develop on a desktop computer that has two split screens that’s accompanied by three purpose laptops and a server – all running simultaneously… meaning that I’m dealing with seven screens and six keyboard/mouse combinations at any one time. Granted, I’m not your typical user! Although I manage half my life with nothing more than a laptop, when I’m in my office I like to have unimpeded access to a large amount of information without the frustrating need to minimise windows to use other open applications.
When developing for the web I often have three or four computers dedicated to task… but this also means that as I find myself running out of my limited brain capacity I’ll unintentionally mix my keyboard and mouse combinations. I have a small laptop dedicated to nothing other than email but have to keep it within a close and ergonomic reach so I can quickly reply to messages… but this also means it adds (unproductive) clutter on precious desktop real-estate that’s better reserved for Pepsi Max and Pizza.
Today was the last straw. I finally got around to doing what I should have done months ago – I set up a basic system for sharing multiple screens with one keyboard and mouse.
Synergy – formerly hosted on Sourceforge but now available at synergy-foss.org – will permit you to easily share your mouse and keyboard between multiple computers where each computer has its own display. No special hardware is required but you’ll obviously have to have your machines connected via a local area network.
The small application will redirect the functionality of the keyboard and mouse whenever the mouse is moved off the edge of the screen into the monitor attached to another computer. You can easily and quickly set it up to emulate more expensive multiple screen displays by directing your input device to work on a screen above, below or to the left or right of your primary display. I’ve set up about a dozen rules that ‘shortcut’ to other PC’s depending on the direction or area of the screen I depart. Unlike most KVM devices, there are no switches involved, and the transition from machine to machine is as seamless as if you were operating with split screens attached to one computer.
If you’re somebody that develops media or requires ready access to large amounts of information, or if you develop applications that require you to repeatedly switch from one computer to another, Synergy is a must!
A very useful and time-saving function is the ability to copy and paste between two machines. This function alone saves me an enormous amount of time.
Synergy does not manage any authentication or encryption meaning that data transferred between the server and the client is unencrypted. Synergy shouldn’t be used on public networks.
We’ve not done much video on this website but we’ve recently decided that we’ll do quite a bit of it in the future. This very quick video illustrates what I’ve described above.
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