Create cross-platform synergy with Synergy.

If you ever use more than one computer on the same desk, you need Synergy. Synergy is a protocol that allows several computers to seamlessly share the same keyboard and mouse. It’s cross platform: I use it to control my Mac laptop, a desktop PC running Windows and a Linux box. I plop my laptop down on the desk, it automatically connects to my desktop computer, and I can use it just as easily as I would a second monitor.

The protocol is really slick. Once it is configured, move your mouse to the edge of the screen and the cursor jumps to the next computer. Keyboard control and window focus follow the mouse. It even shares your clipboard – you can copy something on one computer and paste it on the next. On most platforms Synergy can synchronize screen savers and sleep as well. Check out this quality illustration of the idea:

Cursor warp from Linux to Windows

Since Synergy is a protocol rather than a program, there are quite a few apps to use with it. I wouldn’t use the official Synergy application on any platform other than Windows. Here are some great alternatives:

On a Mac, I recommend installing SynergyKM. It provides an easy to use preference pane, a graphical tool for aligning displays, and sweet keyboard remapping, so your [Control], [Option], [Command] and Windows keys get along, no matter which keyboard or operating system you’re using. It supports multiple profiles, so you can set your laptop up for home and work. It even claims to use Bonjour to automatically configure client computers1.

Get SynergyKM here

SynergyKM menu extra

SynergyKM profiles

SynergyKM preference pane

Linux configuration can get a bit tricky. The command line version gives you the greatest control, but takes a .conf file or two to get going. If you’re not feeling up to that, check out QuickSynergy, a GTK 2 app that makes configuring Synergy a breeze. To automatically start Synergy when you boot up (or log in) check out this guide.

QuickSynergy sources and distro-specific instructions here

QuickSynergy GUI in Linux

And for the unfortunate Windows users, check out the official Synergy2 application. It works great on anything >= Windows 95, so if your computer has a mouse you should be set…

Get Synergy for Windows here

  1. But that hasn’t worked out for me yet. YMMV.