personal website of Dan Catchpole.

Synergy

Synergy is an open-source dingus that allows you to share a single mouse and keyboard across multiple computers and operating systems. Think of it like a soft-KVM switch. I've been playing around with it for the last few weeks since I received my new MacBook Air in tandem with my Windows 7 work desktop.

What I Like

  • Shared Clipboard. Copy some text, a link, etc from Mac, paste into Windows. Works great, provided I can remember not to confuse the keyboard shortcuts.

  • Single Mouse & Keyboard. I try to keep a clean desk. Multiple mice (or Magic Trackpad) and keyboards is a little too cluttered for my liking unless it's a necessity.

What I Don't Like

  • Config is a pain in the ass. There's multiple forks of Synergy floating around on sourceforge, google code, among others. Some work with each other, some don't. Some have a decent GUI for selecting where each device is and can change keys on the keyboard to emulate the corresponding ones on an OS (think ⌘ key.) Some are easier to use than others. It means trial and error and time wasted.

  • Connectivity is spotty. At random occasions the link between the server and client machines stops. Seriously disruptive when you're used to moving the cursor over to the other OS/screen and you slam into the edge of the screen instead and bang the cursor against the screen edge in frustration (not that I would ever do such a thing.) Then you get to play 'figure out which connection failed, server or client' which means opening up that closed MBA and restarting Synergy on it (since it doesn't have a keyboard or mouse connected anymore) then repeating the same on the Windows machine. Annoying.

At the moment, I'm actually typing this up with a standard Apple Wireless Keyboard and Magic Trackpad, as I've discovered that the client machine can't detect some of the nice features of the server machine's devices. So, while I was able to get the trackpad working in Windows 7 (mostly) none of it's features worked when the cursor was on the OSX screen.

I'm planning to try swapping the server-client roles for the Windows 7 and OSX machines, respectively, to see if it helps at all.

If you can tolerate a slightly messier desk, the MBA & external monitor & wireless keyboard & trackpad make a great combo.

If you've got multiple machines/OSes and only enough desk space for a single mouse & keyboard, and you can forgive some of Synergy's quirks, it's a nice little bit of software.

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