Synergy: using multiple computers with just one mouse and keyboard

I use two computers in the office. A PC for daily tasks and a laptop for taking notes from meetings or brainstorming sessions. I used to switch between the mice and keyboards of those two computers. To copy contents from the PC to the laptop or vice versa, I had to use a temporary file and then synchronised it with OneDrive. The story has changed since the day I use a software called Synergy.

What Synergy helps me

First of all, Synergy allows me to use one set of mouse and keyboard with multiple computers. I used the PC normally with its devices. When I needed to use the laptop, I could keep using the PC mouse and keyboard instead of moving my body and using the laptop touchpad and built-in keyboard. I felt more comfortable and spent less time on moving the position and switching input devices. You can organise your computer in a virtual grid. Based on that setting, Synergy knows which computer you want to use when the mouse is moved to one edge of the current computer screen.

Another benefit of using the software is the copy-paste task between computers. I used the laptop to take notes from meetings and used the PC for professional tasks. With Synergy, I could copy text from one computer and paste it to the other one just as using one computer. I read that I can drag and drop files between computers with Synergy. However, I couldn’t set up my Windows computers to do that.

How to set up Synergy

The installation process of Synergy is simple. You have to install Synergy on all computers that you want to use your mouse and keyboard. One computer is connected directly to the gear and it is called the “server”. The others are called “clients”. There will be a little bit differences when configure Synergy on the server and on the clients. On the GUI of Synergy, you should pay the attention to some important points:

Synergy interface with labels
  1. The role of the current computer: one computer should be marked as “server”, the others are marked as “clients”.
  2. The computer IP: you will need the IP of the server when configuring the client.
  3. The configure server button (server only): the button allows users to choose which clients are granted to use the server’s mouse and keyboard. Users are also able to organise the layout of their computers so that Synergy knows which desktop it should focus to when users move the mouse over the edge of one screen. I used this button to set some hot keys that help me switch the desktop even quicker.
  4. The screen name (client only): the name of the client. You will need this information when configuring the server. Only clients whose names are registered in the server configuration can connect to the server. You can change the name of the client via the Edit > Settings menu.
  5. The server IP (client only): the IP of the server that this client will connect to. In some scenario, each computer is assigned to multiple IP addresses. The client must connect to the server using the IP that in the same subnet with its IP. In short, choose the server IP that has the most similar numbers with the clients.
  6. The log area: this area tells you useful information about the software activities.
  7. The Apply and Start/Stop buttons: you should click the Apply button to apply the new settings. The Start/Stop button do what it shows: starting and stopping the software.

Configure Synergy on the server

The server is the computer to which you connect your mouse and keyboard. By clicking on the “Configure Server  …” button, you can organise the layout of your computers as well as decide which client can connect to this server. The server configuration dialogue has three tabs:

  • Screens and Links: decide which client can connect to the server and the layout of your computers.
  • Hotkeys: defines hot keys with several functions: switching to a screen or a direction, simulating another shortcut on specified screens, locking the cursor to the current screen, …
  • Advanced server settings: more options and settings to let Synergy work with your style.
Synergy server configuration dialogue

To add a client, drag the screen icon on the top right corner to the position you want on the grid. Dragging a screen from the grid to the litter bin on the top left corner will disconnect the client from the server. You should double click on a screen of the grid to change the settings of that screen. For the first time you add a screen, you need edit its name to match with the screen name appearing on the client Synergy interface.

Configure Synergy on the client

Computers that use the mouse and keyboard of the server are clients. The only thing you have to configure on a client is the Server IP. Enter the IP address of the server, press the “Apply” button, see the log area and make sure that the client connected to the server  successfully. A client must be registered in the server configuration dialogue before being able to connect to that server. If the server has more than one IP address, choose the one that in the same subnet with your client.

Conclusion

Synergy is an fantastic software for people who work with many computers. It will improve the productivity and make the daily task easier. The setting up process is not complicated, too.  In my opinion, Synergy is a little bit overpriced now ($19 without SSL encryption). If the drag-and-drop function is fixed, that price will be fair. More details are available on https://symless.com/synergy.

 

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