App Review: Keyboard and Mouse Sharing Made Simple with Synergy

Category: Reviews
synergy

My setup at home is perhaps a little… unconventional. I run Windows 8 (well, technically I’m on Windows 8.1, but I’m in denial about the whole thing) on my gaming PC dead in front and a 2010 MacBook Pro on a Twelvesouth Hi-Rise stand to the left. I use a Filco clicky keyboard, a boring Logitech mouse and a Dell 24-inch monitor.

It looks like this:

desktop-setup

For anyone who’s run two systems side by side, you might think there’s a hidden KVM switch lurking somewhere in the shadows. A handy little switcher box so I can easily flip between screens & operating systems.

Well, the sad truth of it is that that I have never bothered. I’ve just basically made do with what I have, and that’s always involved manually switching around DVI and USB cables like a jerk.

Until about two weeks ago when I discovered Synergy.

Synergy is a keyboard-and-mouse sharing application that you can install across your Windows boxes, your Macs and even your Linux boxes, and provides multi-monitor-like functionality. That is, you move your mouse to the edge of your PC screen, and then it jumps all the way across to your Mac without missing a beat. Your keyboard switches instantly to the new computer as well.

Here’s a quick video I made to show you what I mean.

Pretty wild, right?

Synergy is free, and an open-source project that takes donations as well as a premium version. The premium version is a pay-what-you-want edition, and provides a few extra niceties like drop-and-drop file transfer & clipboard sharing. I haven’t bothered upgrading yet, but I’m getting so much use out of it I think the developers deserve a little sumpin’ sumpin’.

synergy server

The idea is that you set up the computer with your keyboard and mouse plugged in as the server, and the other machines as clients. The simplest way to set up a server is to have a static IP, and then have your client machines connect to that IP. That’s how I did it, anyway.

synergy-setup2

Why is my PC called Hector Salamanca? Well, there’s probably a nerdy Breaking Bad joke in that somewhere.

Once your server is up and running, you have to specify each outside client and how they’re going to sit in configuration on the server. This is the most fiddly bit of the set up process but also allows you to specify exactly where your machines sit relative to one another.

Here’s what it looks like on my client Mac:

synergy-mac

Once it’s all ready to go, it can simply start up at login and run in the background, which means you’ll probably never have to look at it again.

So, does it work as advertised?

Well, for the most part, yes.

I must confess; it wasn’t all flowers and sunshine at first. I had to do a little fiddling with my Alt/Ctrl/Command key configuration to get it exactly the way I wanted, and I still can’t seem to find a way to middle-click on the client Mac, which is pretty annoying for a compulsive middle-click Chrome-tab opener/closer like myself. Sadly, forums seem to suggest this is a long-standing issue.

However, apart from those little niggles, I really can’t complain. I’ve found myself with a second screen for the first time in ages, which also happens to be a completely independent computer. I’ll also put in a plug for Dropbox (as if you don’t have it already), which is very sweet in this situation, and makes sharing files across the two computers trivial.

Synergy is free, and available for Windows, Mac & Linux now.

9 comments

  1. Not impressed at all with Synergy.
    I have a fast home network and always run the latest Windows and other updates.
    It’s hogging 25% of my cpu all the time.
    And on the second PC, it starts ok, but once I use it for a while, it lags very badly.

    I want a refund!

  2. Paid for this piece of crap. I immediately realized I was duped. The software did not connect from my Ubuntu machine to my server on Windows or vice versa.

    1. Hi Nishad,

      Ah, we never meant to make you feel duped! I’m so sorry about that. Please will you let me fix this?

      We fully support Ubuntu, so it should work for you. What errors you see? It could be something as simple as a network connection problem. We’re more than happy to help, why not contact customer service?

      You can contact customer service here: http://synergy-project.org/contact/

      Thanks,
      Nick

  3. Works super for me. I have Windows 10 and Mac OS Sierra and Synergy Pro v 1.8.5. I use it between my mac and windows PC at work on the wifi network (imagine that!). As a consultant who works constantly between IntelliJ IDEA and Visual Studio on Windows, I find the tool remarkable. The copy paste functionality is simply awesome. What a great app! I would definitely recommend it to anyone.

  4. All of these mouse/keyboard sharing apps have been terrible for me, quite laggy. Of the 3 I tried, “Mouse without borders”, a free app, worked the best- Still laggy, but less frequently and only half a second delay, so it was usable (unlike Synergy, which I paid $30 for).

    But Synergy, oh man. Fuck this program. Photoshop has been disabled for MONTHS, it thinks the shift key is held down and is useless. I finally figured out one of the synergy processes near the bottom of the Task Manager was the cause of it. I am FURIOUS at Synergy.

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