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Every admin has dealt with running two computers side by side, each with its own monitor, keyboard and mouse. Sometimes this situation occurs because you need to copy files from one computer to another or you need to perform updates on both machines at once. Looking from one screen to the other isn't so bad, but switching back and forth between mice and keyboards is truly annoying.
Synergy (current version 1.2.2) was written as a possible solution to this particular problem. The program allows you to share a single mouse and keyboard across multiple computers running different operating systems, each using its own display. It's not a "remote desktop" application in the traditional sense -- it doesn't let you see the contents of one desktop on another. But it allows one computer to control several others when they already have monitors.
You have to install the program on all the computers to be used in tandem. Once set up, you tell the program how each computer's screen is set up in relation to each other, then declare one computer to be the master machine. When you move the mouse pointer off the edge of one screen, it appears on the screen next to it. The computer that currently has the cursor's focus also receives keyboard input. Also, if you have a screensaver active on one computer, it will trigger screensavers to start on all of them. Finally, the program supports copy-and-paste operations between computers, but data types may not yet copy correctly across some platforms (Mac OS X shows the most problems with this right now).
The source code for the program is available for free. Binary versions exist for Windows 95/98/Me/NT 4.0/2000/XP/2003 Server, Mac OS X 1.02 and higher and various versions of Unix that support X Windows Version 11 Rev. 4.
Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!
This was first published in August 2005