Tony’s Tech Tips – Virtual KVM

by Tony Gamble

synergy-promoAs I sit here at my desk, I have across from me three computers. One is my main machine, from which I do my most important work. To the right of that, I have an older iMac for playing music and video. And to the right of that one, a Windows 8 laptop, for those times that I need to test out a new web design in Internet Exploder. Three separate computers means three sets of keyboards and mice, right? Well actually, no. One mouse. One keyboard. One happy user.

To achieve this, it used to mean purchasing another piece of hardware called a KVM Switch (KVM stands for keyboard, video and mouse). While not terribly expensive, it does add extra clutter to your workspace. Instead, I discovered a brilliant little application that handles this chore all through software. It does this seamlessly and offers even more than a simple hardware switch, like drag and drop file transfer. It’s called Synergy.

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 9.26.43 AM

Synergy setup

To set up your Synergy experience, you just download and install the application on each of the computers you wish to control. In the setup, you choose whether the machine it’s on should be the Server (the one with the keyboard and mouse you’d like to use to control all others), or the Client. The Configuration button in the Server settings brings up a grid, upon which you can arrange your Synergy-connected computers. My secondary iMac sits to the right of my primary machine on my desk, so that’s where it should appear on the grid.

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 9.27.09 AM

Connected computers

To add a client computer to this configuration, just drag the LCD screen icon to the grid and double-click that to enter the screen name of the target client (you get this info from the client’s Synergy settings). There are some other options you can set, but even at this most basic setup you can seamlessly move your mouse from one computer’s screen to the next. Your keyboard will send to whichever computer currently displays the mouse pointer.

It’s as simple as that! One keyboard, one mouse, multiple machines. It doesn’t matter what operating system you’re running, be it Mac OS X, Windows or Linux. Synergy has downloads available for all of these, and best of all, it’s only $10 for personal use!

Try it out and let me know what you think in the comments below. Do you have another cool app that makes your computing day easier? Let’s hear about that too!

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