Introduction to Synergy

Synergy is a free program that is useful to people who have multiple computers. It lets you easily share a trackball (or mouse) and keyboard between several different computers with different operating systems, each with its own monitor, without any additional hardware.

Because it provides a way to cut-and-paste text across operating systems and computers, people can spread their work applications across multiple machines; thus, Synergy is an alternative to running two monitors on a single computer.

Redirecting the mouse and keyboard to a different computer is as simple as moving the mouse off the edge of your screen. Furthermore, it synchronizes screen savers on Windows machines so they all start and stop together and, if screen locking is enabled, only one screen requires a password to unlock them all.

Synergy is open source and released under the GNU General Public License (GPL).

System Requirements:    

The Mac OS X port is not complete. It does not synchronize the screen saver, only text clipboard data works (i.e. HTML and bitmap data do not work), non-US English keyboards are untested and probably don't work, and there may be problems with mouse pointer and mouse wheel acceleration.

Synergy may be downloaded at:

Installation Issues

Installing and running Synergy on two Windows machines should be fairly straightforward if you follow the instructions, but make sure that both machines are running the same version of Synergy. Different versions can result in program malfunction.

When installing Synergy to communicate between a PC and a Mac, be aware that determining the Mac's true name on an organizational network may be challenging. The Mac's name will normally be machinename.local -- you will need to append .local in Synergy.

However, some Macs on a LAN may appear under an obsolete name on the network. This happens when the active directory name doesn't update to the Mac's name because it was never released by the previous PC computer using that IP address. The solution is to get the IP released by network personnel so that the name gets updated in the active directory.

Microsoft Sidewinder, Trillian, and iTunes Compatibility Issues

The compatibility between the Microsoft Sidewinder software and Synergy is not complete. If a user inadvertently hits a Sidewinder button while the cursor is moving off-screen, the button may become "stuck" and Synergy will rapidly and repeatedly input the button command into whichever computer is on mouse focus. This can result in emails being prematurely sent, files being prematurely closed, and other problems that can seriously disrupt your computer use.

The solution to a "stuck" button in Synergy to to reboot the machine that is used as the host for Synergy.

Two pieces of software can cause the same problem on a Windows XP host computer running Synergy: iTunes and Trillian, a popular chat client. Trillian makes the problem especially bad; the software conflict mechanism is unknown. Running iTunes by itself does not seem to make Synergy especially unstable, but running iTunes and Trillian leads to severe Synergy instability.

The best solution at present is to avoid running Trillian when doing a lot of between-computer cutting and pasting in Synergy.