For many of us, everyday computing involves using more than one computer—and sometimes more than one computer operating system, too. That may mean lots of wires and lots of switching between keyboards, mice, and trackpads, but there are now many hardware and software options for sharing a single set of input devices between multiple laptops or desktops.
A newcomer in this particular field is of course Apple’s Universal Control, which works with Macs and iPads. The keyboard and mouse (or trackpad) of one main Mac can be used to control up to two other nearby Macs or iPads, and you’ll also get a limited amount of drag-and-drop support.
For everything to work, universal control must be turned on. From macOS System Preferences, this is done via Displays And the Universal Control; From the iPad settings, you should go to general And the Broadcast and deliveryand run Cursor and keyboard. After doing that, all of your devices should be close together, signed in to the same Apple ID, and on the same network.
All of these criteria are met, and moving the cursor away from the edge of one device should see it land on another (you can control the order in Displays in System Preferences). If you only use Apple devices, this is probably the most reasonable option: It’s built into macOS and iPadOS, and doesn’t need much in the way of setup.
Microsoft already has its own version of Universal Control, although you may not have heard of it: borderless mouse It is “Project Garage” by Microsoft employee Truong Do, which means they worked on it in their spare time. As you might expect, it’s basic and only available for Windows, but it does the job.
To set everything up, you have to install Mouse Without Borders on the computers you want to use it with, and then use the security codes displayed on each screen to connect over a local network. You will be prompted to indicate how your computer is positioned, after which it is just a case of moving your mouse pointer from the edge of the screen to another computer to switch control.
You can use any keyboard and mouse connected to any of your computers as input devices here, which is more stable and reliable than you might think would be a side project. The tool works with up to four computers, and supports additional features such as dragging and dropping files and copying and pasting text.
Synergy It’s been around for much longer than Universal Control and Mouse Without Borders, and it’s more comprehensive, too — not least because it works on Windows as well as macOS. Pricing starts at $29 for the basic version, which covers you for three different computers: the computer with the main keyboard and mouse acts as a server, and the others are clients, as configured in Synergy software.
Once Synergy can see all the computers – which should take seconds, as long as they’re on the same network – you can tell them how your screens are laid out. Then it’s just a matter of passing your cursor from the edge of one monitor to another (like you might do with multiple monitors) to change the computer you’re controlling.
Dig into Synergy and you can set up custom keyboard shortcuts, which are very useful if you’re using Windows and macOS computers side by side, and sync your clipboard. There are alternatives available, including mousewhich works in a similar way: This is free, but only for basic functionality on two computers, and the subsequent price starts at $95.
Logitech, the legacy provider of input devices, has its own solution for using a single keyboard and mouse with multiple computers. It’s called Logitech Flow. You will find it available as part of a file Software Options The software package, and as you might expect, you will need Logitech extensions for this to work.
Once you connect your keyboard and mouse through Logi Options software and install the app on every computer you use, Logitech Flow works similarly to the other solutions we’ve covered in this list. Under the Flow tab of the Mouse Configuration screen, you can specify how monitors and computers are arranged. Then, you can switch devices by dragging your mouse pointer from one edge of one screen to another.
If you prefer, you can use the keyboard shortcut to switch between computers (click Switch between computers Selection). There’s a lot to explore in the program as well, from being able to transfer files between computers, to setting up custom keyboard shortcuts that work across all the platforms you use.
Keyboard Video Mouse (KVM) Switch
Your other option is to take the hardware route with a KVM (Keyboard Video Mouse) switch: your favorite keyboard and mouse are attached to the switch, and then all other computers connect to the switch instead of directly to the peripherals. A physical button or keyboard shortcut controls the switch.
The main advantage here over the software solutions we mentioned is that an extra “V” for video – you only need one screen. Hide multiple computers tucked away under your desk and keep everything looking tidy and quiet on the surface with a single monitor, keyboard, and mouse. This also means that if you have a high-quality and expensive screen, you don’t have to be limited to one device.
Some people prefer the hardware option so they don’t rely on a Wi-Fi connection and don’t have to deal with software quirks; Others would rather stick with the app and not have another device on their desks. KVM switches are available from regular electronics retailers, and depending on the number of connections you need and the type of connections, the cost can range from a few dollars to several hundred dollars.
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