ShareMouse: The Software KVM That Works

sharemouse_iconMac users looking for a software solution that allows them to share a single keyboard and mouse with multiple computers have had a likely experienced a great deal of heartache over the years.  Synergy has been around for a long time but it’s always been a bag of hurt.  It’s cross-platform but not user-friendly, let alone Mac-like.  If you can get it to work you should count yourself lucky.  But don’t worry, your luck won’t last long.  One day that setup will just stop working and then the real pain begins.  The problems with Synergy were what made me a big fan of a solution called Teleport.  At one time it was a great solution and far easier than Synergy to configure.  But then the Mac OS was updated and updated again.  And either the developers of Teleport weren’t interested in maintaining support or they just weren’t up to the challenge.  Teleport hasn’t worked properly for me in years!  Looking at the support forum and searching Google quickly proved I wasn’t the only one having trouble.

So where does that leave us?  If you’re a computer user who has more than one computer on your desk, in a perfect world, all of those machines could be controlled using a single keyboard and mouse.  For example, I have a Mac Mini with 2 monitors attached.  But I frequently need to use my MacBook Pro at the same desk.  I want to control both the Mac Mini and the MacBook Pro from the same keyboard and mouse.  And while Synergy and Teleport have either proven unreliable or outright failures, an alternative software solution called ShareMouse, thankfully, has proven an extremely viable solution.

Installation of ShareMouse is simple.  Just drag the ShareMouse app to the Applications folder of each computer and launch both applications.  Enter the registration code for each machine and you’re set.  The two machines will auto-detect each other over the network making the remain configuration a snap.

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The image above shows the configuration of ShareMouse from my Mac Mini.  Screens A and C are attached to the Mac Mini directly via the Thunderbolt and HDMI ports.  But screen C is actually the screen of my MacBook Pro which sits on my desk just to the right of my Mini’s 24″ display (screen A).  ShareMouse lets me drag screen B around to position it anywhere I want so it is properly aligned with the screens physical location on my desk.  The drag and drop positioning is just like the screen alignment feature in the OS’s Displays Preference Pane.  It’s really that easy.

Since ShareMouse auto detects other ShareMouse installs on the network, it might be necessary to keep your computers from showing up as auto detected options for other users on the local network.  This is covered in the Security section of the ShareMouse preferences.

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As you see here, I have my configuration running in Protected mode.  This means that I’ve set a simple password that insures my screens are only detectable by my ShareMouse installations.  I simply enter the same password on my Mac Mini as I have on my MacBook Pro and now my ShareMouse screens are private and can’t be auto-detected by other users on the local network.

As an added security measure, I also have the ability to encrypt all of my ShareMouse network communication.  Keep in mind that all mouse and keyboard telemetry is transmitted between my two machines via the network.  So, if there is any question about the security of the data that is moving between the two machines, simply enable encryption.  The setting warns that there maybe a performance slowdown as a result of the encryption overhead, but with a pair of sufficiently fast machines using a fast network, this is unlikely.

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ShareMouse has a couple of additional features that help make integration between the two disparate computers a little more seamless.  First and foremost, the contents of their clipboards are synchronized.   This is profoundly useful.  Taking integration to the next level, there’s an option to enable drag and drop support between the two machines.  Just check the appropriate box and moving files from one machines desktop to the other is literally a matter of drag and drop.

So, with all of the basic functionality covered and some advanced functionality added for good measure, what should be really expect from ShareMouse?  With Teleport and Synergy being alternate products that have been slow to update and in some cases completely lacking in bug fixes, can we expect better support from the developers of ShareMouse?  In my experience, yes!  Not only has ShareMouse been around for some time but it has also been consistently updated to maintain support with the latest versions of the Mac OS.  The software even has a built-in update function that lets users select the sort of updates they want.

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Users can select from the latest, most critical updates or even opt into the most bleeding edge beta and experimental updates.  I think that shows a great deal of commitment on the part of the ShareMouse developers.  But if that’s not enough, their change log indicates an ongoing history of updates to the product.  And their transparency is commendable.  I wish more developers would post such information about their products.

You might be wondering why I’m so interested in ShareMouse’s developer’s commitment to the product.  First, I’ve lost far too many hours messing around trying to get Teleport working when it flaked out.  And I wasted a lot of time with various Synergy configurations and Synergy based open-source solutions.  The difference here is that, while Teleport and Synergy were free, ShareMouse is not.  And I consider that a good thing.  By charging for the product, the company behind it demonstrates a commitment to the customer.  A commitment that has not been demonstrated by the developers of other projects.

If you’re interested in taking ShareMouse for a test drive, there’s good news.  The product has a fully functional demo mode.  But it will only run for a few hours before turning its self off.  After that you need to register to remove the limitation.  ShareMouse is a little pricey at $24.95 per copy.  And, keep in mind that you need a copy for each of the computers you are linking.  So, in my case I needed two copies: one for the Mac Mini and one for my MacBook Pro.  Total cost: $49.90.  But, again, I believe the solution is worth it.  By charging for the software, the developers are able to devote time and energy to the project and make it a solid and reliable solution.

There’s an added bonus for anyone interested in buying ShareMouse before May 30, 2013.  If you use the coupon code “maclive” when you place your order, you will save 30% on as many copies as you care to order.

All in all, ShareMouse is a great solution that succeeds where other solutions have failed.  In my experience, ShareMouse has been a stable, reliable software KVM solution that has become a part of my daily workflow.

I should also mention that ShareMouse is cross-platform.  So it makes an ideal solution for users looking to share the screen of their Mac with that of their Windows based machines.  I haven’t had a reason to test the cross-platform integration first hand, but I’m looking forward to it sometime in the near future.

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