Every once in a while I run across a piece of freeware that forever changes the way I get work done. Two months ago I moved my office home. When I did, I was able to consolidate some computer hardware. At the office, I had been working full time on a 1.25GHz PowerBook 15”. At home I had an old Quicksilver tower upgraded to a dual 1.6GHz processor. When I moved my office home, I was finally able to transition and use my Quicksilver tower as the primary computer.
While the dual processor tower makes for a much faster workstation, I still use the PowerBook for a number of day-to-day activities. But after a day or two of using both machines it became apparent that a pair of keyboards on my desk was simply too much clutter. That is when I decided to take a second look at a freeware application I have tried in the past. That application was called Teleport, and it allows Mac users to share a single keyboard and mouse with multiple machines.
Most people fulfill this sort of need by adding a KVM to their computer systems. A KVM switch shares a keyboard, mouse, and monitor with multiple computers. This is ideal if you only have one monitor. But in my case, my PowerBook already had a perfectly good display and I wanted to use it.
Teleport is a system Preference Pane that installs on each of the computers. It allows the two machines to share the same keyboard and mouse by sending the keystrokes and mouse coordinates over the network to the second computer. Since both computers already have monitors, this was an ideal solution.
My Quicksilver tower already has 2 screens attached to it. The primary display is a 24” Dell LCD. The secondary display is a 19” Dell LCD and is located on the right of the main display. For anyone who has ever had the pleasure of working on a Mac with dual displays, Teleport work in much the same way. The Teleport Preference Pane contains icons for each screen attached to the main Macintosh (the same with that the Display Preference Pane depicts them). Once the Teleport software was installed on the PowerBook, another display icon showed up in the Teleport Preference Pane. I simply had to align it beside my existing displays and I was able to seamlessly move my mouse from my primary display and onto my PowerBook display in exactly the same way I could move my mouse to my existing secondary display. Now, rather than having 2 displays attached to my tower, it works as though I have 3 (two actual monitors and the screen of my PowerBook).
There are a few catches. Using the two attached monitors, I can drag windows from one display to the next. This is not the case with my PowerBook when it’s attached using the Teleport software. Only the mouse and keystrokes and be transported over the network to the PowerBook. It is not possible to drag a window between the two machines. This is unfortunate, but it only stands to reason. Teleport is only sending keystroke data and mouse coordinates to the PowerBook. No video is actually transmitted over the network. This means that my work on the PowerBook is performed just as fast as it would be if I had attached a keyboard and mouse directly to the computer.
Even though I can’t drag a window to the PowerBook display and I can’t drag a file there directly, the developers of Teleport did make it possible to transfer the contents of the Mac clipboard between the two machines. This means that I can select an email address from the Address Book on my PowerBook and copy it to the clipboard. Then I can mouse back over to my main screen and past the email address into a document. Teleport takes care of transferring the contents of the clipboard over then network for me. This makes it much easier to use both machines efficiently.
In many situations, Teleport brings additional functionality to any secondary computer. In my example, I used it on my PowerBook. It could just as easily be used with an iMac, or most other Mac’s for that matter. Computers with integrated screens are ideal, but any computer will work just as well. Teleport is a simply utility that does one thing very well. It my case, it made it easy for me to continue using my PowerBook for day-to-day work while letting my tower do all of the heavy lifting. Now, if I could just get my wife to stop rolling her eyes every time she sees 3 displays on my desktop.