Why, oh why, doesn’t Apple make it easier to use multiple Macs? Surely it’s in their interest for people to buy two Macs instead of one. Surely a reliable, officially supported app to make it happen would be both viable and popular.
UPDATE: Since I originally posted this, Apple has added new functionality to macOS and iOS that addresses some aspects of this. It falls under a feature set of Continuity. You can use an iPad, for example as a second display. Find more information on that here and the requirements for the Continuity suite here.
Another option worth checking out but that I haven’t personally tried is Barrier.
I routinely use an iMac and a Macbook Pro side-by-side, controlled by the same mouse and keyboard. It’s especially useful when I’m working in a full-screen app on the iMac like Lightroom, while still keeping we web browser or anything else open on my laptop. And controlling them both with the same keyboard and mouse is not only more convenient–it saves a lot of time. You can even drag and drop files from one computer to the other.
If you’ve wanted to use the same keyboard and mouse on more than one Mac, you’ve had two main options: Synergy and Teleport. Synergy has a well-earned reputation for being glitchy and complicated to set up. If you do manage to get it working, it works quite well and works across the major operating systems of Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux (and you can mix-and-match)). But I’ve found it to be far too fragile and long ago moved away from it.
For a long time, I’ve used Teleport. Teleport is a one-trick pony–it only works on Mac. And while it has generally worked well, it too can be frustratingly glitchy and is probably the single most common reason I have to reboot one or both of my Macs. And it has always been treated very much as an after-hours project by the developer with infrequent updates and lackluster support. That said, it’s hard to complain when it’s donationware.
But when I updated both my Macs to Yosemite, Teleport stopped working. A workaround suggested by other users didn’t work for me.
So I went looking around again for an alternative to Teleport. And it turns out there’s now a new option that I hadn’t tried before: Sharemouse. It’s compatible with both Mac and Windows (and you can mix-and-match operating systems).
Sharemouse has a few different versions. There’s a freeware version for non-commercial use. It also has some feature limitations such as no ability to drag-and-drop files from one computer to another. If you’re using it commercially or want to upgrade for extra features, there are yearly subscriptions to provide access to updates Standard and Pro editions (if you don’t update, you can continue using the app without further subscription).
Sharemouse’s killer feature just might be how easy it is to set up. “Zero configuration” is the claim. It detects the monitor setup automatically and should “just work” without any configuration. For me, it worked well.
The Monitor Manager provides a visual representation of monitors. In this example, A is my iMac and B is my Macbook Pro.
If you want to have more control over how it works, there are some useful settings you can tweak.
Does It Work with Yosemite?
In my experience, it mostly works in Yosemite, with some important qualifications.
Others have reported that it doesn’t currently support multi-gestures that many people have come to rely on. And I’ve found it to be a bit glitchy. There are certain apps that, when open on the client, provoke some odd behavior out of Sharemouse. Some of them are some of the apps I use most often, like Marsedit, some sites when opened in Chrome, and even the Mac App Store or itunes. Closing those apps fixes the problem immediately, as does, sometimes, simply changing the focus, but it’s a pretty annoying behavior. I’ve found that Sharemouse can also stop working if one or both of the computers are set to require a password after a period of inactivity, requiring you to open the settings screen in the Sharemouse app to get things working again.
Oddly, there’s no option in the settings to have Sharemouse start automatically on login. You can go into your operating system and add it to the startup items, but it seems like a pretty obvious option to be included in Sharemouse itself.
So overall, it does seem to mostly work in Yosemite. But your setup might be a bit different, so your mileage may vary. It’s definitely worth a try, though, if you’re looking for an alternative to Synergy or Teleport.
For now, on my setup, it’s working better than my preferred option, Teleport. But if and when Teleport gets updated for Yosemite, I’ll probably switch back to that. For now, though, Sharemouse is better than nothing. But I’ll also be keeping an eye on Sharemouse’s future updates because I think it has potential to be the app that many of us have been waiting for.
But it still makes me wonder why this isn’t something Apple is taking care of itself.