Sharing a Keyboard and Mouse on Two Macs with Yosemite

If you’re looking to share a single keyboard and mouse between two Macs, there’s a new option on the block: Sharemouse.

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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.

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.

This is different from using two or more monitors on one computer. What I’m referring to on this page is using a single keyboard and mouse on multiple computers. The original way to do this was to use a piece of hardware known as a KVM switch, but that’s less than ideal especially with a wireless keyboard and mouse. There are now software versions that (should!) be better options.

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.

The developer has apparently now discontinued Teleport completely. It looks like you can still find older copies on some app download sites, but I suspect they probably don’t work well with newer Mac OS X versions.

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.

Monitor Manager

The Monitor Manager provides a visual representation of monitors. In this example, A is my iMac and B is my Macbook Pro.

Settings

If you want to have more control over how it works, there are some useful settings you can tweak.

Monitor Switching

Sharing

Key Mapping

Network

Miscellaneous

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.

David Coleman / Photographer
by David Coleman

I'm a professional freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my travel photography here. More »

21 thoughts on “Sharing a Keyboard and Mouse on Two Macs with Yosemite”

    • Teleport has been discontinued. Share Mouse is available here, but I haven’t used it a long time and can’t speak to how well it works with recent Mac OSX versions.

      Reply
  1. Excellent Article!! I read your blog. It’s very informative and useful. Thanks for sharing the information of Sharing a Keyboard and Mouse on Two Macs with Yosemite.

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  2. Dont use ShareMouse. It sucks. Always crashing when you do copy paste from 2 MACs. Piece of shit…wasted my money

    Reply
  3. Have you tried j5 create USB 3.0 Wormhole? I use it with two Macs and it works pretty well. It is a little jerky, but I don’t mind given I am able to use 1 keyboard and 1 mouse to control both Macs.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the tip. Looks like an interesting new option that has become available since I originally wrote this. The compatibility with bluetooth mobile devices looks particularly interesting. Will check it out.

      Reply
  4. Do you guys have any suggestions on how to share ONE MONITOR between two machines? I have an old Mac Pro connected to a Raid drive for archival assets. I need to occasionally view it to find old files. My primary machine is a new MBP. I have them both connected to a LG monitor with dual input. I use the Apple wireless kb & mouse.

    How can I switch between the machines while still being able to use the same monitor and same kb & mouse?

    Any suggestions would be so welcome & helpful. Thanks!

    Reply
    • If it’s only very occasional, my approach would be to either use network sharing to mount the old computer as an network drive when needed or to use something like ShareTool. I’ve never used a DisplayPort splitter and don’t know how well they work, but they do exist.

      Reply
  5. Wow, works like a charm, thanks so much for this new weapon I can add to my arsenal, it’s going to be a game changer for sure.

    Reply
  6. Have you tried Wormhole switch? It’s a one-time purchase that is less than the yearly fee above, and it supports drag-n-drop, clipboard, and a second monitor on each machine. I have mine set up so that the second monitor is the same device with multiple inputs, so when I switch machines, I have to toggle the input on the large display.

    http://www.j5create.com/our-products/wormhole-switches/juc400.html

    I have no affiliation with the above company other than having been pleased enough with one device to purchase another, initially as a backup, and now to be used at my client’s site for the next few months.

    Reply
  7. Thank you – this is a lifesaver. have been using teleport for a long long time! But – I recent have had very many problems. This has been a long time coming. Cheers

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  8. ShareMouse sucks. I tried it for a while and switched back. Drag and Drop isn’t free, and if you do it by accident, it shuts down. ESC is the “home” hot-key and changing it doesn’t seem to work well, so you can’t use vi, if you’re a unix person. Its $75 for 3 computers, which is too much for a weakly supported app. Teleport is by far the best (and free, written by an Apple employee), but you have to wait months for the update for a new OS

    Reply
    • I’d like to switch back too, but unfortunately will have to wait until (if) Teleport is updated, since I couldn’t get it working on my setup under Yosemite.

      Reply

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