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.