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Using Synergy on Linux and Windows

Updated: 20-Feb-2011

Synergy is a magical, cross-platform application that allows you to use the keyboard and mouse from one of your computers, to control and interact with the desktops of other computers on the same network. With the recent release of Synergy 1.4.2 for Linux, our updated setup instructions are simpler and easier for Linux users than ever before. Listen to our podcast episode 130 for an interview with one of the project owners, Nick Bolton, on the release of Synergy 1.4.2 for Linux.

Matt Cutts described "How to configure Synergy in six steps" in a 2007 blog post: (http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/how-to-configure-synergy-in-six-steps) In his post, Matt discussed how to connect Windows XP and Ubuntu Feisty Fawn using Synergy. At the time he wrote the post, Synergy was relatively difficult to setup on Linux. As a result, he used command line instructions for setting up Synergy that are no longer needed, especially given improvements with graphical setup utilities such as QSynergy and QuickSynergy. The release of Synergy 1.4.2 represents not only a merging of three projects, QSynergy, Synergy+ and Synergy itself. It also represents a significant advance in the usability of this free, cross-platform and software-only alternative to expensive and limiting KVM switch hardware.

Our article updates Matt Cutts' information and illustrates setting up Synergy on two Linux computers, using it's integrated graphical setup. Although our instructions show the setup for just two Linux computers, with the current release of Synergy, you can setup and control up to 14 client computers running a mix of Linux, Windows and OSX operating systems -- all from a single server computer. Now that we have versions 1.4 of Synergy for both Windows and Linux machines, the setup is identical on both platforms.

Synergy In Action
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Configuring Synergy 1.4

With Synergy's graphical, drag and drop setup, you can be controlling multiple Linux and Windows computers in seconds. In our example, the keyboard and mouse are connected directly to an Ubuntu 10.10 computer, so we will be using them to control both this Ubuntu computer, and a Fedora 13 computer. The controlling computer is considered by Synergy to be the "server" but we don't need to worry about that terminology, since the setup doesn't require that you know that at all. Here are the steps:

Installing and starting Synergy on Ubuntu and Fedora

  1. To install Synergy, open your favorite Linux distribution's software repositories, package manager, software center, application library, add/remove programs, or whatever it has for getting new software. Search for "synergy." Check the version that is available. If it's earlier than 1.4.2, then just go to the new Synergy website and download the appropriate version for your distribution of Linux. (http://synergy-foss.org/download) At the time of this writing, both the Windows version 1.4.1 and the Linux version 1.4.2 are listed as "beta" but they are quite functional and reliable. (With the pre-release nightly build of Synergy I used for testing, I found that I also needed to install the package libqt4-network from the default repositories on Linux Mint 10 Debian Edition.)
  2. Next, determine where your computers are (or will be) located. In my case, I have my Ubuntu laptop sitting on the left side of my desk. I have my Fedora computer on the right side of the desk. My keyboard and mouse are in a keyboard tray between the two, and are connected directly to the Ubuntu laptop on the left.
    Ubuntu to the left of Fedora
  3. Open the Synergy application on each computer. With both Ubuntu 10.10 and Fedora 13, Synergy is located in Applications > Accessories > Synergy.
  4. On the Ubuntu computer (the controlling computer) in the Synergy dialog box, select the Server check box, and click the Configure Server button.
    Synergy on Ubuntu
  5. On the configuration screen, double-click the computer in the center of the screen and enter your computer name as the Screen Name. When I installed Ubuntu on my laptop, I named the computer "UbuntuPC" so that is what I enter. Click OK to save the settings.
    Synergy Server Configuration
  6. Drag the monitor icon from the upper right onto one of the 14 vacant squares. Since my Fedora computer is on the right, I drop the icon to the right of the Ubuntu computer's icon. When I installed Fedora, I named the computer "FedoraPC", so that's the name I used for it's Screen Name.
    Synergy Graphical Setup
  7. Click OK when you have completed the setup, then click Start to start Synergy on the Ubuntu computer.
  8. To setup the Fedora computer, we need the IP address from the Ubuntu computer. To display the IP address, right-click the Network Manager icon in the Ubuntu notification area and select Connection Information. (You can also type ifconfig into a terminal.)
  9. Now, on the Fedora computer, in the Synergy dialog box, check the Client box and enter the IP address of the Ubuntu computer as the name of the server:
    QuickSynergy on Fedora
  10. Click the Start button, wait a second or two, and the two computers are connected. To test it, move the mouse to the right edge of the Ubuntu screen and beyond. It appears on the Fedora screen on the right! Now when you type on the keyboard, your text will appear on the computer where the mouse is located.

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