Control your Android phone or tablet using the mouse and keyboard on your computer. Whether you want to respond to texts using your computer’s keyboard or use your tablet as a second screen for research, this setup feels like magic when it’s working.
Even better: you can copy text on one device and paste it on another.
Synergy has long made it possible for Windows, Mac, and Linux computers to share the same mouse and keyboard. Doing so is seamless: move your mouse pointer past the edge of one screen and you’re immediately in control of another device. This is perfect if you have two computers on the same desk.
It’s 2014, and most people don’t have multiple computers on the same desk — but it’s not unusual to have an Android phone or tablet alongside your computer. If you’d like to control that device using the mouse and keyboard you already control your computer with, the Android version of Synergy is exactly what you’re looking for.
Synergy for Android requires your device to be rooted — there’s no way around this. It’s also buggy on some devices, shutting down regularly. Be warned: your mileage may vary.
How Does This Work?
Explaining how this works is one thing; showing you is another. Here’s a quick demonstration of Synergy in action:
Interested? Let’s get this working on your rooted Android device.
How Do I Set It Up
Now let’s get into terminology. There are two main pieces to a Synergy setup: the server, and the client.
Don’t leave! It’s not as complex as it sounds. The “server” is the device you’re going to use to control your other device — that is, the device hooked up to your mouse and keyboard. In this setup, that probably means your computer. The “client” is the device being controlled by another device’s mouse and keyboard — in this case, probably your Android device.
Let’s go over setting up the server first. You’re going to want to open Synergy, then set up your computer to run as the server. You then need to tell the program how to arrange your displays:
Your server is in the center; place your Android to whichever side you like. This is a Mac setup, but the options shouldn’t be different on a Linux or Windows computer. Give your Android device a name you’ll remember — something like “Android”.
When everything’s setup up the way you like, take note of your server’s IP.
Knowing that, hit the “Start” button and move on to Synergy on your Android device.
Make sure the “Client Name” is the same one you used for your device when you were setting up your screen arrangement on your server. Use your server’s IP in the next box, and leave the Server Port untouched (assuming you didn’t change it). You should now be able to tap “Connect”.
If everything is working, you can now move your mouse pointer from your computer to your Android device. On many devices this is crashing regularly as it is an alpha build and still in the works. Hopefully the client will receive updates soon.
Screen Keeps Turning Off
This setup becomes less useful if you screen turns off constantly, which is why I suggest installing Wakey on your device alongside Synergy.
This will stop Android from shutting down your screen, which is something you want if you’re going to use your device as a second screen.
What Can You Use This For?
Okay, so now you’ve got this working, but what will you use it for? If you’re using your tablet for productivity, you’ve probably already got some ideas. But here are a few more we came up with:
- Answering texts using your computer’s keyboard
- Developing apps? Push them to your phone, then test them without the need to pick up your device.
- Hate the desktop chat interface for Google Hangouts? Me too. Use your tablet instead.
- Research on your tablet, write on your computer.
My colleague Ryan showed you how a tablet can boost your desktop computer at work; I have a feeling everything he outlined would be even better with Synergy setup and working.
Now, having said how much I like this, I think it could be better. For me, occasional crashes caused this setup to stop working. The project is open source, and could use some love, so I’m going to use this platform to beg all of you with the skills for the job to work on getting this working. You’ll make a lot of people very happy.
Everyone else, though, let’s talk. What are you using this setup for? Share your thoughts in the comments below.