These days, smartphones and tablets are just as important as your main computer from a productivity standpoint. You can download apps for all the major office suites, access data you’ve saved in cloud storage services, edit photos and videos on-the-go, and even log into all your financial accounts.
Obviously, the vast majority of Android devices use your finger as the primary input method. It’s arguably their biggest drawback – using your digits to control your devices simply isn’t as fluid or fast as using a mouse and keyboard.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could use your computer’s input devices on your phone or tablet? Well, good news — you can!
Here’s how to control your Android device using your computer’s mouse and keyboard.
The App That Does It All
To follow this tutorial, you need to use an excellent app called DeskDock. There are a couple of other methods available (which I’ll touch on at the end of the article), but using DeskDock is the fastest, easiest, and most reliable approach.
Despite its quality, only a few thousand users have downloaded the app. Don’t let its small userbase put you off, though — DeskDock has earned fantastic reviews from both users and critics since its release in mid-2016.
At the time of this writing, it boasts a four-and-a-half-star rating. I think it deserves much more attention.
What Features Does DeskDock Offer?
As you’ll have noticed from the links above, there are two versions of DeskDock — one is free, the other will set you back a few dollars. The pro version is well worth the investment, but test the free version first to ensure it meets your requirements.
The app essentially turns your Android’s screen into a second monitor, allowing you to move your mouse onto your device by moving it over your computer screen’s boundary.
The free version offers the ability to share your mouse. If you want to share your keyboard, you’ll need to purchase the pro version.
Here’s a rundown of the other features the free version offers:
- Shared clipboards: You can easily copy and paste data between your PC and your device.
- Multitouch support: The app provides shortcuts that can simulate multitouch gestures on your device, meaning you’ll never need to physically touch your phone while the app is active.
- Multi-device support: If you’ve got several Android devices, you can hook them all up to one instance of the app and use them at the same time.
- Customizable mouse input: You can choose what action you want to occur with either a left- or right-click.
As mentioned, the pro version introduces shared keyboards. It also lets you map up to 10 mouse buttons, offers drag-and-drop support, and has keyboard shortcuts for your phone’s power, volume, and screen brightness. The pro version is ad-free.
As well as installing the app on your phone or tablet, you’ll also need to install the app’s server on your computer. The server has versions available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Lastly, the app does not require root access, unlike some of the other alternatives available in the Play Store.
How to Setup DeskDock
Now you know what DeskDock offers, so let’s take a look at how to install the app and get it up and running on your machine.
Setting Up the Server
Before you install the app on your device, you first need to install the server on your machine. This is the most complicated part of the setup process.
The server relies on Java JRE 1.7 or higher to run. If it’s not already present on your computer, head to the Java website and follow the on-screen installation instructions.
Next, you need to enable USB debugging on your phone or tablet. The option is tucked away in the Developer Options menu. To activate the Developer Options menu, head to Settings > About Phone and tap on the Build Number seven times.
Once your device confirms Developer Mode is enabled, go to Settings > Developer Options > Debugging > USB Debugging and make sure the sliding toggle is set to the on position. Tap OK on the on-screen confirmation.
Now you need to connect your Android device to your computer using a USB cable. For most users, the charging cable will suffice.
Hopefully, connecting your device via USB will cause your computer to automatically install your device’s ADB drivers. If you’re unlucky and only the MTP drivers (or no drivers at all) are installed, you’ll need to find and install them manually.
Sadly, the number of Android devices are too numerous for me to list all the downloads in this article. A simple Google search should provide what you’re looking for. If you struggle to find the right file, trying visiting the Android Developer website (scroll to the bottom of the page for individual manufacturer listings). If you still can’t find the right drivers, contact your manufacturer’s customer support line directly.
Note: If you’re using a Mac, you do not need to install any drivers.
Finally, you need to download the app’s server software. Make sure you download the version to match your operating system. The server is a standalone app — you don’t need to install any files on your system.
If it’s launched successfully, you’ll see an icon in your system tray. Right-click on the app to customize its settings.
Install the Android App
Use the download links I provided earlier to install the Android app on your device.
If you set up the server correctly, all you need to do is attach your phone to your computer via USB. The app should automatically locate the server and make the connection.
If the app and server cannot establish a connection, it’s likely that you don’t have the right drivers installed. Revisit the previous section and verify you’re running your device’s ADB drivers rather than MTP drivers.
What Alternatives Are Available?
Synergy used to be the go-to app for using your keyboard and mouse on your Android, but it’s become too unreliable to recommend.
If you’re looking for an alternative to DeskDock, you could try Weak Control [No Longer Available]. It allows you to cast your phone or tablet’s screen to a browser window on your PC, and by extension, therefore lets you use your computer’s peripherals. Unfortunately, it requires root access.
Alternatively, purchase an OTG (On-The-Go) cable and a PS2-to-USB adapter. Plug everything in, then head to Settings > Language and Input to set up PS2 devices.
Do You Use Your Mouse and Keyboard on Your Android?
In this article, I’ve explained how to use your mouse and keyboard on your Android device using the DeskDock app, as well as introduced you to a couple of alternatives.
Now it’s your turn to share your tips and recommendations. How do you share your keyboard and mouse with your Android device?
As always, you can leave your thoughts and input in the comments below.