Looking for an easy way to control two or more computers with a single mouse and keyboard? A little while ago we looked at look at Multiplicity which enables you to do just this, but Microsoft’s Mouse Without Borders adds handy extra options.
The app is free of charge and can be used to control up to four computers that are on the same network with a single set of peripherals. But the clincher? There’s also a shared clipboard so you can copy and paste text and files between machines.
You can download your free copy of Mouse Without Borders by visiting the app’s page in Microsoft Garage. This is where you’ll find interesting software projects from Microsoft employees.
You will need to download and install the software on each of the computers you are going to be sharing a mouse with, so take a few moments to do this. The installation is very much as you would expect and you can get up and running very quickly – the only thing to keep in mind is that you need to click through a UAC confirmation.
Click Finish and the program will automatically start. For now we’ll work with the computer whose mouse and keyboard you want to share with other machines.
Click Yes to indicate you’ve installed the software on at least one more computer. You’ll be prompted to enter a security code and computer name, and for this you will need to turn to your second computer.
On this machine, click No and cancel the wizard before right clicking the system tray icon and selecting Settings. Make sure that the ‘Show text’ box is ticked and make a note of the Security Key and computer name so that you can enter it on your first computer.
Mouse Sharing in Action
Close the wizard and you can then configure the physical arrangement of your screens. If you have ever configured multiple monitors, you’ll find that this is a very similar process.
The Settings dialog displays an icon for each of the computers you have opted to connect, and you can drag and drop these icons into position so they are positioned in the same way as your computer screens in relation to each other.
Click Apply and you can then move the mouse off the edge of one monitor and it will appear on the other screen. But there are also a few more settings to investigate.
Move to the Other Options tab of the Settings dialog and tick the Wrap Mouse box. This enables the feature which means that you can just keep moving the mouse cursor in the same direction and it will keep disappearing off the edge of one monitor and re-appearing on the other – no need to move back the way you came if you don’t want to.
If you’re using Windows 8, the corners of the screen are used to call up the Start screen, Charms bar and other features, and you may find that you accidentally move between screens when trying to access these options.
To avoid this you can tick the box labelled ‘Block mouse at screen corners’ to prevent screen switching in these areas. Alternatively, tick Disable Easy Mouse as this requires that the Ctrl key is held down while the cursor is at the edge of the screen in order to switch.
Ordinarily you will move from one screen to another in the way described – by simply moving off the edge of one screen onto the other. But it is also possible to jump straight from one monitor to another without the need to travel with the cursor; this is great if you have a large monitor.
At the bottom of the Settings dialog you can configure various keyboard shortcuts, including the ones you can use to jump from one display to another.
Any computers you have connected to each other now share a clipboard. This means that you can copy text on one machine, switch focus to another and paste into a document – easy!
So far we have only use the system tray icon to access the Setting screen, but it serves another purpose as well. Right click this icon and you can capture screenshots from any of the computers you have linked together.
This means that there is no need to spend time moving the cursor to the monitor you’re interested in, and no need to manually copy and paste images between computers. Everything can be taken care of by selecting the ’Great Screen Capture from’ option and then choosing the computer you’re interested in.
The screen capture option also works in reverse. When you are using a particular computer, you can send a screenshot to another connected machine – just select the ‘Send Screen Capture to’ option.
Mouse Without Borders is an immensely useful tool. It might come as something of a surprise that it is a tool associated with Microsoft, and even more of a surprise that it has been kept a secret.
Try it out for yourself and share your thoughts in the comments below.