If you’re a power PC user with multiple systems on and below your desk, a software-based keyboard/mouse-switching app can save desk space and let you flip from one system to another in a flash.
These simple utilities differ from the classic keyboard/video/mouse (KVM) boxes in one important way: They don’t let you switch video from separate systems on a single monitor. Keyboard/mouse (K/M) switching apps assume you have a display for each PC.
Once upon a time, multiple monitors on a desk was relatively rare for the average Windows user. But today’s flat panels take up less room than the old CRTs and are relatively cheap. So having a monitor for each system is relatively practical.
When set up on multiple systems and connected over a local network, K/M switchers are exceptionally quick and simple to use; you simply slide the mouse pointer from one screen to another. Along with the cursor, the keyboard is automatically switched to the now active system.
Somewhat akin to Window’s multiple-display setup system, K/M-switching apps include a configuration screen for defining the physical placement of each monitor. So, for example, when you move the cursor to the right edge of display A, the cursor immediately moves to the left edge of the screen directly to its right. The switcher app’s setup typically allows both horizontal and vertical display placements.
All of the switchers discussed below not only let you use one keyboard and mouse for multiple machines, you can also easily move clipboard data from one system to another. I often use that feature to move screen captures on my test system to the image editor on my main PC. Some of the apps also let your drag and drop files between systems.
Here are four K/M switchers; two are completely free for personal use, and each has its particular pros and cons.