Working With Two or More Macs on One Screen

Working With Two or More Macs on One Screen

One of the commenters asked if I would be connecting my laptop (a 13 month-old MacBook Pro) up to my new Mac Pro. I had planned on using iChat’s Screen Sharing since both machines are running Mac OS X 10.5.1. My main reason for sharing screens was that I wanted to keep my email on the laptop and not have to sync two machines. I know about IMAP, but I’m not Google, and server hard drive space is best left to important things like images and content, not for messages about enlargement of body parts. Besides, I’ve been burned with storage issues and IMAP before, it just seems easier to have mail on one machine and call it good.

After a day of marveling that I could work on two machines out of the box with little nerdery, I began to see a few shortcomings. The first is that I don’t like the way iChat moves the shared screen front and center and reduces the non-shared machine to a tiny window. I want to share the screen, but I wanted access to my main machine and have the shared machine in a window I could move around. I also wanted to share clipboards between the Mac Pro and the MacBook Pro, something that I never figured how to do using Screen Sharing via iChat. When I worked in an office and had a PC laptop (residing on a PC network) and a Mac, I used to use a simple app to access Windows machines using a Microsoft app called Remote Desktop Connection, which was a pretty good way to browser test and move files around. I never had a very powerful PC at my desk, so it was a bit of a laggard and requires a good admin from IT to have your Windows set up correctly to get working, but I loved that the PC was in its own window.

After searching around, I found this amazing tip that is pure gold for sharing screens with other Macs on your network. If users have Screen Sharing turned on in their Sharing preferences pane:


you’ll see them when you run the Screen Sharing app found in /System/Library/CoreServices. The Screen Sharing application icon looks like this:


If you follow the tip, the screen sharing window includes all kinds of settings for clipboard sharing (host machine and shared machine), window size, window render quality, screen capturing of shared machine screen and the ability to lock down the machine while sharing. Basically, it’s like Apple Remote Desktop without the overhead and cost.

My Mac Pro is wired to the router via Ethernet and the MacBook Pro is using 802.11n to connect to the router (a D-Link).

I couldn’t be happier with the performance and I’m stoked with how great it is to work on multiple machines in this way. Tasty.