There are times, usually when I encounter some amazing software or incredible piece of technology, that I think The Matrix got it right. We are all suspended in goo somewhere, and what we perceive as reality is merely a computer construct.
Okay, perhaps I’m overstating the case, but when I first used Microsoft’s Mouse Without Borders (“MWB”), which is a FREE program, it seemed too magical to be true. I will say up front that there is a very narrow set of circumstances that would make this software useful to anyone, but it is truly awesome if you fall within that group. Here are two potential uses:
Use a laptop as an extra screen
In this article I have already explained the leap in efficiency you enjoy when using multiple monitors. I also explain that I don’t think a laptop is the best choice for your primary office computer, one reason being that while you can run multiple monitors off of a laptop, it’s a kludgy system to have to set that up every time you start your day.
But if you have an old laptop, MWB let’s you use that laptop as an extra screen. You simply install the free software on both computers, and then your same mouse and keyboard control both.
It’s not an extra monitor in the literal sense because you can’t drag a running window from your desktop computer to the laptop. But that is kind of a distinction without a difference because you can just run whatever program you want on the laptop. Let me give you a typical example of how I use MWB that will illustrate the point.
I use an all-in-one computer in my home office. I love the form factor of an all-in-one because there is no tower to deal with and minimal cords. I can add a second monitor using the HDMI output, but then that defeats the clean look of the single monitor sitting on my desk.
But there are times when I am preparing brief at home that I want three windows open. Let’s say I’m preparing a motion for summary judgment. I want one window for Westlaw, another for the motion I am creating, and a third with a declaration I have prepared, so I can weave references from the declaration into the motion. My all-in-one has a nice big 24 inch monitor, so I can open Westlaw and WordPerfect on that monitor, but what about the declaration?
For that, I just set my laptop beside my monitor, open the declaration, turn on MWB, and I’m off to the races. The keyboard and mouse that I use for my all-in-one now also control the laptop; just like it was a extra monitor. I can copy and paste text to and from the desktop and laptop. MWB even allows you to set the relative positions of the screens, so if my laptop is to the right of my desktop monitor, that’s the way the mouse moves.
Use MWB as a virtual KVM switch
On occasion I have the need to access two computers at the same time. One such instance is when I buy a new computer, and I’m making the transition of software and data from my old computer. During the transition, I like to have both computers running so that if I have a need for a program I haven’t transferred yet, it is available to me. I could use the program list from the old computer as a checklist to make sure that every program has been transferred, but I find this two computer system to be less taxing. I can remain productive while I wean myself off the old computer.
This has always been possible using a KVM switch, which stands for keyboard, video, mouse. With a KVM switch, you can switch between two computers, but MWB is much better suited, because both are visible at the same time. I use four monitors at the office. For the transition, I plug one into the old computer, and the three remaining monitors into the new computer. Since I am using the same keyboard and mouse, the fact that I am using two computers becomes almost transparent. When I tried to call up some information from my catch-all program Notescraps, and realized that I hadn’t installed it on the new computer, I just moved my mouse to the screen of the old computer, did the same search, and up it popped.
Speaking of Notescraps, I arranged for all my readers to get this great program for FREE. Just go to my review of Notescraps for the information.