BVLog Bryan Voss’ mental synchronization point


Synergy + Outlook 2007 pain FIXED

New Monitors
I have been using Synergy for quite a while to control multiple computers on my desk. Synergy allows you to use one keyboard and mouse across multiple computers and monitors. I have my main PC with dual monitors in the center, an old PC with a monitor to the left that I primarily use for GWOS status, and my laptop on the right where I generally display Thinking Rock (GTD app) or watch instructional videos related to whatever I'm working on at the time. Synergy allows me to simply move the mouse to the left or right edge of a monitor and the pointer and keyboard focus seamlessly pops from one computer to another.

A couple of years ago, I noticed that switching from one screen to another occasionally caused a lag of 5-10 seconds where mouse movements were not accepted. After attempting to troubleshoot the problem for a while on several different occasions, I mostly gave up and just accepted the problem. This morning, I ran into the problem again and the hassle once again crossed my pain threshold far enough that I began another troubleshooting run.

After trolling through the Synergy support forums for a while, I noticed that several other users were experiencing the same problem, but there were generally no fixes offered. I did some search tuning and began to notice a trend. Many of the users reporting the problem also reported running Microsoft Outlook 2007, which is the corporate-mandated email client that I am unfortunately forced to use. Hmmm. Come to think of it, my Synergy problems probably started around the same time I upgraded to Outlook 2007. A little further experimentation confirmed my suspicion. With Outlook selected as the foreground application, switching screens exhibited the pointer lag. With any other application selected as foreground, there was no lag and switching screens was seamless. AHA!

Having finally located the source of the problem, I began searching for a solution. I initially thought the issue might be caused by the Outlook option to change the mouse pointer when email arrives, but turning off that option (after finally locating it in the arcane jumble of Outlook configuration dialogs) didn't help. I then thought to turn up debugging on Synergy and noticed that when switching screens with Outlook active, it looked like Synergy was basically resetting itself, which would probably cause a lag of several seconds while the main PC waits for the clients to reconnect.

More searching... I finally found the answer in a comment to a post from a frustrated Synergy user having the same problem I was having. Simply check the "Don't take foreground window on Windows servers" checkbox in Synergy options and restart Synergy. I was then able to select Outlook as foreground app and switch screens without a lag! Problem solved by a simple config change after dealing with it for so long.

Come to think of it, that is often the case with many of the large systems I deal with. After manually dealing with a recurring issue for a while, I'll get fed up (lazy) and write a script to automate the process. I will then later find that there was some arcane option to deal with the problem that I simply had to enable. Sometimes the documentation for the system doesn't even cover the option and the only way to find it is to search a vendor knowledgebase using a particular combination of keywords. On the bright side, at least I get to stretch my scripting skills on occasion when these things come up.

Anyway, back to Synergy. I had noticed that Synergy had not been updated in a few years. During my search for a solution, I found Synergy+, which is a fork of the original Synergy that is being updated and maintained on a current basis. Maybe I'll try that version at some point in the future, but for now, my original problem has been solved and Synergy is back to its quiet yet important role of simply improving my productivity without my having to think about it.

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