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wincent Synergy: it changes everything

Frequently Asked Questions





How do I make Synergy work with Growl?

To make Synergy work with Growl, you first need to download and install Growl (version 0.6 or above). Once Growl is running, you stop and restart Synergy (if it is running). This causes Synergy to register itself with Growl, and from that point on Growl will show notifications whenever iTunes' track or status changes. You can control the appearance of these notifications by adjusting the Growl preferences (at the time of writing, "Bubble", "Smoke", "Music Video" and "Bezel" are the most useful display options). Screenshots of the different display options can be found on the Synergy screenshots page.

Synergy transmits the same information to Growl that it would display in its own Floater (such as title, artist, album, duration and rating). If you turn any of these options off in the Synergy preferences, then Synergy will not include the deselected item in the notification that it sends to Growl.

Synergy's Growl support requires Synergy version 1.7, iTunes 4.7 and Mac OS X 10.3 or later.

How do I hide the floater so I can watch a DVD in full-screen mode?

Although some programs such as QuickTime Player correctly hide the Synergy floater when they run in full-screen mode, others (such as Apple's own DVD Player) draw behind the floater even when in full-screen mode. This is particularly noticeable when you have Synergy set to "Show floater always". In order to watch a DVD in full-screen mode without the floater, you can press the hot key for "Show/hide floater" to force the floater from the screen. You can also select "Turn Floater off" from the Synergy Global Menu. This functionality was introduced in Synergy 0.9.7.

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How can I make my own menu bar button graphics?

If you would like to create your own button graphics and submit them for inclusion in the gallery you can do so by preparing the graphics according to the following guidelines and then submitting them to me via email ("win" at this domain).

  • Create a folder based on the name of your button set, plus a "synergyButtons" extension. By using this extension, the folder can be double-clicked and Synergy will automatically display the button set;
  • Button graphics should be in PNG format, with transparent backgrounds so that the menu bar can show through any unused area;
  • Two buttons of equal width (for visual symmetry) should be created for the "next track" and "previous track" buttons; these files must be named "nextImage.png" and "prevImage.png" respectively;
  • Four more buttons (all with the same width as each other) should be created and named "stopImage.png", "playImage.png", "pauseImage.png" and "playPauseImage.png" (this last graphic is used when communication between Synergy and iTunes is interrupted and hence Synergy does not know whether to display a pause or a play image);
  • All button graphics should be 22 pixels high (the height of the Mac OS X menu bar);
  • Button graphics should be saved in "web ready" format (without resource forks);
  • You should ensure that all graphics have a resolution of 72 DPI x 72 DPI (dots per inch) -- the Mac OS X default -- otherwise Cocoa will not display them as expected in Panther;
  • You should download and edit this plist file so as to include your contact details. The plist file contains information about you and/or your company that you may wish to provide, and because it is in a machine readable format Synergy Advance will be able to display that information in the user interface. Do not change the name of the file (it should remain as "Info.plist");
  • Place all the button graphics and the Info.plist file inside your synergyButtons folder.

Please note that a common error is incorporating blank space inside your button graphics in order to give them a "pleasing" spacing. This is what the "Button spacing" slider in the Synergy Menu Bar preferences is for. By incorporating blank space inside your graphics, you make it impossible for users who prefer a tighter configuration to make full use of the slider. If you think your buttons look better spread out, then use the slider; do not build blank space into the button graphics themselves.

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Why can't I drag the Synergy controls around the menu bar when holding down the Command key?

Only applications that access Apple's private "MenuExtra" API can be moved in this way, and with the release of Mac OS X 10.2 Apple removed the ability of third-party applications to access this undocumented API.

There are applications on the market that hack their way around this restriction, but their techniques are not supported by Apple and there is no guarantee that they will continue to work in future versions of the OS.

As such, Synergy elects not to make use of these methods, but instead uses the Apple-approved mechanism for appearing in the menu bar: the "StatusBar" API. This mechanism is officially supported by Apple. If and when Apple decides to allow StatusBar items to respond to Command-drag events, Synergy will be movable in this fashion.

One benefit of using the StatusBar mechanism is that, unlike MenuExtras, StatusBar items do not crash when the SystemUIServer goes down (or is brought down by another MenuExtra). StatusBar items like Synergy cannot be crashed by, or cause to fail other items on the menu bar.

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Will you put a scrolling ticker into the menu bar showing the currently playing song?

This feature will appear in a future version of Synergy. For the time being, Synergy instead provides an alternative means of finding out the name of the currently playing song without switching to iTunes. Whenever you hover your mouse over the Play/Pause button a tool-tip will appear showing the title, album and artist of the current song.

Version 0.5 of Synergy also introduced the ability to display a semi-transparent notification window (called the "floater") whenever a new song begins to play. Version 0.9.3 introduced the ability to leave the floater on screen permanently, instead of fading out after a delay.

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How do I make the floater stay onscreen forever rather than fading out?

In the general tab of the preferences, move the "Show floater for" slider all the way to the right. you will see the text changes to "Show floater: always". You can change your mind at any time by moving the slider back towards the left.

When the floater is in "Show always" mode, you can still temporarily remove it from the screen. This can be useful, for example, when you want to watch a DVD in full-screen mode using Apple's DVD Player. To turn the floater on or off for this purpose without having to go to the Synergy Preferences, all you have to do is press the Hot Key for "Show/Hide Floater", or choose "Turn Floater off" from the Synergy Global Menu. To turn the floater back on, press the Hot Key again or choose "Turn Floater on" from the menu.

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How do I disable or modify Synergy's automatic version checking feature?

By default, Synergy automatically checks once per day to see if a new version has been released. Your privacy is protected because no information is transmitted to the server in order to perform this check; Synergy merely asks the server what the latest version number is, and if the number is higher than the currently running version, a dialog is displayed.

There is not yet a control in the user interface for this feature, but you can still control it by editing the Synergy preferences file. Make sure Synergy is not running when you edit the file. The file is at "-/Library/Preferences/org.wincent.Synergy.plist". To modify the settings look for the following entry in the file:

<key>Automatic Internet version checking interval</key>

Here the number 86400 indicates that checking will occur once every 86,400 seconds (in other words, once every day). If you set the number to 0 (zero) then checking will never occur; this is how you would disable the automatic version checking feature. The minimum value that you can use is 86400; lower values will be ignored and Synergy will check once per day.

If you wish to check once per week you would use a value of 604800. If you wish to check once per month you would use a value of 18396000. And if you wish to check once per year then you would use a value of 31536000.

You must be careful when modifying the preferences file to change only the number and not any of the surrounding text. Doing so may result in a badly formed preferences file that Synergy cannot read.

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Where do I enter my serial number?

You can enter your serial number in the "About" tab of the Synergy preferences by pressing the "Enter serial number" button. You must enter your email address and serial number exactly as they appear on your registration confirmation notice (upper-case and lower-case letters are important here, so make sure you enter these exactly). You can avoid errors by copying and pasting these two items directly from the confirmation notice.

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I registered a long time ago but I lost or never received my serial number; what do I do?

If you have lost your serial number, go to and follow the instructions.

It is your responsibility to make reasonable backups of your registration information. This includes both electronic copies, and hardcopy (printed) copies. In the event that you have not kept a backup of the information, Wincent may not be able to help you.

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If I have two machines, do I have to buy two Synergy licenses to run it on both?

A single-user license grants you the right to install and use the software on one machine. Licenses are not transferable between users but you may transfer your license from a "source" machine to another machine, provide you remove the license from the "source" machine immediately afterwards.

As such, to have the software installed simultaneously on two machines you should purchase two licenses. If you wish to install it on more machines may consider purchasing a five-user (or more) license, as multi-users licenses come with a considerable discount.

See the license page for more information.

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I am a resident in the European Union. Will I have to pay VAT?

If you choose to pay using the Kagi payment service, then you will pay VAT on your purchase. This is because, in response to the legislation introduced by the EU on 1 July 2003, companies outside of the EU are required to collect and pay VAT on any sales to EU customers. Kagi has chosen to comply with these new rules and automatically collects VAT on all transactions at the appropriate rate depending on the purchaser's country, and then remits it to the appropriate agency in that country. This is an automatic process from which one cannot "opt-out".

If you choose to pay using the PayPal payment service, then you will not have to pay VAT on your purchase. Unlike Kagi, PayPal provides no mechanism for collecting and remitting VAT. This is acceptable in the terms of the new legislation because Wincent's annual turnover falls below the annual threshold above which they would be required to register for the VAT. (For example, the threshold in the UK as definied in Notice 700/1 is £56,000).

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Why is the communications interval slider ghosted?

This is not a bug but a feature of Synergy 1.5b and up when used in conjunction with iTunes 4.7 and above. When Synergy detects that iTunes 4.7 is installed on your system it switches to the new communications engine, which doesn't do any polling at all. In this circumstance the slider no longer has any meaning because Synergy doesn't poll but instead waits for notifications from iTunes.

On systems running versions of iTunes prior to 4.7 the slider is unghosted and the old communications engine is used. iTunes 4.7 is a recommended upgrade for all Synergy users because of the massive performance improvements when using Synergy.

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How do I make Synergy display track information when playing from a Shared Playlist?

Upgrade to iTunes 4.0.1.

In versions prior to iTunes 4.0.1, Synergy cannot get song information while iTunes is playing from a "shared playlist" (such as a Rendezvous-based playlist in iTunes 4). This is a limitation of the AppleScript implementation in iTunes 4, which Apple has removed in the 4.0.1 update to the software. (For the curious, even a simple script like 'tell application "iTunes" to get current track' will produce an error with shared playslists in iTunes version 4.0.)

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How do I turn on the floater?

This feature was released with Synergy 0.5. You will need to upgrade to version 0.5 or above in order to enable it.

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Why don't the Synergy menu bar controls hide immediately when I quit iTunes?

This is not a bug, but a consequence of a design decision. One of Synergy's design goals is to be minimise load on system resources, and so it reduces CPU usage by only querying the status of iTunes once every 3 seconds.

As a result, if you have checked the box, "Display controls only when iTunes is running" in the Menu bar settings tab you may find that there is sometimes a slight delay between iTunes launching or quitting, and Synergy's menu bar controls changing in response.

A design goal for later versions of Synergy is to improve the efficiency of communication between iTunes and Synergy so as to permit more frequent querying, most likely around once per second, and therefore greater responsiveness.

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Why doesn't the "Help" button work?

This rare issue can sometimes occur if you install a new version of Synergy simply by dragging it into your PreferencePanes folder and overwriting an older copy. The problem is caused due to a caching behaviour of the System Preferences application that means it fails to register the presence of a new version and hence the new help files.

The solution is as follows:

  1. Quit the System Preferences application.
  2. Drag the old version of Synergy.prefPane to the trash and empty it.
  3. Launch the System Preferences application (this forces it to flush references to the old version of Synergy from its caches).
  4. Quit the System Preferences application.
  5. Install the new Synergy.prefPane.

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Why don't the Hot Keys work?

Hot Keys are based on hardware-dependent codes that vary from computer to computer. Although the default Hot Key settings that ship with Synergy will work on most Apple-branded equipment, there are some third-party keyboards and particular Apple models (such as certain iBooks) which will not respond properly to the default key codes.

The solution in this case is to customise your Hot Keys on your machine using the Hot Keys tab in the Synergy Preference Pane. The preference pane will capture the codes directly from your hardware and thus work with your keyboard even if it is a special or third-party model.

Another situation in which Hot Keys may not work is if you choose a Hot Key combination that is already in use by another application. This is not recommended because the other application may "capture" those Hot Key presses and prevent them from ever reaching Synergy. Conversely, you may trigger an action in that application when you only intended to issue a directive to Synergy. As such it is recommended that you choose unique Hot Key combinations. (See also "Can I use just a function key as a Hot Key, and not have to use a modifier key as well?")

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Why does iTunes respawn when I try to quit it or log out?

Due to a shortcoming of Mac OS X, Synergy versions up to 0.9.2 could cause iTunes to automatically respawn when trying to quit iTunes or log out. This would occur on average from 5 to 15% of the time.

This problem is completely remedied in Synergy version 0.9.3 and higher. If you continue to see unwanted respawns after upgrading to version 0.9.3 or above, then the likely cause is another iTunes accessory running on your computer. (Such accessories might include applications or AppleScripts designed to control iTunes or obtain information from it, album cover downloaders, or menu bar additions.) If you see these unwanted respawns then you are advised isolate the accessory causing the problem and contact the author of that accessory directly. If you are the author of such an accessory, you are welcome to contact me for advice on a workaround for the problem.

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Why do the Synergy Menu Bar Controls cast a shadow?

If you see shadows underneath your Synergy Menu Bar Controls this is most likely caused because you are running Metallifizer/APE from Unsanity. To remedy the problem, add Synergy to your "Excluded applications" list in the Metallifizer/APE preferences. The file that must be excluded is located inside the Synergy.prefPane package at: Synergy.prefPane/Contents/Resources/

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Why does the Synergy play/pause button change appearance?

Most of the time, the Synergy menu bar play/pause button will display either a "play" image (a right-pointing triangle) or a "pause" image (two vertical rectangles). At times, for example when dragging the iTunes window, the Synergy play/pause button may display a mixed "play/pause" image (one vertical rectangle and one right-pointing triangle). This occurs whenever the communications link between Synergy and iTunes is interrupted, and the combined "play/pause" image reflects the fact that the status of iTunes (playing or paused) is unknown to Synergy.

One example of a situation in which this can occur is when the user drags the iTunes window around the screen, or runs an iTunes visualiser. Under these circumstances, because of the way it is programmed, iTunes does not respond to communication attempts made by other applications, such as Synergy. So in these cases, you might see the combined play/pause image; when communications are re-established and the state of iTunes is again known, the button will revert to the appropriate state.

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Why does Synergy still appear in the System Preferences even after dragging it to the trash?

This is caused by a bug in Apple's System Preferences application which causes stale information to remain in the cache. Instructions for getting around the bug appear on the installation and removal page.

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How can I use F14 and F15 as Hot Keys?

It is not possible to set F14 and F15 for Hot Keys as Apple reserves them for controlling the brightness on their LCD displays. By adding a modifier to the Hot Key, such as "Command", you may use those as Hot Keys, but you will not be able to use them for this purpose without a modifier unless Apple changes its implementation.

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How do I prevent CodeTek's VirtualDesktop application from interfering with the Synergy Floater?

Either, upgrade your copy of VirtualDesktop to version 2.3.2 or later.

Or, if using versions of VirtualDesktop prior to version 2.3.2:

  1. Locate your installed copy of the Synergy.prefPane in the Finder.
  2. Right-click or Command+click the Synergy.prefPane and choose "Show package contents".
  3. In the window that appears, open the "Contents" folder, and inside that, the "Resources" folder; you should see an application called "Synergy" among the other files.
  4. Now in the CodeTek VirtualDesktop preferences window, go to the "Applications" tab.
  5. Drag the Synergy application icon that you just located to the list of applications in VirtualDesktop.
  6. In VirtualDesktop, select the Synergy application from the list and activate the checkbox which says, "Show this application's windows on all desktops".

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