23 July 2012

Working with Virtual and Remote Desktops Without a Keyboard

I have numerous virtual machines with a myriad of different operating systems on them and from time to time it's been necessary for me to log in remotely via my tablet or from a Windows machine to a Mac or visa versa. One of the stumbling blocks I find most irritating is how to issue 'special' keys or key combinations: on Windows you have the Windows key, on Mac the Cmd key etc.

The tablet has no concept of Ctrl or Alt so Ctrl Alt Del is a problem, and Microsoft saw fit to disallow Ctrl Alt Del via the on screen keyboard (presumably to stop people without a keyboard logging in). There are various applications for Android and iOS available on the market for connecting (which usually have the special keys) but there are occasions when you need to connect from one OS to another rather than directly from the tablet anyway.

Here are some solutions I've found:

Mac to Windows via MS RDC

  • Ctrl Alt Del: The Windows on screen keyboard does not allow Ctrl Alt Del so the solution is a two part setup on the Mac:
    1. Open up Apple logo, System Preferences, Universal Access,  Keyboard. Enable Sticky Keys and "Show Universal Access Status in the menu bar". I also enable "Press Shift key five times"
    2. Then click Open Keyboard Preferences. Click "Show Keyboard & Character Viewers in menu bar".
    Once you have these you can turn on the on screen keyboard and issue the command:
    1. Using MS RDC to connect to your target computer. You should have the "Press Ctrl Alt Delete to log on" screen.
    2. Make sure you're not in RDC full screen mode then on the Mac click the Keyboard and Character Viewer icon (small square with a star in it: I think it might be an American flag but I'm not sure) and select "Show Keyboard Viewer".
    3. Click on the RDC screen to activate it and then press: Fn, Ctrl, Alt, Backspace
    4. Click outside the RDC window to deactivate it then press shift five times to de-activate Sticky Keys: you need to do this or Windows gets Caps lock on for some reason. If you do get Caps Lock on the Windows screen, close and re-connect your RDC session: the password box will still be present.
    You could then turn off the Mac on screen keyboard although if on a tablet I like to leave it on so I can go to full screen and back.
  • Full Screen or not: Mac Cmd (Windows key) 2

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