A collaborative computing method and system are described. Output data from and input data for an application program are shared among all of the computers connected in a network using the X protocol. The output from the application program is intercepted and then replicated on each of the computers' displays. Input data for the application program can be read from any of the computers participating in the session. The identifying data associated with the output and input is modified so that each computer can operate as if it were the only computer controlling the application. The session is controlled by displaying on each computer's display a control window which allows the users to invoke a shared application and to use tools such a pointer, marker, to manage a collaboration session. Each user has equal collaborative capabilities in a session. This collaborative method provides a symmetric sharing among all users. A scratch pad window may be created on each computer's display. User data entered in a scratch pad window is normally replicated automatically on each of the other computers' displays, but a private mode is an alternative. Data entered by each computer in the scratch pad may be displayed with visual characteristics such as color which are unique to the computer on which the data was first entered.