Google's $35 Chromecast may be the simplest, least expensive way to present wirelessly from your laptop browser.
There's also a more serious side to the Chromecast. Chrome browser users can "cast" content from a single browser tab to the device, thanks to a free Chrome browser extension. You can cast a tab containing Google Docs, Sheets or Slides - or any web page, for that matter. This makes the Chromecast device useful in meeting rooms.
Here's what you need to know to setup and use the Chromecast at work.
The Chromecast device plugs into an HDMI port, and requires power
- A nearby USB port or power outlet (to power the Chromecast device),
- A WiFi network, and
- A TV or projector with an open HDMI port.
If you connect the Chromecast to a TV, use the AC power adapter, that way, when you start casting, the Chromecast will power on the TV and switch the input selector to the Chromecast automatically. This feature requires HDMI-CEC, or HDMI Consumer Electronics Control, which most recent TVs support. Chromecast should work with any TV, computer monitor or projector with an HDMI input.
You can set up your Chromecast from a browser or an Android app. To setup from a browser, use the Chrome browser and install the Google cast extension. To setup from an Android device, install the Chromecast app from the Google Play store.
Once your Chromecast is plugged in and powered, wait for the Chromecast start screen to display. You'll then walk through four steps:
- Selecting the device,
- Identifying the device with a unique code,
- Connecting it to your WiFi network, and
- Naming your Chromecast.
Walk through the setup steps on any device by opening a browser to: http://google.com/chromecast/setup. Here's what the steps look like when using the Google cast extension from the browser.
Chromecast is easy to setup using the Chrome browser 'Google cast' extension
The process is slightly different if you use the Chromecast Android app.
Chromecast is even easier to setup using the Chromecast Android app.
You'll need to repeat the setup whenever you move the Chromecast to a new network. Chromecast does not work on wireless networks that have forced login pages, such as those common on hotel networks.
Name the Chromecast something distinctive, such as "Chromecast Board Room", so you'll know which device to select.
Once setup, the Chromecast should be visible to other devices on the network. Any device can then "cast" to it. As of August 2013, there's no way to require a passcode before "casting" to the device, as may be done with Apple TV. However, both devices must already be on the network for casting to occur. (Yes, random employees with access to the same network can cast indiscriminately. But if that happens, I suggest you have a personnel issue, not a security issue.)
The presenter needs:
- A laptop or desktop running the Chrome browser,
- To have the Google Cast browser extension installed, and
- To connect to the same WiFi network as the Chromecast.
To present, open your browser to the content you want to share. Click the "Google cast" extension to begin casting your tab to the Chromecast.
Share the contents of a Chrome browser tab with the Google cast extension
Chromecast meeting tips
Tab-casting sends the contents of the browser tab to the Chromecast. Resizing the browser width changes the width of the displayed tab.
But Chromecasting is not full-screen mirroring. The audience sees only the contents of the shared browser tab. Presentations that include opening links and highlighting content both require preparation.
When Chromecasting, links that open a new browser tab are a problem. Since Chromecast only displays the current tab, not the new one, the audience won't see content in the new tab. The presenter needs to switch to the new tab, then start Chromecasting from that tab. Problem solved.
There's also no easy on-screen way to point at things: the presenter's cursor location doesn't display. For many presentations, this won't matter. If pointing is needed, a handheld laser pointer works.
But since Chromecasting is not full-screen mirroring, there are at least two benefits.
- First, only the content of the browser tab is shown. The presenter's desktop, bookmarks bar, extensions, URL box, and other tabs do not display. This eliminates much of the awkward fumbling-around, trying to hide bookmarks and tabs too often encountered with inexperienced presenters. The audience simply sees the contents of a single tab.
- Second, the presenter isn't restricted to only looking at slides; they can look up information during a meeting. Need to look up pricing? Open a spreadsheet. Need to refer to an email thread? Switch to another tab and search email. The Chromecast device will continue to display only the contents of the browser tab being cast. The audience won't see other information. Presenters can use their laptops to fully participate in meetings, not just present. That's a big change from being forced to only page through slides!
An excellent value
For $35, the Chromecast offers a simple, inexpensive way to present wirelessly. If your organization uses Google Apps, the Chrome browser, or Chromebooks, the Chromecast is a useful addition to your meeting room toolkit.