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Tips for making the most of Google Chromecast

By

September 23, 2013

Here's how to get more out of your Chromecast with the Chrome browser

Here's how to get more out of your Chromecast with the Chrome browser

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Google's Chromecast currently doesn't have a whole lot of options other than its four officially supported apps: YouTube, Netflix, Google Music and Google Video. Following on from our full review of the Chromecast, here's some user tips on how to get a little more out of the device, from mirroring your desktop to playing your own video files.

For each of these tips to work you'll need to have Google Chrome and the Google Cast extension installed on your Mac or PC.

Stream your own local videos

While it's not designed to work as a receiving device like say a Roku or Apple TV, you can stream your local videos to the Chromecast if the Chrome browser on your computer supports the file type. In my tests, I've been able to stream the most common file types like mp4, m4v, avi and mpeg. While mkv files display the picture, there's no audio.

With the Google Cast extension for Chrome you can easily stream local media to the Chromec...

To stream your local videos, open the Chrome browser and hit Ctrl+O in Windows or Command+O on a Mac. Then navigate to the video you want to play. You can select files from your local drive, connected external drive, and even network locations.

Open Chrome and hit Ctrl+O or Command+O to select the media file you want to stream

Send websites to the big screen

The obvious extension of this is that you can stream a webpage to your HDTV via Chromecast. To do this, just open the site you want in a new tab and click the Cast this tab button.

The Google Cast extension allows you to send an open tab to your HDTV

Mirror your full desktop

Another interesting thing you can do is send your entire desktop to the big screen. To mirror your full desktop click the small down arrow and then click the experimental option to cast your entire screen. Because this is still an experimental feature, it doesn't support audio.

The Google Cast extension has an experimental option to mirror your entire desktop

Adjust streaming quality to improve video playback

The Chromecast works best when you're using it as intended, to stream Netflix or YouTube from the internet, then using your mobile device as a remote control. But when using the Google Cast extension, there might be times when streaming video isn't as reliable. You can experience buffering playback problems if your Wi-Fi signal isn't strong enough or the traffic load is too high.

To improve playback you'll need to take a hit in terms of the quality of the image. First open the Google Cast extension and select Options, then under Tab projection quality set it to Standard (480p).

Under Google Cast extensions you can tweak projection quality and how the video behaves wh...

Make video always play full screen

After sending video to from your phone or tablet, you can close the Chromecast app and do other tasks on your device, and the video continues to display in full screen mode. But when you send video from the Chrome browser, you have to keep the video in full screen mode on the browser all the time for it to display that way on your TV.

Keep video playing full screen on your TV from the Chrome browser by using Alt+Tab

There's an easy solution to this though. When you're streaming video from Chrome, hit Alt+Tab to switch tasks, and allow the video to play in full screen in the background. Then you can use your computer for other things.

Hopefully as the Chromecast project continues, these workarounds won't be necessary, and will be integrated better into the features.

Also remember, if you don't have an Android device, you can also use your iPad or iPhone to send media content to the Chromecast.

About the Author
Brian Burgess Brian Burgess resides in Minnesota. A technology enthusiast his entire life, he worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. In addition to contributing to Gizmag, he’s the Editor in Chief at groovyPost.com and has written for other notable tech sites Byte, InformationWeek, and How-To Geek. Away from the keyboard, you're likely to find him listening to heavy metal, playing guitar, or watching Star Trek.   All articles by Brian Burgess
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20 Comments

I think it's a bit early for this article. Please revisit when Google has finalized the SDK and allowed 3rd party devs to release their products. I'm particularly looking forward to Plex supporting the Cast API.

Stradric
23rd September, 2013 @ 06:31 am PDT

I'll be truly shocked if Hulu plus ever arrives for Chromecast, and if the past is any indication, it might be foolhardy to ever expect it.

We still get good use out of our sadly orphaned Logictech Revue, but there was never a compatible Hulu app, not even one that was capable of being side loaded. There is obviously something behind the scenes that prevents Google from offering Hulu on their devices.

Hope I'm wrong, but Netflix is very worthwhile in itself. Just don't sit around waiting for Hulu if you're a fan.

Artie Langston
24th September, 2013 @ 09:20 am PDT

Who needs a new device !

I use a Chinese made USB TV stick that boasts of WiFi and DLNA. My Lumia 720 (with a 64 GB card that carries all my videos) streams everything wirelessly to my Panasonic LED TV perfectly !

And yes, the TV stick cost me just 50 USD !

Atul Malhotra
24th September, 2013 @ 01:30 pm PDT

I was excited when I placed the order for my Chromecast.

I teach a class of high school student early in the morning and was excited to give the students with Android phones the capability to collaborate with the class via the projector (like their iOS classmates do with AppleTV).

Unfortunately the Chromecast never gets plugged in.

There is little content on Google Play or Netflix that fits in with my class. Youtube is blocked on WiFi. And the Chrome (mobile) browser doesn't (yet) support Chromecast.

Chromecast, like it's predecessor (Nexus Q) was shipped way too early.

Hugh Roper
26th September, 2013 @ 01:30 pm PDT

Avi files not supported on chrome browser & mkv did send audio as well.So im left with mkv & mp4 files to stream where all my movies are in avi.Plz let me know if there's any extension tht allows avi to play on chrome browser on my desktop.

Saajid Hasan Rizvi
27th September, 2013 @ 09:13 am PDT

If you're wanting to Stream videos through Chrome to ChromeCast but they wont play by simply doing CTRL + O due to video/format/ext issues.

Look into installing Plex. Plex allows you to use their installed software to play media through the chrome browser, which in turn will allow you to cast over to ChromeCast (if that makes any since?)

For now that is the best way I know of to broadcast local media content.

There are endless amounts of possibilities with just a little ingenuity, that's what makes ChromeCast awesome.

But I agree this article is a little to early IMHO.

Chris Harrison
29th September, 2013 @ 06:47 am PDT

I’m an Android app developer, who is waiting for the official Chromecast SDK release, which is currently in "Developer Preview". I'm beginning to wonder if it will ever be available for independent developers like me.

My app - SPLIT BROWSER - has been ready with full support for Chromecast for a while but I haven't got any replies from Google about their release date. I've also heard that Google will only "whitelist" apps for major media companies. So we have to wait and see.

Here's a video demo of Chromecast support in my app:

This Google Cast SDK release page will have updates when they make it official: https://developers.google.com/cast/release-notes

Appestry
29th September, 2013 @ 02:04 pm PDT

Some have no faith :( Hulu + has jumped onto the Chromecast bandwagon, and with some patience.. Every other needed option will be added as well. This is only my opinion, but this is Google we are talking about.

Manda MEss
6th October, 2013 @ 08:30 am PDT

I don't have usb port on my hdtv however there is one on my xfinity cable box. Would this work using my cable box?

Debra Linton
14th October, 2013 @ 06:10 pm PDT

I'm really enjoying our Chromecast so far, but I wish that Chrome (mobile) was supported. That's really ALL I'm waiting for at the moment. Every other app that comes out will be a bonus.

Leah Redman
24th October, 2013 @ 12:19 pm PDT

Smart HDMI sticks have been around for the past 2 years and they are much more versatile as they support additional technologies like Miracast, DLNA across Android, iOS, Windows and Mac platforms.

In addition to online media, I can share offline local content or just mirror my portable device screen on the TV.

Facebook User
30th October, 2013 @ 01:05 pm PDT

I installed Chromecast and everything is ok but have one problem. I am watching full movies via desktop to TV using Chromecast. I am getting a problem. After 10 or 15 minutes TV display turned off and Desktop computer start playing movies. Is there any time setting on TV or chromecast? How I can see full movies without turning off TV screen?

K_P
11th November, 2013 @ 09:23 am PST

Will browser casting work with a ChromeBook? I'm not sure if those count as PCs or mobile devices.

tericee
4th December, 2013 @ 06:31 pm PST

Control-o will NOT open a .avi file in Chrome, all it does is try to download it. I've even loaded up dixv and vlc plugins, and NOTHING I've tried so far will get .avi to play inside the Chrome browser. It's really pissing me off because I got the Chromecast specifically to play local videos and they're almost all .avi format. I really don't want to have to convert my entire frigging library to mp4.

Jason Smith
7th December, 2013 @ 12:36 pm PST

Debra,

This requires an HDMI connection, not a USB.

Josh-Heather Bryant
15th December, 2013 @ 08:00 pm PST

Josh,

The Chromecast requires USB for power.

Debra,

In theory your cable box should work just fine for that. The Chromecast also comes with a USB power adapter if all else fails, though you may need either a USB or HDMI extension cable depending on your outlet situation. If you have to, you may need to plug the Chromecast into your laptop USB port to power it.

Andrew Loyal
27th December, 2013 @ 01:38 am PST

How to connect chromecast to without USB TV

So I am aware of connecting to wall through USB cable but I am looking for no wire clutters, so is there any other option to power this chromecast maybe from HDMI to USB converter? Has anyone tried this.

tu
5th January, 2014 @ 09:52 am PST

I was very excited after receiving my chromecast thinking that I would be able to play offline content on TV, but didn't find an option initially. Then I came across this article and it is really useful though it may not support all files :)

Janardhan Kotha
7th January, 2014 @ 06:54 am PST

I swear by my Chromecast. And thanks to this article, I learned a few new details! I own 2 and now that I know my laptop can be used when casting from it, I'm very happy!! Very!!

DramaAddict
21st April, 2014 @ 01:10 pm PDT

Great article Brian. For those who live outside US like me, you can access Netflix, Hulu and similar media stations on your Chromecast by using UnoTelly or similar tools.

Marilyn Pearson
5th August, 2014 @ 01:12 pm PDT
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