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The Google Chromecast is one of the best gadgets to come out in recent years. The low-cost dongle turns any TV into a smart TV, so you can watch YouTube or Netflix on the big screen while controlling it from the smartphone in your hand.

But that’s not all that it does, there are plenty of other reasons to love Chromecast Google Chromecast Review and Giveaway Google Chromecast Review and Giveaway We're giving away a Google Chromecast, so read through our review, then join the competition to win! Read More . You can cast any movie, music, or photo from your Mac’s hard drive to the big screen. It’s just a matter of knowing which apps and tools can do it.

What You Will Need

chromecast

How to Stream Movies from Mac to Chromecast

Let’s start with movies, since that’s what the Chromecast excels at. With Internet-based movies, you can make Chromecast into a media center How To Make Chromecast Your Smart Media Centre How To Make Chromecast Your Smart Media Centre At just $18, the Chromecast is an unmistakably great way to make your TV "smart", but it can feel a bit of a one-trick pony once the initial euphoria wears off. Read More for your TV. But things are a little different for locally stored files. You should check out two apps to do this.

Airflow (Free)

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The best and simplest app to stream videos to Chromecast is Airflow. The interface is so easy to use that you’ll master it in seconds. Just drag-and-drop or add your videos, choose the right Chromecast, and click play.

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Airflow is completely free, supports playlists, and plays a wide range of movie files with ease. You get preview thumbnails in the playback bar, so you can see exactly which part of the movie you’re skipping to. It includes hardware-accelerated transcoding, outstanding subtitle support, and supports surround sound. You can also customize the audio, video, and subtitles to get everything just the way you like it.

Videostream (Free, In-App Purchases)

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AirFlow is missing a companion mobile app, and it doesn’t remember your last playback point. If those are important for you, check out Videostream for Chromecast, a browser-based app for Chrome.

Videostream is a freemium app, which means some of its features are free, but you’ll have to pay for others. In the free version, you can’t make playlists or change the appearance of subtitles. And well, it runs in Chrome, which some consider a poor browser choice on OS X 10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Use Chrome on a MacBook 10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Use Chrome on a MacBook Chrome is, for many people, the first thing installed on a new Macbook. It makes sense: in its early days Chrome gained a reputation for being lightweight and fast. Read More .

How to Stream Music from Mac to Chromecast

Your MacBook, like most laptops, kicks out a fairly low volume from its built-in speakers. We’ve talked about a few ways to fix Mac audio Want Better Mac Audio? Here's What You Need to Do Want Better Mac Audio? Here's What You Need to Do Macs are known for a lot of things, but great sound isn't one of them. Here's what you can do to give your Mac's sound a boost. Read More , but using external speakers (or headphones) is almost always the best idea.

If your TV’s connected speakers are better than what your Mac has, then it could makes sense to use that. As long as you have a Chromecast connected, you can stream your Mac’s audio to the TV. This means you can use Apple Music from iTunes on Mac Getting Started With Apple Music — What You Need to Know Getting Started With Apple Music — What You Need to Know After the purchase of Beats last year, Apple has finally unleashed its streaming music service upon the world. Read More , but hear it all through the TV’s speakers (or a fancy surround sound system).

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Download and install Soundflower, which allows Mac apps to pass their audio to other apps.
  2. Download Soundcast (free).
  3. Double-click the Soundcast .ZIP file to extract the contents.
  4. Drag-and-drop Soundcast.app to your Applications folder.
  5. Double-click the Soundcast application to run it.

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You will now see the Soundcast icon in your OS X menu bar. Click it to see the Cast to option in the drop-down menu. Choose the appropriate Chromecast and you’re good to go. Now, any audio from your Mac computer will be played through your TV’s speakers. So feel free to use any app — iTunes, Spotify, even YouTube in a browser.

Unfortunately, Soundcast does not support album art or lyrics, so you won’t get a cool display on your TV. Bummer!

How to Stream Photos from Mac to Chromecast

Despite OS X having the wonderful new iPhotos for Mac A Cleaner, Faster iPhoto: Upgrade to Photos for OS X Yosemite A Cleaner, Faster iPhoto: Upgrade to Photos for OS X Yosemite Photos for OS X has finally arrived, replacing iPhoto with an image management application that Mac users will actually want to use — but is there enough here to satisfy Aperture refugees? Read More or plenty of other great photo apps The Best Mac Apps The Best Mac Apps From email clients to system utilities, time savers to productivity boons; on this page you'll find the best Mac software used by MakeUseOf staff and readers alike. Read More , not one of them supports Chromecast. In fact, there is no Mac app that lets you stream photos to the TV using Chromecast. To do this, you’ll need to rely on a Chrome app called PictaCast (free). Yup, you’re trapped in Chrome I Hate Google Chrome But I'm Trapped In It. Here's Why I Hate Google Chrome But I'm Trapped In It. Here's Why In the Chrome vs. Firefox war, I'm siding with the Google users. But I don't want to. Chrome is my browser of choice because it has features that I can't live without. Read More and there’s nothing you can do.

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Install and start PictaCast. Things are easy from there. You’ll see two distinct options: Add Folder and Add Music. Point PictaCast to the folder with your photos, and add a track from your local music library. Choose the appropriate Chromecast from the Chrome extension. Just like that, PictaCast will start playing the images from the folder on your TV.

PictaCast is surprisingly customizable. You can set your images to fit to the screen in full-screen mode, shuffle them for a random order, or choose from four different types of picture walls. You can also control the speed at which it flips to the next photo, and choose to display file name and time. And there’s the option of rotating the screen too!

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Other users in your room can install PictaCast on their phone. They can then add their own photos to the slideshow, which is a great way to share photos in a gathering.

The free version of PictaCast is restricted to 30 minutes of usage per day, while the $3 paid version lifts this limit.

Download: Pictacast for Chromecast (Free)

One App to Rule Them All: Plex

All the above apps focus on being simple and easy-to-use. But if you have the time to set it up, then Plex can manage movies, music, and photos from a single app. It’s a little difficult to master if you’re a complete novice, but the end result is worth it.

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Once you download and install it, you’ll have to set up Plex and add movie, music, and image libraries from your local drives. It’s a process that is best explained in our guide to making a Plex media server.

Plex supports myriad file formats, works across platforms, and is free for basic personal use. It also scrapes information from the Internet to add things like movie synopsis, album art, lyrics, subtitles, and more.

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But again, Plex requires the Chrome web browser and the Chromecast extension, since it’s a browser-based app.

Chromecast vs. Apple TV

Not everyone who owns a Mac has an Apple TV. Plus, it costs over four times what you’ll pay for the Chromecast. So we want to hear from users who have both a Chromecast and an Apple TV.

Is the Chromecast a worthy “cheap option” to the Apple TV? Have any MakeUseOf readers out there bought both?

  1. Kieran Soms
    December 2, 2016 at 3:08 am

    Awesome. I am just at a point where I am done with giving apple my money. Got a chrome cast 2 today because I want to have the features of an apple tv, and used airflow which works great. The only time it doesn't work the greatest is when you're loading Blu-ray movie files through it that are essentially above 8-9GB. I found it worked perfectly for everything under that, but over it was buffering slow.

    This may also have been because my network strength is at about half at this part of my condo so hoping it's better in the new place.

    The only thing you lose is games from apple tv vs chromecast, but I have a ps4 already for that so I don't see a point. The new version of Google Home app is really good and has tons of apps available that work with the cast and almost replace all of the apple tv features entirely.

    Seriously worth the $35. F apple and their $100 equivalent.

    Great article btw, it made me decide to go through with getting a CC2.

  2. Andrew Fraser
    August 18, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    I found Airflow was buffering quite a bit. I quit the program and then tried to use Videostream and had no issues at all so I immediately bought the monthly "Premium" subscription on their website ($1.71 USD a month) which is about the same as a cup of coffee. I'm more than happy with their service and will continue to use it.

    Thanks for the great article and be sure to support developers!

  3. et
    June 17, 2016 at 10:50 pm

    Thanks for this cool Airflow tip! It's a real nice well functioning and easy to use program!!

    • Mihir Patkar
      August 18, 2016 at 7:02 am

      Glad you liked it :) I'm a big fan of the app now

  4. ALS
    June 13, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    HELP! I do not want to cast videos or music or photos. I want to cast my DESKTOP. Not a browser window, the actual desktop where I can edit files on my hard drive using programs installed on my computer. I have a mac and a chromecast and they are on the same network. Can I do REAL casting of ANYTHING on my screen to a bigger one?

    • Gabe
      August 6, 2016 at 4:35 am

      In the Chromecast extension for Chrome:
      If you click on the icon on the toolbar, in the top right corner of the popup, there's a very tiny drop down arrow. If you click on that, there's a "Cast screen/window (experimental)" option, which will let you cast your desktop.

    • Mihir Patkar
      August 18, 2016 at 7:02 am

      Gabe's method is best for that.

  5. Thanh T
    May 24, 2016 at 11:41 am

    Give AirParrot 2 a go, you won't be disappointed!

    • Mihir Patkar
      August 18, 2016 at 7:02 am

      I'll check it out, thanks!

  6. Phil
    March 6, 2016 at 10:34 pm

    Thanks for this very interesting post. I just bought my self a Chromecast today, for my bedroom TV (mostly for netflix). For now I have only tried Videostream to play local video.
    I also have an apple tv in my living room for the apple tv of a lot more features (Games, VOD, screen mirroring on both mac and Iphone, and Sound sharing). And it real time HD screen mirroring.
    For my AppleTv is really easier and works perfectly with both iPhone and Mac. But Chromecast is cheaper and handy for netflix. But if you have an iPhone and no netflix account, I will recommend the former generation of Apple Tv, that you can find for 80$.

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