Mersive Solstice

Get a clear picture: the meaning of screen mirroring, screen casting and screen sharing

4 min read

We all love innovation and competition when it comes to technology, but as the number of products and services grows, so too does the jargon. Merriam Webster added over a thousand new words in 2018 (many of them tech-related), so it’s no wonder that there’s some confusion — including in the content sharing and collaborative technology space — over what’s what.

screen sharing

It’s not a bad thing to have so many new words to define our tech — it shows enthusiasm. Still, when you want to explain how you’re sharing (or mirroring or casting) your screen or tell us what you want in a Solstice wireless display system, it can be helpful to know just how.

So, what is screen mirroring? What about screen sharing and casting? Here’s the gist: they all describe showing content from one device on another display. For a deeper dive into the intended meanings behind them, match your needs to the name.

“I want to…

  • “…show my exact desktop, laptop, phone or tablet screen (or an application window of the screen) and all my movements on another display in the same room.”
    This is screen mirroring.
  • play video, music or other content on another display in the same room.”
    This is screen casting (or casting your screen).
  • “…show my exact desktop, laptop, phone or tablet screen (or an application window of the screen) on displays in other locations.”
    This is screen sharing.

Screen mirroring: how and when to use it

“I want to show my exact desktop, laptop, phone or tablet screen (or an application window of the screen) and all my movements on another display in the same room.”

Screen mirroring duplicates your exact display onto another screen. Wired screen mirroring is still in use — HDMI and the almost-extinct VGA cable — but wireless screen mirroring has been around for years. To mirror your screen, you must have a display such as a TV or monitor that can receive content wirelessly, using either built-in technology or an adapter.

AirPlay is one of the older technologies supporting screen mirroring, but works only with Apple devices; Miracast, now built into many smart TVs, debuted soon after, but it has steadily decreased in use. In the workplace, screen mirroring is popularly used in meetings and features its own group of products tailored for its use, including Solstice.

Here is where it gets tricky: there are some devices that allow screen mirroring alongside casting.

Screen casting: how and when to use it

“I want to play video, music or other content on another display in the same room.”

Casting differs from screen mirroring in two ways. When you’re casting to another display, you’re not mirroring the screen of your device. You can cast a video to another display and still use your device, often a phone or tablet, without interrupting the video or showing any of your other content.

Additionally, the content is not played from your phone or tablet. The device connected to the display (Google’s Chromecast, for example) downloads and plays the content on the TV.

The term “casting” as it is currently used grew in popularity largely after the launch of Chromecast, and it quickly became the standard term for playing content on your TV from an app on your mobile device. Google’s Chromecast is one of the most popular streaming devices that is capable of casting and can be built in to any number of apps.

But there’s a twist: screencasting has another, somewhat related definition. A screencast also refers to a digital recording of a computer or mobile phone screen, often used when demonstrating or reviewing apps and software.

Screen sharing: how and when to use it

“I want to show my exact desktop, laptop, phone or tablet screen (or an application window of the screen) on displays in other locations.”

Screen sharing is basically the same as screen mirroring, except it generally refers to mirroring your screen on another person’s display, whether a laptop, desktop, or mobile device. Screen sharing can be done remotely, and it requires that both the sender and receiver have the same software or compatible systems.

With screen sharing in this sense, the mirrored screen is generally contained with an application window rather than taking over the entire external display. Screen sharing has become an important part of the workplace — with the rise of remote work and businesses operating internationally, it’s become commonplace to collaborate wirelessly, logging into meetings and working together on a project without being in the same room.

Screen sharing isn’t limited to just mirroring a display across multiple remote locations. Many software and hardware solutions allow a meeting to take place in one location and have remote workers sign in to view — and interact with — the shared screen.

Got the picture?

These definitions aren’t hard and fast rules. Language evolves, and these new words are still finding their way. If someone says they’re “casting” their screen in a meeting to a large in-room display, there’s no need to step in and say, “That’s screen mirroring.”

Learning the common usage of the terminology can not only help you better understand the technology, but make better decisions in selecting a screen sharing, mirror, or casting solution.

Test (and expand) your knowledge! Take a live product tour of Solstice and learn even more about wireless screen sharing.

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