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Unlike previous Chromecasts, the (relatively) new Chromecast with Google TV ships with a tiny adorable remote control that lets you launch apps, control playback, and navigate the interface without needing your phone. One caveat of that remote, though, is that it offers some preset buttons that launch YouTube and Netflix. What if you don't watch Netflix at all and prefer Plex and Disney+? Or what about launching your favorite music service? There's a simple way to remap some of those buttons to do what you want, and as a bonus, the same method can be used to take screenshots on your Chromecast. Two birds, one stone? Let's go.
Although this tutorial was written for the Chromecast with Google TV, it also applies to any other Android TV device, including the Nvidia Shield, Mi Box series, and more. Just exercise your better judgment when assigning single tap functions, to avoid breaking crucial remote functionality, and you should be good.
Get Button Mapper
First, you need to get a third-party app called Button Mapper. Grab it from the Play Store in the widget above or use Assistant to look for it on your Chromecast, then install it, and launch it. You'll be asked to enable its accessibility service in order for it to monitor the buttons you press and take over their action. To do this, go to your Google TV's Settings > System > Accessibility > Button Mapper, and enable it. The steps are outlined below.
Once the accessibility service is turned on, you can go back to Button Mapper. The app lets you assign different actions for a single tap, double tap, and long press on each button, so you can add even more functionality by using these combinations.
But beware! You should not mess with essential functionality on your remote, lest you like troubleshooting or perhaps even resetting your Chromecast entirely. That means you shouldn't change the single tap action of the D-pad, Home, back, power, and volume buttons. In several instances, messing with the double or long press will also yield unwanted consequences (especially on the D-pad), so you're better off not tinkering with those either. And there are a few buttons where a baked-in functionality will still happen, even if you try to override it, making them less practical to use. The table below shows which combinations are suitable for customization and which ones you want to avoid.
(1) Remapping the mute and volume buttons isn't as straightforward as you may think. It will rely a lot on whether you're controlling your TV or sound system volume with the Chromecast's remote, and thus on the option you've chosen in Settings -> Remotes and Accessories -> Set up remote buttons -> Volume control. This menu is a convoluted mess that we've explained before, and honestly I'd recommend moving on; it's just not worth it. But if you really want to be adventurous, read on.
In my experience, picking the first two options in that setting (Auto or your TV) disables the ability to remap the remote buttons. You have to switch to Chromecast Volume, which means losing surround sound and the ability to control your TV or sound system's volume — you can only change the Chromecast's volume. On the upside, this lets you reassign the mute and volume buttons to anything in Button Mapper and they'll do their thing. I really wanted to use these to skip or rewind tracks, but I quickly discovered it wasn't worth the loss of functionality.
Remapping the volume or Mute buttons is possible, but not worth the concessions.
One of the benefits of Button Mapper is that it unlocks the screenshot functionality, which isn't easily accessible in any other way on Android TV or Google TV (short of using adb). Simply pick the button and pattern you want, and assign the screenshot function to it. In my case, this is what I did:
- Select Home Button in Button Mapper
- Toggle Customize
- Select Long press
- Select Actions from the drop-down
- Scroll down and look for Screenshot.
Now, when I long press the Home button, my Chromecast takes a screenshot and saves it in /Pictures/Screenshots. I can then use a file browser app to share them to my local network or upload them to Google Drive or Dropbox. A third-party app, like Send files to TV, can also help in sharing them with my phone.
Button Mapper only lists a few buttons by default — the app is made for Android in general, not just Android TV — so we'll have to add any special buttons we want to customize. To do so, select Add Buttons > Add Buttons (again) and press the one you want to add. Netflix shows up as BUTTON_3, TV input as TV_INPUT. Choose the one you want to customize and you can now assign any functionality to it.
Button Mapper supports various kinds of actions, including taking a screenshot, opening settings, launching any installed apps, triggering some screenshots, toggling WiFi and Bluetooth, controlling media playback, and even more advanced adb and script functions. Keep in mind, though, that since this is the Android TV UI and not a regular Android phone, some of the options will do nothing or will be near useless. For instance, you can't see the recent apps menu or switch to the previous app, the power menu doesn't do much, and things like turning on the flashlight make no sense.
In my case, I switched the single press on the Netflix button to launch the Plex application, and the double one to open Spotify. I didn't customize the long press, because even if the action executes properly, the original functionality still occurs after it, causing the Netflix app listing to open in the Play Store even if it's not installed.
Besides using different combinations to launch your favorite streaming apps, there are also a few cool or useful ideas you can assign to the Chromecast's remote buttons.
- Open the full Play Store, Google Play Games, or Google Play Movies & TV apps — there's no icon for any of these pre-installed apps in the Google TV launcher, so Button Mapper can let you quickly access them without having to use voice commands or delve into multiple sub-menus.
- Go to System Settings — instead of always going to the home screen, opening the side panel, and scrolling down to select Settings, you could get to them with a button combo. I chose a double tap on the Home button, it makes sense.
- Kill foreground app — this is a nice weapon to have when an app misbehaves, or if I simply want to exit a foreground app and remove it from memory. It made sense for me to assign it to a long press on the back button.
- Control media playback — if you don't care about taking screenshots or launching apps, you can always assign some of the buttons to skip or rewind currently playing songs or video tracks.
I've been using Button Mapper on my Android TV devices (Shield, Xgimi Mogo projectors, and now Chromecast) for several years. It's one of the first tools I install and even though it takes a few minutes to set and see which combinations work on each unit, this is all the involvement that's needed. After that, I forget the app exists and let it do its thing, which is awesome when taking screenshots is sort of a job requirement.