So you want to create a digital sign to post news, learning targets, or upcoming events in your classroom and aren’t sure where to start? If you are a little tech savvy and enjoy learning new things, try out this DIY Digital Signage solution!
What you need
- Raspberry Pi Zero W or Raspberry Pi 3 Model B (Preferred)
- An old HDMI compatible flat panel TV/Monitor
- Google Slides Published to the Web
- WiFi Network
Set up your Raspberry Pi
First you will need to purchase a Raspberry Pi that has built in WiFi and run some setup commands. A wireless keyboard is also a must.
A Pi 3 Model B is preferred, due to its faster processor. This allows nice fades when you are displaying your Google Slides. A Pi Zero W is adequate, but will require some patience due to is slower processor and the wait times need for your applications and web apps to load. Both will work.
Raspberry Pi Zero W buying options:
- Pi Only – https://www.raspberrypi.org/products/
- Pi Kit on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/CanaKit-Raspberry-Wireless-Complete-Starter/dp/B072N3X39J
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B buying options:
- Pi Only – https://www.raspberrypi.org/products/
- Pi Kit on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/CanaKit-Raspberry-Complete-Starter-Kit/dp/B01C6Q2GSY/
Wireless Keyboard buying options:
- Any will work, but some that have worked well for me include:
- Logitech MK270 (Keyboard and Mouse) – https://www.amazon.com/Logitech-MK270-Wireless-Keyboard-Mouse/dp/B00BP5KOPA
- Logitech K400 (Keyboard with built-in Touchpad) – https://www.amazon.com/Logitech-Wireless-Keyboard-Control-Touchpad/dp/B014EUQOGK
Once you have your Pi and have plugged in all the peripheral connectors (HDMI to monitor, USB keyboard, power), do the following:
- Install Raspbian through the NOOBS install interface.
- Launch the Terminal and run these commands:
sudo apt-get update
Click here for more info about apt-get update.
sudo apt-get upgrade
Click here for more info about apt-get upgrade.
sudo apt-get clean
Click here for more info about apt-get clean.
sudo apt-get install xscreensaver
Click here for more info about installing XScreensaver.
Reboot your Pi.
Configure xscreensaver to not turn on during your slide show.
Go to the Raspberry Pi Preferences and click Screensaver and change the “Blank After” setting to the max… 720 minutes.
Set Up Your Google Slides
Create a slide show in Google Slides and Publish it to the web following these steps.:
- Create a multi-slide Google Slides presentation. This will be the content that loops on your Raspberry Pi Digital Sign! You don’t need to create this slideshow on the Raspberry Pi. You can use any computer. The Pi might be a little slow depending on the model your purchased.
- Once you have saved your Slides, go to File and click Publish to the Web. Here you can choose the Auto-advance timing (from 3 seconds to 1 minute). You will also want to check the boxes to start when the player loads and to restart the slideshow after the last slide.
- Finally, copy the link (we will shorten it to make it easier to remember) and click the Publish.
- With the linked copied to your clipboard go to a link shortener site (https://goo.gl/ or https://tinyurl.com/) to create a shortlink that will be easier to remember an input. Write down the shortened link to use in the next, and final step.
Start your SlideShow on your Digital Sign
Now we will launch our slideshow from the link in the Chromium web browser installed on the Raspberry Pi. Here are the suggested steps:
- Double check to make sure your Pi is connected to WiFi (more info).
- Open Chromium and input your shortened URL in the URL bar to launch your slideshow. You will have to log into Google Drive if you didn’t allow public sharing or if your provider requires a password to view Drive content.
- Make your slideshow full screen by pressing the F11 key on your keyboard, or click the full screen icon near the zoom options in the settings menu.
- Once the slideshow is running and it looks as good as you expected, make the shortened URL the start page so the next time you launch the Chromium browser your digital sign content will display. To do this follow these steps:
- Make sure you slideshow is being displayed in the browser.
- Click the settings menu item and go to settings.
- Scroll down to “On startup” and toggle the “Open a specific page or set of pages” and then click “Use current page.”
- Now your page will launch on startup!
When you want to update your slideshow, just edit it from any computer. On your Pi you will need to refresh the page and your updated content will now be displayed.
- Raspberry Pi Help Guides
- Raspberry Pi Software Guide
- Raspberry Pi Hardware Guide
- Rasberry Pi Technical Documentation
- How to use Google Slides
- Buy a Raspberry Pi
- Rasberry Pi on Amazon
- Raspberry Pi Community
- Raspberry Pi in Education
- Raspberry Pi YouTube Channel
More to Know
I would really suggest the more expensive RPi model (Raspberry Pi 3 Model B). The 4 USB connections and the faster processor are worth the extra $40. With the more powerful processor, the slideshow transitions more nicely. Programs load faster. Chromium is more responsive and loads faster, as well.
There are so many great resources to help you get started and so many fun projects available for the Pi.