Digital Signage with Android or Windows: Which is better?

Digital signage software is available for various operating systems. Broadly speaking, there are two types of systems used for digital signage: PC-based and SOC (System on a Chip). While PC-based systems use classic PC hardware, usually based on x86 or x64 processors, SOC hardware has the entire system on a chip and is usually integrated directly into the screen. However, there are also external SOC media players and sticks that connect to the display via HDMI or Display Port like PCs.

Accordingly, PC operating systems are used on PC hardware: In addition to Windows as the top dog, Linux in its many forms also plays a role in some cases.

SOCs, on the other hand, have a variety of proprietary operating systems that are usually closely tied to the hardware and come directly from the hardware manufacturer. On the other hand, there are also many SOCs that are based on Android or Android TV. The reason for this is that Android is a very common and robust operating system, which is also available free of charge (as it is open source), making it an interesting option for many hardware manufacturers.

In summary, both Windows and Android have a leading role to play in the digital signage sector. This raises the question:

Which operating system is better suited for digital signage?

First of all: There is no clear answer to this question! As is often the case, it depends on individual circumstances.


The advantage of Windows-based systems is clearly the variety of hardware and the ability to easily replace individual components if needed. In addition, managing Windows-based devices is much easier if you already manage Windows workstation PCs. The update security argument is also compelling in the case of Windows, as updates are available for many years. However, when it comes to hardware performance, Windows systems offer more choice and modularity. A Windows-based player system can be configured to meet both performance requirements and budget. Mini-PC systems or Slide-In PCs (OPS), which can be integrated either behind or directly into the display, are particularly popular for digital signage appliances. The disadvantage is that in most cases the operating system (Windows) has to be purchased separately, which means additional costs. Some systems, especially those based on Windows IoT Enterprise, come with the Windows operating system pre-installed.


On the other hand, there are player systems based on Android or Android TV. Their main advantage is the price. In the case of Android TV, the necessary hardware is already integrated into the display and does not need to be purchased separately. External set-top boxes are also available for very little money and are priced well below the cheapest PC systems. The performance of these devices, which are specifically designed for multimedia applications, is usually very impressive. However, one disadvantage should not be overlooked: update security! Since security and feature updates are not released centrally by Google, but by the respective device manufacturers, it is often the case, especially with Android boxes from the Far East, that updates are no longer offered after a very short time.

Decide for what?

So the choice depends on the purpose of the digital signage application and the available budget. For tight budgets, isolated solutions or smaller applications (e.g. a digital menu or a simple reception screen), Android is definitely worth more than a look! But when it comes to more professional applications with demanding requirements and where sustainability, maintainability and flexibility are paramount, there is usually no way around Windows.

But no matter which platform you choose, the FrontFace digital signage software is available for both Windows and Android. Functionally there are some differences (the most important being that the Android version of FrontFace does not support interactive applications), but with FrontFace you get an extremely powerful yet easy to use digital signage software that can even be used to manage mixed systems that use both Android and Windows players.

FrontFace 4.7.1

The new version 4.7.1 of the digital signage and kiosk software FrontFace comes with many new features and improvements. The update is available for free download in the customer area for all customers who are entitled to updates & support. Interested users can download the fully functional trial version to test it.

A very special new feature is the ability to display PDF or XPS/Print2Screen documents with multiple pages at the same time. A typical use case is to display a multi-page portrait document in full screen mode on a 16:9 landscape screen. This makes better use of the available space. Nevertheless, the familiar “paging” function (manual or automatic mode) is still available, even if multi-page viewing is enabled!

These are the major changes in this release – FrontFace 4.7.1:

FrontFace for Windows:

  • NEW: Multi-page display mode for PDF, XPS and Print2Screen documents allowing to display multiple pages at the same time
  • NEW: Convert to Bitmaps option for PDF and Print2Screen has been optimized (improved rendering quality)
  • NEW: When viewing a PDF using the Chromium-based rendering, touch interaction is forced if toolbar or thumbnails is enabled
  • NEW: Support for HTML widgets (HTML code snippets)
  • FIX: Fixed an issue with incorrect rendering of SVG files containing elements outside the canvas
  • FIX: Player settings are now correctly applied in Preview mode when a player is selected
  • FIX: Fixed a problem with web server publishing when using the FTPS protocol
  • FIX: Several other minor bug fixes and improvements

FrontFace for Android:

  • NEW: Player logs can now be exported to a USB thumb drive on Android
  • FIX: Fixed issue with borders and padding on Android
  • FIX: Fixed problem with incorrectly applied background colors in certain situations

Digital Signage with Microsoft PowerPoint: Better or better not?

Digital signage, used to display information and/or advertising, is everywhere! Not only in shopping malls and large corporations, but also in small and medium sized businesses in the retail, service and hospitality industries, where digital signage offers many advantages, such as digital storefront advertising.

Software? Which software?

While cost, screen size and design are often the only factors considered when choosing the right hardware, software is often ignored. As soon as the screen is mounted, thoughts quickly turn to Microsoft PowerPoint or the free presentation software Impress from LibreOffice, which offers a similar range of functions. Anyone who has ever created an attractive presentation with one of these programs knows that it is not only very easy to combine text, images and graphic elements, but also to create cross-fade effects and stylish animations.

Ready, set, F5!

So, once the presentation is created, what happens next? – Very simple: open PowerPoint, load the presentation and press F5!

…but then it starts: the presentation stays on the first page. Of course, with a digital signage screen, no one is standing next to it and pressing a button to continue with the slides. Fortunately, there is a way in PowerPoint to set the display time for each slide and enable automatic paging. And, of course, don’t forget to set the presentation to “infinite loop,” otherwise it will end after the last slide and a black screen will appear.

The same thing every day, Part 1: Automation is mandatory!

Shutting down the PC manually at the end of the day… you can do it, but you will probably forget it sometimes and turn on the PC every day, log on to Windows, start PowerPoint, load the presentation, and launch it with F5 – this is not a viable solution in the long run. With a little manual work and expertise, these steps can be automated, but it is still inconvenient.

Pro Tip: Configuring a PC for continuous operation as a digital signage system is easy with the free FrontFace Lockdown Tool. This handy little program not only lets you automate the timed startup and shutdown of your PC, but also lets you configure other tasks like automatically logging into Windows, starting a program like PowerPoint, or disabling the screen saver and automatic screen going black after some idle time with a single click.

The same thing every day, Part 2: Updating content is a must!

Even though it is possible to automate the playback of the PowerPoint presentation with some effort, the frustration returns when it comes to updating the content: The presentation must first be updated on another PC, then transferred to the playback PC via USB stick or network, and then manually updated and started using mouse and keyboard. If the screen is located in a public area, interested passers-by can also follow this process live. Of course, this doesn’t look professional at all!

Lively content generates more interest!

In many cases, simply displaying text and pictures is too boring. You can even embed video into PowerPoint slides, but when it comes to current content from the Internet, such as news, weather, or Web sites, Microsoft’s presentation software quickly reaches its limits.

So, if you want more variety or need to integrate current content from the Web, classic presentation software won’t work.

What alternatives are there?

For this reason, there are special solutions: One of them is FrontFace from mirabyte. With FrontFace you can create, control, update and play professional digital signage screen presentations. In addition to a distributed architecture (the software consists of a player application for content playback and the FrontFace Assistant for content creation and control), FrontFace offers the possibility to integrate a wide variety of content types. Whether videos, streams, images, slideshows, text, PDF files or websites – with FrontFace any type of media can be easily combined into attractive playlists. Thanks to the integrated Print2Screen function, content can even be imported from any Windows application that has a print function. Content can be created with popular applications such as Word and then transferred directly to the screen presentation. By the way: PowerPoint presentations can also be integrated this way (or as video)!

If you want to drive a nail into a wall, you should use a hammer, not a drill – in other words, there is a perfect tool for every application! While PowerPoint or LibreOffice Impress are a great choice for classic presentations, it quickly becomes apparent that these programs are rather unsuitable for digital signage applications.

But FrontFace offers even more: With the integrated time control, content can be displayed time-controlled. Content can be displayed throughout the day (e.g. the cafeteria menu at noon), by day of the week, or on specific dates (e.g. for events).

FrontFace is also very flexible when it comes to updating content. There are several publishing methods that can be used to update the content on a screen: In addition to publishing via the local network, updates are also available via the cloud, web server or even offline via USB thumb drive.

FrontFace’s greatest strength, however, lies in the software’s intuitive operation and comprehensive feature set, which covers a wide range of requirements. Getting started with FrontFace is very easy even for non-IT-savvy users. However, even complex applications can be easily implemented with FrontFace. In addition to a free, fully functional trial version, short video tutorials and an English manual are available to help you get started.

Media Library in the FrontFace Assistant

A Media Library is now available as a new feature in the FrontFace Assistant (starting with version 4.7.0). This allows you to easily manage your media such as images, videos, PDFs, XPS files, and audio files throughout the entire project.

In the “Media Files” tab, you can see which media files are being used in the project and which are not. For example, you can easily keep media files in the project that you want to use later or that you want to use in rotation/exchange with others.

Replacing media files or changing file names is now much easier as the file is automatically changed or replaced at all points in the project.

A new, integrated image editor is also available for images (PNG and JPEG), allowing you to edit images directly (e.g. size, cropping, sharpness/blur, contrast, colors, etc.).

Click here to download the latest version of FrontFace!

Power BI Plugin for FrontFace

Microsoft’s Power BI business intelligence software is used by many companies today. It can be used to compile business figures and data from a wide range of data sources in the company into reports and analyses, which can then be displayed in a web browser.

However, when it comes to making Power BI content available on digital screens (digital signage, dashboards, or shop floor boards) or in interactive employee information systems, difficulties often arise. This is mainly due to the fact that interactive authentication (login) via Office 365 is required to access Power BI reports and dashboards in the browser. This cannot be done on an autonomous screen with no mouse and keyboard.

The digital signage software FrontFace offers an elegant solution to this challenge with the new Power BI plugin. This allows Power BI reports and dashboards to be easily integrated into FrontFace playlists or touch menus and combined with other media and content (e.g. images, videos, PDFs, websites, news tickers, etc.).

Two different types of integration are available: First, SSO (Single Sign On via Azure AD) can be used to enable automatic login to Power BI Online. Alternatively, the data can be hosted for playout using a so-called “Power BI capacity”. FrontFace then accesses this Power BI Capacity in Azure over a secure Internet connection and displays the content as desired.

This means that Power BI content can now be easily integrated into digital signage playlists!

Both, the FrontFace software and the Power BI plugin are available for download as fully functional, free trials.

Remote Control Plugin for FrontFace

With the new Remote Control Plugin for FrontFace, FrontFace players can be easily “remote controlled” via a smartphone/tablet app. Similar to a TV remote control, playlists can be started, paused or stopped ad hoc, placeholder text in playlists can be filled, and playlist pages can be browsed interactively.

The Remote Control App for remote control via smartphone, tablet or PC is available for Windows, Android (as sideload or via Google Play) and for iOS.

The following use cases can be implemented with the Remote Control Plugin:

  • Welcome screen for personalized visitor greeting: Greet customers or visitors on your digital signage screen with a personalized welcome message. Use the app to start the welcome message and enter the visitor’s name directly on the smartphone.
  • Support product presentations at trade shows or showrooms: Show customers product videos, datasheets or live demos on your screens by simply launching the desired content on your screens with a single click with your smartphone in hand.
  • Museum and exhibition tours: To support a guided tour, the guide can easily access content such as videos or visualizations on multiple screens or projectors at any time.
  • Callup system for waiting rooms and waiting areas: With a click in the app (which can also run on a Windows PC!), staff can call patients or waiting people via the screen in a personalized way (“Mr. Doe, please go to treatment room 2!”) or simply “…next, please!”). The current presentation (e.g. advertising or entertainment program) is interrupted and the call is displayed. Optionally, this can be accompanied by an audible signal to attract even more attention!

Finally, in addition to the app control, the Remote Control Plugin also provides a REST API to integrate with external systems. For example, building automation systems can directly control what is displayed on the digital signage screens via the API.

The Remote Control Plugin for FrontFace is available for download as a free trial version. More information about the plugin and installation can be found on the FrontFace product page.

Scheduled startup and shutdown of digital signage PCs running Windows

Not all digital signage systems need to run 24/7. In many cases, there are windows of time when such systems are not needed, or even when they are not allowed to operate due to legal requirements.

To avoid the manual effort of turning systems on and off, they can be started and shut down automatically and time-controlled. We show you how this works!

First of all, you have to distinguish between the display and the player PC: Most professional displays and LFDs offer a function to switch the screen on and off, often even with a weekly program (e.g., for different times on the weekend). This is usually set up through the OSD (On Screen Display) of the device. However, displays (like conventional TVs) that do not have such a feature can often automatically go into standby mode when there is no video source, and wake up when the video signal is available again. The easiest way to control such displays is to start and shut down the connected player PC. In any case it is better to avoid rough methods such as the use of timer adapter plugs, as this can lead to permanent damage to the screen.

The final method of starting and shutting down the connected player PC depends on the capabilities of the hardware used: Some PCs have a function in the BIOS or UEFI that can be used to define automatic boot times. The advantage of this is that it is very reliable and works even when the PC is completely turned off (as long as the AC is not unplugged!). For example, the popular Intel NUC Mini-PCs have such a BIOS (Aptio® V UEFI firmware core).

Settings for automatic power on in the BIOS/UEFI

However, if such a function is not available, the automatic start can still be accomplished using the Windows built-in tools and the hibernation function. This is done by defining a timer in the Windows Task Scheduler (TASKSCHD.MSC) that will restart the PC at the desired time. If the PC wasn’t shut down before, but was put to hibernate (again, the PC is effectively turned off!), the timer can still cause the PC to wake up at the desired time and then trigger a restart, so that a cleanly restarted PC is running at the desired time.

On most PCs, hibernation must first be enabled in the Windows power options (e.g. with the command line: powercfg /h on).

The timed shutdown of a Windows PC can also be implemented using a timer in the Windows Task Scheduler. The only thing to consider is whether the PC should actually be shut down (in the case of automatic startup via the BIOS/UEFI) or only put into hibernation mode (in the case of automatic startup via the Windows Task Scheduler).

If you find it too complicated to set up a scheduled startup and shutdown, you can also use the free FrontFace Lockdown Tool. This way you can easily set up the above functions. Another advantage is that you can also use the FrontFace Lockdown Tool to configure other features such as the automatic login of a user account without entering a password or the start of a predefined application such as the FrontFace Player App.

Settings for automatic shutdown, reboot and hibernate in the FrontFace Lockdown Tool

By the way: Even if the FrontFace Lockdown Tool can only be used to define a fixed time for startup or shutdown: The FrontFace Lockdown Tool actually only creates timers in the Windows Task Scheduler, which can be adjusted afterwards. For example, you can define different times for certain days or the weekend.

Integrate Excel Documents Into FrontFace

In an earlier article, we presented the ways in which Office documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) can be integrated into FrontFace. With the newly released Excel Viewer Plugin, Excel documents can now be integrated even more easily and, above all, directly.

Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet software continues to be very popular with businesses. Whether used for inventory lists, attendance lists, appointments, production planning, evaluations, controlling, accounting, or personnel planning—Excel spreadsheets appear in almost every area of a company. Therefore, it is understandable that Excel spreadsheets, if they are already available, are also used beyond the local workplace PC. In addition to being made available via the web and SharePoint or simply as a paper printout, their use on digital information screens, dashboards, and shop floor boards is desirable for many users.

So far, however, this requirement has often failed due to the proprietary nature of Excel: Excel spreadsheets can only be properly displayed using Excel itself. And here, the application’s focus is clearly not on the presentation. Sadly, the free Excel Viewer, which was once offered by Microsoft for conveniently displaying Excel spreadsheets, even in full screen mode, has been discontinued for many years without a replacement.

The new Excel Viewer plugin for the digital signage software FrontFace from mirabyte generates totally new possibilities for the seamless integration of Excel on large screens and digital display boards:

FrontFace is a powerful standard software for easily creating and managing digital information and advertising screens (digital signage). FrontFace supports both classic noninteractive systems, which only serve to display content, and interactive touchscreen systems, in which the user can navigate through the content.

With its standard range of functions, FrontFace already offers broad support not only for the most common media and content types, such as images, videos, websites, but also PDF documents, vector graphics or special objects such as tickers or date/time displays. If necessary, additional functionality can be retrofitted with so-called plugins (e.g., the integration of external calendar data or news and weather).

The new Excel Viewer Plugin now also enables the direct integration of Excel documents into playlists and interactive touch menus. The only requirement is that Excel needs to be installed on the PC which is used for playback (the so-called “Player PC”) in addition to the FrontFace software.

The plugin then displays the Excel file on the screen in its original state and without any loss of quality. The Excel file is updated each time, so formulas and diagrams are automatically recalculated when being displayed on the screen. This means that the displayed content always corresponds to the current content of the Excel file. Because the Excel file can be embedded from a network share or even via HTTP, the content on the screen can be updated simply by editing and saving the file.

More information about the Excel Viewer Plugin and a free trial version are available for download.

FrontFace 4.6.2: Tables, Hot Folders, Analytics Plugin, Android 12 and much more…

With the latest version 4.6.2 of FrontFace, many new and exciting features have been added to the powerful digital signage and kiosk software solution.

Support for Tables in Texts

The newly added support for tables in text media objects opens up a particularly huge number of new uses and applications: Tables can be used like in conventional word processing for both text structuring and layout purposes. The integrated table editor has a range of functions that is comparable to common word processing programs and is just as easy to use.

Support for tables in text media objects

Hot Folder with Explorer Mode and Subfolder Support

The “Explorer Mode” for the popular Hot Folder features has received another improvement: Subfolders can now also be navigated interactively. In general, Hot Folders can be used to integrate network shares into digital signage playlists. The contents of these folders (e.g. images or PDF files) are then displayed “live”. With the Explorer Mode, Hot Folders can also be used interactively. Similar to a file explorer, the files are displayed as icons and can be viewed full screen when clicked/tapped on. With this release, the support for also navigating subfolders has been added. In this way, for example, employee information systems can be implemented particularly easily, since existing documents and folders on file servers can be integrated directly into the interactive touch menu interface. Changes to files in a Hot Folder always have an immediate effect on the touch menu without having to publish again! Also for digital bulletin boards, the Explorer Mode for Hot Folder media objects is a very useful feature when running on touch screens.

Hot Folder: Explorer Mode with Subfolders

Analytics Plugin

In addition to the numerous features that are already integrated in FrontFace, there is also the option of extending additional functions by installing plugins on demand. With the new Analytics Plugin, user activities can now be tracked on interactive systems (which content was accessed when and how often?) and on non-interactive digital signage systems, the Analytics Plugin can be used to create a proof of playout (e.g. for advertising screens).

FrontFace for Android

The Android version of FrontFace, which can also be used on Android TV devices, has again received numerous enhancements and improvements. After finally supporting Android 11, the latest version is now also compatible with Android 12. This means that FrontFace can be used on almost all Android devices with Android 7 to 12! Hardly any other digital signage software offers such a wide range of hardware and operating system support. This not only actively contributes to sustainability, but also enables flexible use in times of limited hardware availability!

Below is an overview of the most important new features and improvements of the current version 4.6.2 of FrontFace:

FrontFace for Windows:

  • NEW: Support for tables in text media objects
  • NEW: Explorer Mode for Hot Folders now with support for subfolders
  • NEW: Update of the integrated Chromium engine to version 106.0.5249.119
  • NEW: Tracking of user activities using the new Analytics Plugin (optionally available)
  • NEW: Auto-recovery function in case the content cache has been damaged externally
  • NEW: Validation of projects on loading and provisioning of automatic repair actions in case of corrupted projects
  • NEW: Note on how to fix SSL/certificate issues when displaying websites in preview mode
  • NEW: Improved automatic scrolling of web pages
  • NEW: The user manual has been enhanced with numerous screenshots
  • FIX: Fixed issue with encrypted URLs
  • FIX: Improved automatic alignment of buttons in touch menus

Front Face for Android:

  • NEW: Android 12 support
  • FIX: Fixed problems when publishing very large files via SMB shares
  • FIX: Various improvements and optimizations

A free, fully functional trial version of FrontFace is available for download on the mirabyte homepage. Existing customers can download the new version in the customer area.

FrontFace 4.6.0 – New Design Options

In addition to numerous improvements and new features, the latest version 4.6.0 of FrontFace also offers new design options for playlists and touch menus: With the so-called “Container Style”, characteristics such as background colors/gradients, border type, color and thickness can be set for all media objects as well as settings for drop shadow or glow effects. This opens up numerous new possibilities for eye-catching playlists and touch menus e.g., for digital bulletin boards.

The new “Container Style” tab in the FrontFace Assistant

The version also brings the following new features and improvements:

  • NEW: Each media object now has a “Container Style” attribute. This allows configuring drop shadow, background, and border settings for each media object for even more individual designs
  • NEW: Update of OSK (On Screen Keyboard) component to newer version
  • NEW: Background music now continues to play when navigating different content in a touch menu
  • NEW: If only one (daily) timer is defined in scheduling, the playlist will always be played, regardless of the actual date and time of the player’s system clock
  • NEW: If any hidden or invisible containers are included in a layout, the container list is automatically displayed, and the hidden container is indicated semi-transparently
  • NEW: The Pinboard layout has been improved and can optionally be updated (if already used)
  • FIX: Optimization of link support for integrating PDF and XPS files
  • FIX: Fixed bug when scrolling/paging playlist pages
  • FIX: Loading of the provider logo in the weather optimized
  • FIX: Optimization of the automatic image reduction when adding large-sized images
  • FIX: Optimized brush picker/color picker controls and bug fixes
  • FIX: Fixed bug when bulk importing images in touch menu
  • FIX: Fixed navigation problems (forward/back) with hot folders
  • FIX: The integrated, Chromium-based browser engine of FrontFace has been updated. As a result, numerous recent security fixes have been integrated.

Customers who are entitled to obtain updates & support can download the new version in the customer section on the mirabyte website. For those interested, there is a free, fully functional trial version available!

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