Thursday, September 13, 2007


Often people want to show presentations from their laptops. Siena does have the projection equipment in nearly all classrooms, and the cables necessary. But the main reason people have trouble with the projector is that their computer is not producing the video output.

Laptops all come with a place to plug a video cable, but that plug is not active by default. You need to turn it on -- and every laptop is different.

Generally, you need to press a function key (one of those keys marked F1 to F12 at the top of the keyboard). Few people use function keys any more (they were the main method of activating menus and give program commands in the days before Windows), so they aren't used to using them. And the key necessary to turn on the video output is different on different laptops.

Here are a couple of examples:

Note one key is F4 and the other is F5. It's not the characters that matter, but the icon. It usually shows two screens or a computer and a screen with a slash separating the two (and, of course, it looks a little different on every laptop brand).

But you can't just press the button. You need to hold down the Fn key. This is generally somewhere near the spacebar. Hold it down and press the key with the icon.

But wait! There's more! The display key usually toggles three ways: computer screen only, projector only, and both. It also will take a moment to change. So the proper techinque is:

  1. Press and hold down the Fn key.
  2. Press the display key and let go.
  3. Wait.
  4. If the computer screen goes blank, but the projector works, you can do it that way.
  5. If you want both to display, press and hold down the Fn key.
  6. Press the display key and let go.
  7. Wait.
  8. Repeat until everything is the way you want it.

I really wish they made this more straightforward. Maybe a sensor to active the video connector if a cable is plugged into it. As it is, it can be pretty complicated.