Smartphone Remote Control with Node.js and

By Nick Anastasov


Wouldn’t it be cool to use your smartphone as a remote control? It turns out it is not difficult at all! You don’t even need to know how to write native mobile apps – your phone has a fully capable web browser with support for web sockets, which opens a lot of possibilities. In this short tutorial, we are going to use Node.js and to remotely control a presentation that is running on your laptop with your phone.

There are a lot of cool HTML5 presentation libraries out there and it would be a waste of effort to create this functionality from scratch. This is why we will be using Reveal.js – it will handle animations and transitions between slides, as well as support for keyboard and touch events.

We won’t be making a dedicated remote control interface. Instead, we will synchronize the presentation that is opened on your phone with that on your computer using websockets. This will allow you not only to control the presentation, but see its mobile version on your phone, which will help you keep track of the current slide.

The Idea

The technique we are going to use is very simple. Reveal.js puts the current slide number in the URL as a hash (e.g. We will send this hash to all other connected devices, which will transition them to the new slide automatically. This will make it possible for people to just open the URL in a browser and sabotaging your presentation, so we will require all devices to enter a pass code before connecting.

It is worth mentioning that Reveal.js already has an API, so we could have used that to synchronize the two presentations. But the hash change technique is simpler and will work with any presentation library, so we chose to go with it instead.

Our slideshow

Running our Example

You can run this example locally, or by deploying it to a hosting provider with node.js support like Heroku. Running it locally is easier, but you must have node.js and npm installed. Running it on Heroku requires you to have the heroku toolbelt installed and signing up for an account.

To run our code locally:

  1. Download the code from the button near the beginning of the article.
  2. Make sure you have node.js installed. If needed, install it.
  3. Unzip the archive you downloaded to a folder.
  4. Open a terminal and cd to the folder.
  5. Run npm install to install the required libraries
  6. Run node app.js to start the presentation
  7. Open http://localhost:8080 on your computer and enter your pass key (by default it is “kittens“).
  8. Open http:// on your phone and enter the same pass key.
  9. Have fun!

To run the code on Heroku:

  1. Download the code from the button near the beginning of the article.
  2. Unzip it to a folder.
  3. Open a terminal and cd to the folder.
  4. Create a git repository, and commit.
  5. Create a new Heroku App
  6. Run git push heroku master.
  7. Visit the URL of the app on every device you want to connect. The default pass key is “kittens”.

Read more about deploying node.js apps to heroku here. If you use a different cloud hosting provider, the last three steps will be different.

The Code

But enough talk, let’s see the code! There are only two JavaScript files – app.js for the server side, and script.js for the browser. You can run the app in Node.js 0.10+ or in io.js.

For the backend, we use express and It’s main responsibility is listening for and responding to events. With express.static, we serve the files in the public folder to the world. We have a public/index.html file which contains the code for the presentation. It is served automatically by express.static, so we don’t need a “/” route.


// This is the server-side file of our mobile remote controller app.
// It initializes and a new express instance.
// Start it by running 'node app.js' from your terminal.

// Creating an express server

var express = require('express'),
	app = express();

// This is needed if the app is run on heroku and other cloud providers:

var port = process.env.PORT || 8080;

// Initialize a new object. It is bound to 
// the express app, which allows them to coexist.

var io = require('').listen(app.listen(port));

// App Configuration

// Make the files in the public folder available to the world
app.use(express.static(__dirname + '/public'));

// This is a secret key that prevents others from opening your presentation
// and controlling it. Change it to something that only you know.

var secret = 'kittens';

// Initialize a new application

var presentation = io.on('connection', function (socket) {

	// A new client has come online. Check the secret key and 
	// emit a "granted" or "denied" message.

	socket.on('load', function(data){

		socket.emit('access', {
			access: (data.key === secret ? "granted" : "denied")


	// Clients send the 'slide-changed' message whenever they navigate to a new slide.

	socket.on('slide-changed', function(data){

		// Check the secret key again

		if(data.key === secret) {

			// Tell all connected clients to navigate to the new slide
			presentation.emit('navigate', {
				hash: data.hash

console.log('Your presentation is running on http://localhost:' + port);

And here is our JavaScript for the front-end, which listens for hashchange events and sends messages to the server.


$(function() {

	// Apply a CSS filter with our blur class (see our assets/css/styles.css)
	var blurredElements = $('.homebanner, div.reveal').addClass('blur');

	// Initialize the Reveal.js library with the default config options
	// See more here

		history: true		// Every slide will change the URL

	// Connect to the socket

	var socket = io();

	// Variable initialization

	var form = $('form.login'),
		secretTextBox = form.find('input[type=text]');

	var key = "", animationTimeout;

	// When the page is loaded it asks you for a key and sends it to the server



		key = secretTextBox.val().trim();

		// If there is a key, send it to the server-side
		// through the channel with a 'load' event.

		if(key.length) {
			socket.emit('load', {
				key: key


	// The server will either grant or deny access, depending on the secret key

	socket.on('access', function(data){

		// Check if we have "granted" access.
		// If we do, we can continue with the presentation.

		if(data.access === "granted") {

			// Unblur everything


			var ignore = false;

			$(window).on('hashchange', function(){

				// Notify other clients that we have navigated to a new slide
				// by sending the "slide-changed" message to

					// You will learn more about "ignore" in a bit

				var hash = window.location.hash;

				socket.emit('slide-changed', {
					hash: hash,
					key: key

			socket.on('navigate', function(data){
				// Another device has changed its slide. Change it in this browser, too:

				window.location.hash = data.hash;

				// The "ignore" variable stops the hash change from
				// triggering our hashchange handler above and sending
				// us into a never-ending cycle.

				ignore = true;

				setInterval(function () {
					ignore = false;


		else {

			// Wrong secret key


			// Addding the "animation" class triggers the CSS keyframe
			// animation that shakes the text input.

			secretTextBox.addClass('denied animation');
			animationTimeout = setTimeout(function(){
			}, 1000);;



It’s Slideshow Time!

With this our smartphone remote control is ready! We hope that you find our experiment useful and have fun playing with it.