BlueStacks App Player is a versatile program that bridges the gap between mobile and desktop by allowing users to run their favorite Android apps on their Windows or macOS desktops. Users can sign in with their Google account in order to access the Play store, and sync app data where supported. First released to the public in 2011, the program has continued to grow with the Android ecosystem, with investment partners including the likes of Intel, Samsung, Qualcomm and AMD. BlueStacks is ad-supported, and free to download and use, with a premium subscription that removes advertisements and priority tech support.
Want to get a taste of Android on your desktop? Here's how to set up BlueStacks, along with a rundown of some of its controls and interesting features. Be sure to check out the BlueStacks review on our sister site Laptop Mag, too.
BlueStacks is available for to download for Windows and or for macOS machines; the installer download is 323MB. The program installs on your boot drive (with no option for changing the install directory, only the Program Data location), and is an otherwise hassle-free installation, without any bundled software or extras.
Once you've installed BlueStacks, the next step is logging in with your Google account, just like you're setting up any other Android smartphone or tablet. This also allows you to access your Play Store account from BlueStacks, which lets you install your purchased apps with no fuss.
The Home Screen and Controls
Once there, you've got a KitKat-style Home Screen just like an old Android device, with the Play Store getting top billing as well as an App Search, and a widget loaded with editor's picks by the BlueStacks team. Control-wise, the mouse cursor functions just like your finger for the touch interface, with other touch actions set up as keyboard shortcuts, or in the controls sidebar. Notifications show up in the upper right mail icon, and the settings button right next to it lets you access emulator and device settings.
UseControl +, or Control - for pinch-to-zoom controls. The Z or X keys can be used to simulate tilting a device left or right.
The control sidebar to the left includes controls for switching device orientation from portrait to landscape and vice versa and simulating screen shaking. There's also a screenshot tool, and buttons for copying files from your desktop to the BlueStacks virtual device's storage or installing non-Play Store APK files.
Additionally, BlueStacks features plug-and-play support for a variety of gamepads, which will be a godsend for gamers looking to play things like shooter or fighting games on a bigger screen.
While older versions of BlueStacks wouldn't let you access app stores directly, that's changed, and the Google Play Store is now baked right into the BlueStacks package. You can then search for and install apps just like on your mobile device, and you can access your account to quickly go through the list of apps you want to move to BlueStacks.
That pretty much covers the basics, so we'll take a look at some of the interesting extras that come with the Android emulator, such as AppCast, and built-in streaming support.
Extras: AppCast, BlueStacks TV and Streaming
AppCast allows you to remotely launch installed apps in BlueStacks using your mobile phone, though it requires a bit of set up first after you download it. First off, launch AppCast from within BlueStacks, and then give your device a name to easily recognize it. Then, install AppCast for BlueStacks on your Android phone or tablet, and sign in with the same Google account you used for BlueStacks. AppCast should then show you an app drawer of the apps you have installed on your mobile device, which you can then launch on your desktop with a tap, if the app supports it.
It's not perfect, so expect a bit of trial and error before figuring out which apps will cast between your phone and Bluestacks.
BlueStacks also includes built-in streaming with the BlueStacks TV pane, normally to the right of the emulator. Users can view recommended streams, or even stream their own games right from within BlueStacks with Twitch and Facebook Live integration.
There's your quick visual tool of the BlueStacks App Player, which has grown into a capable and feature-packed Android emulator for your desktop or laptop, putting thousands of mobile apps and games right to your big screen.
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