True story – we once spent 1.5 hours on YouTube watching videos of cats jumping in fright when faced with stationary cucumbers. And all we initially wanted to do was find a decent pizza recipe.
YouTube is one of the internet’s biggest distractions, full of bizarre, scary stuff, but it can also be brilliant and full of wonder. No doubt you’re familiar with most of its workings by now, but we’ve rounded up a selection of tips and tricks to help you squeeze out every single last drop of its potential.
It’s a scientifically proven fact that everyone loves a good gif, and YouTube videos are an absolute gold mine of raw material just waiting to be chopped and converted. Luckily you don’t have to be a rocket surgeon to create your own gif. All you have to do is add ‘gif’ to the start of any YouTube url, and you’ll automatically be taken to giftoyoutube.com, where a simple online editor lets you select a chunk of video up to 15 seconds long, letting you immortalise your chosen moments forever. Off to reddit you go, and don’t forget to share some of that sweet, sweet karma.
Apart from cats, YouTube’s second biggest export is probably music videos, which tend to get a lot of action during parties and gatherings amongst those who don’t have a Spotify subscription. You can do more than just listen to Taylor Swift drop sick beats though – you can sing along in unison with her too. A Chrome extension called musixmatch turns YouTube into the world’s largest karaoke library, flinging up lyrics over almost any music video automatically (though it still won’t help you keep in time with Scatman John).
3. Sound familiar?
YouTube comment sections tend to be littered with people asking what song was featured in a video they just watched, but there’s a faster, easier way to get an answer instead of waiting around for someone to respond. Just head on over to mooma.sh, paste the YouTube URL, and it’ll analyse the video’s audio and identify what song was used.
4. Banish auto-play
One day, YouTube decided to start being “helpful” and took it upon itself to automatically play videos one after the other, non-stop. It turns out that this particular decision is less helpful, and more incredibly annoying. Thankfully you can kill it off in less than a second by flicking a Disable Auto-play switch – a tiny little thing that’s easy to miss, which lives on the upper right hand side of the page, above the Related Videos column.
5. Shortcut wizardry
With millions of cat videos to churn through, every second counts. Thankfully, YouTube supports a bunch of keyboard shortcuts to help you dart nimbly through its wares like a cheeky little monkey through an Arabian market:
k = pause or play
j = rewind 10 seconds
l = fast-forward 10 seconds
m = mute
0 = jump to beginning of video
1-9 = jump to 10%-90% of the video
+ = make caption font bigger
– = make caption font smaller
6. We are scientists
Head to youtube.com/testtube and you’ll be able to preview and use unreleased new features that Google is still tinkering away on. The features can change at any given time, and include sneak peeks at redesigns, new control options, and 4K 60fps video playlists. Go forth, and become Google’s guinea pig.
7. Sharing is caring
If you’re rocking a Google Chromecast, smart TV, console or PC, then you can easily control what you watch straight from your smartphone or tablet, without having to mess around with annoying onscreen keyboards or fiddly remotes. Just hit up youtube.com/pair, enter the code, and you’re on your way to big screen video town.
8. Slow things down
YouTube is packed with all sorts of useful tutorials from dance moves to lifehacks, and everything in between. Sometimes it’s useful to slow everything down to help you nail a particular move or step. Just hit the settings button in the bottom right of a video, and select the playback speed options. Simple and effective.
9. Save it for later
One lunch break is never enough to get your fix of cute animals, dangerous liquid nitrogen experiments or gif-with-sound compilations. That’s where Youtube’s Watch it Later button comes in. It does exactly what it says on the tin, creating a playlist of videos for you to peruse at your leisure later on. When watching a video just tap the + button in the top corner of the video player to add it to the playlist. If you’re browsing videos instead, hit the triple dot menu button, then Add to Watch Later. To remove videos from the playlist you’ll have to go to your Account tab, then Playlists, then Watch Later. Hit the menu button near the video you want to remove, then tap Remove from Watch Later.
10. Perfect timing
When it comes to the internet, most people have the attention span of an ADD-riddled goldfish, which is why every precious second counts. There’s no point sharing a video of a dog playing the piano, if the first 30 seconds is filled with pointless footage of the owner setting up the camera. Instead, you can share videos and specify what time they start playing, letting you kick things off at just the right moment. Just hit the Share button beneath a video, then specify the time you want in the ‘Start at’ box, before checking it, sharing the link, and reaping in some sweet video karma.
11. Think of the children
Kids these days might think they’re all that, what with their pokemans cards and x-station games machines, but they still need protecting from the big scary world – a lot of which leaks onto YouTube. If you want to save your little tykes from night terrors then all you have to do is scroll down to the very bottom of a YouTube page, turn Restricted Mode on, and enter your password to lock down the device. If they’re lucky enough to have their own smartphone or tablet, then there’s a dedicated kid-friendly YouTube app which automatically does away with all the nasty stuff.
12. Clear your tracks
If you don’t want anyone to accidentally see that you’ve watched approximately 398 Bob Ross videos (not that there’s anything wrong with that), then you’re in luck – you can quickly and easily wipe all or individual videos from your YouTube viewing history. Just click History on the left hand menu, and click the X next to any videos you want removed from the list. If you want to wipe the entire slate clean then just hit the ’Clear all watch history’ button. You can also choose to pause your history, letting you browse in peace without worrying about anything being saved on the evidence list.
13. Multitask like a champ
Sometimes life gets in the way, and you’ve got to do sensible things like work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t at least try and multitask. If you think you’ve got the capacity to work on a report while watching The Hydraulic Press channel, then we say go for it. You’ll need to download one app and one extension from the Chrome store, both of which are called ‘Floating for YouTube’. Once they’re both installed, hit the Floating for YouTube button on the top right of Chrome when you’re on the page of any video. This will bring up a small resizable window of the same video, which you can move around. There’s a button in the top left of the window which lets you keep it on top of all other windows, letting you type out reports in Word while keeping one corner reserved for YouTube shenanigans.
14. Sharing is caring
You might not be in the same room as your mates, but that doesn’t mean you can’t all still watch videos together. Sharetube.io is a site which lets you create or join ‘rooms’ which lets multiple people watch videos in sync, letting your react and discuss everything in real time. It’s the next best thing to crowding around a screen, with the added bonus of staying in your dressing gown all day without anyone ever knowing.
15. Background loading
Google is slowly rolling out a new background loading feature to the YouTube Android app which mercifully allows videos to buffer in the background when you’re using other apps. It’s miles better than having to stay and watch a slowly loading buffer bar, we think you’ll agree. To see if your phone supports this feature, go to Settings, Applications, YouTube, and clear all the app data. If videos now load in the background, congratulations. If not, then you’ll have to wait a while longer until Google rolls it out for more devices.
16. 4K 3D 360 heaven
YouTube has plenty of 4K, 3D and 360 content for you to enjoy, whether you want to show off your slick new TV or try out a 3D roller coaster in Google Cardboard. The site remains the largest source of 4K and 3D content that’s easily accessible to the masses, and it’s as easy as searching for ‘4K 3D demos’ or ‘Google cardboard demos’. The quality can vary, but searching for LG, Samsung and Sony 4K and/or 3D demos is a great starting point, as they tend to be the most polished.
17. TV mode
If you’re browsing on a large monitor or projector then the regular YouTube site is a little too fiddly and cluttered to navigate efficiently. Going to youtube.com/tv fixes that by changing the interface to a cleaner, simpler version of the site, minus all the distractions.