Enjoy a TV-like Experience with these Awesome YouTube Tools

YouTube is a video-sharing website, created in February 2005, and purchased by Google in November 2006. The web service lets billions of people find, watch, and share originally-created videos. It makes use of Adobe Flash Video and HTML5 technology to display a wide variety of user-generated and corporate media video. It also offers a forum for people to communicate with others around the world, and acts as a distribution platform. Mainstream media corporations such as CBS, Vevo, Hulu and the BBC publish some of their catalog via YouTube, as part of the YouTube partnership program.

Although some parents might disagree, YouTube is one of the shining lights of the internet. According to a recent survey of 1,500 American teenagers commissioned by Variety, the top five most influential celebrities are YouTube stars, with mainstream celebs eclipsed. Moreover, there are many thousands of “YouTube celebs” who have spun a full-time career of creating videos. This new wave of young ‘YouTubers’ threaten mainstream entertainment with their direct video blogs and interaction with their millions of mostly teenage devotees.

A common complaint about YouTube is that to watch the material you need to use a web browser. Fortunately, some funky developers have created applications that allow you to bypass the web-only barrier of YouTube. Each application featured is released under an open source license, and offers multi-platform support. The software allows users to access YouTube in a different way, creating a TV-like experience. For completeness, I have also included my pick of the finest YouTube command-line tools.


Smtube in action

SMTube is an open source stand-alone graphical application that lets you search, play and download YouTube videos. Videos are played back with a media player (by default the open source SMPlayer is used, a media player that can play virtually all video and audio formats) instead of a Flash player. This allows better performance, particularly with high definition content. SMTube also lets users download the videos. Several videos can be downloaded at a time.

The application is a fork from UMPlayer.

Features include:

  • YouTube Browser – allows you to browse among the most popular, most viewed and most rated videos. You can search for a video typing a term in the search field at the bottom of the window. To play a video, just double click on it
  • Download YouTube videos
  • Quality and format (mp4/flv) can be selected in the settings window. It is possible to download HD videos
  • Thumbnail generator
  • Audio and video filters
  • Download 1080p in DASH format
  • Good support for encrypted signatures
  • Internationalization support


Atraci in action

Atraci is a multi-platform open source streaming application that lets users listen to more than 60 million songs. It is still in an early stage of development, so the application is not the most feature laden.

Atraci use iTunes, Last.fm and SoundCloud to display song information – cover, title, artist. Atraci searches the best match for this song on YouTube and streams the highest quality video stream.

Features include:

  • No advertisements, no sign up required
  • Intuitive user interface
  • Smart matching – search for any song, artist name or album. Atraci checks it against online listings to show correct title, album artwork, track lists and so on, with listed options being the highest quality video streams
  • Album and artist autosuggestions
  • Sort results by ‘default’, ‘artist’ or ‘track’
  • View results in ‘grid’ or ‘list’ layouts
  • Accompanying video can be made full screen
  • Create playlists with shuffle and repeat options
  • In-app volume slider, track scrubber and album artwork
  • History of recently played tracks


Minitube in action

Minitube is an open source application for watching YouTube without using Flash.

It is a native YouTube client. Watch YouTube in a different way; type a keyword and Minitube offers an endless video stream.

Please be aware that Minitube is not the most stable application and it can prove a challenge to watch videos on certain Ubuntu and Debian configurations.

Features include:

  • Plays HD videos up to 1080p. Go full-screen and watch them play smoothly
  • Subscribe to YouTube channels and be notified of new videos without needing a YouTube account
  • Find missing parts of a multi-part video
  • Take video snapshots at full resolution
  • Sort videos by relevance, date, view count and rating
  • Filter videos by publication date, video duration and video quality
  • Choose the maximum video resolution up to 1080p
  • Editable playlist: drag’n’drop and remove videos
  • Search by keyword, channel name or paste a YouTube link. Suggestions while typing
  • Spell suggestions: “Did you mean…”
  • Remembers recent keywords and channels
  • YouTube categories: “Most Popular”, “Music”, “Games”, etc
  • Related videos
  • Compact mode: a small, always-on-top window
  • Full screen mode: mouse cursor, toolbar and playlist autohide
  • Float on top
  • Stop after this video option
  • Copy YouTube link to clipboard
  • Share on Facebook, Twitter, Buffer and via email
  • Conserve battery power by not using the Flash Player
  • Translated to more than 30 languages including German, French, Italian, Russian, Danish, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Hebrew and Chinese


youtube-dl in action

youtube-dl is a small open source command-line program to download videos from YouTube.com and many other sites. The ‘other sites’ is quite impressive including Tumblr, Metacafe, Dailymotion, Vine, Flickr Instagram, Vimeo, Trilulilu, Syfy, RottenTomatoes, NBA, MySpace, MTV, Metacritic, KickStarter, GameSpot, Dropbox, Discovery, CollegeHumor, ComedyCentral, CNN, NBC, NBCNews, CBS, and Bloomberg. The full list is available at rg3.github.io/youtube-dl/supportedsites.html.

The application depends on the Python interpreter (2.6, 2.7, or 3.3+).

Features include:

  • Support for an impressive number of sites
  • Fetch subtitles
  • Download all the available formats for a video stream with a single option
  • Support for Vimeo passwords
  • Authentication options
  • Multi-platform
  • Website: rg3.github.io/youtube-dl
  • Developer: Peter Sorotokin, Garth Conboy, Markus Gylling, Piotr Kula, Paul Norton, Jessica Hekman, George Bina, Bogdan Iordache, Bogdan Iordache, Romain Deltour
  • License: Public Domain
  • Version Number: 2015.07.21


MPS-YouTube in action

MPS-YouTube is an open source Terminal based YouTube player and downloader.

This project is based on mps, a terminal based program to search, stream and download music. This implementation uses YouTube as a source of content and can play and download video as well as audio. The pafy library handles interfacing with YouTube.

Features include:

  • Search and play audio/video from YouTube
  • Search tracks of albums by album title
  • Search and import YouTube playlists
  • Create and save local playlists
  • Download audio/video
  • View video comments
  • Works with Python 2.7+ and 3.x
  • Multi-platform support
  • Requires mplayer or mpv
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