There’s more to YouTube than sitting at your computer watching cats play the piano. You can also use the Google service to create a Pandora-like selection of music videos. Or save your favorite videos to your PC, smartphone, or tablet for offline viewing. And don’t forget mastering the art of searching YouTube to find exactly what you’re after.
Before we get started with these, let’s talk safety. It’s not a good idea to turn your kids loose on YouTube without some security measures in place, starting with family-protection software that filters out objectionable content — of which there’s plenty.
You may also want to install a tool like Comment Snob, a browser plug-in that filters out the undesirable user comments attached to many videos (even rated G ones). After all, nothing ruins the fun of YouTube like profane, hate-filled commentary.
Learn the secrets of smarter searching
With something like a gazillion videos already on YouTube and half a gazillion more added each day, finding what you’re looking for can be a hassle. But with a few tricks, you can search smarter, not harder.
For starters, use quotation marks to search for a specific phrase, such as “Star Wars Parody.” Otherwise you’ll get every video that has the word “star,” “wars,” and/or “parody.” Even better, if you prefix your search with INTITLE:, you’ll get only those results that have the search terms in the title. For example: INTITLE:Star Wars Parody. (Make there’s no space on either side of the colon.)
You can also add HD or 3D to your search query to get only high-def and 3D results, respectively. And by including “today,” “this week,” or “this month,” you’ll narrow down YouTube’s more recent content.
Turn YouTube into “PandoraTube”
Like Pandora? It’s the Web service that builds a custom radio station based on songs and artists you like. YouTube Disco is a kind of video equivalent, serving up a big playlist of the video versions of your favorite tunes.
All you do is type in the name of a song or artist, then click Disco. In a flash, YouTube creates a playlist based on that song or artist — the contents of which are displayed in a scrolling thumbnail bar at the bottom of the screen.
You can mouse over any song and click it to jump directly to it, or just let the playlist run in its regular order. This is a great way to discover not only new music, but also new versions of your favorites. For example, putting Disco to work on Coldplay revealed an extraordinary cover of “Viva La Vida” by a group of schoolkids.
Copy YouTube videos to your PC or mobile device
Suppose you want to save that Coldplay video so you can watch it again on the go. What you need is a browser plug-in that can download YouTube videos to your hard drive, then convert them to whatever format suits you (such as MP4 for mobile devices).
One of the most popular is Vixy Freecorder, which saves and converts videos with just a few clicks. It’s free, and it lets you download YouTube content in video or MP3 format. Then it’s just a matter of copying those files to your smartphone or tablet.
Resume videos from where you left off
YouTube videos are getting longer all the time. Heck, you can now watch full-length movies on the site thanks to integration with Google Play.
So where’s the in-video bookmark option? What happens if you get interrupted in the middle of a clip and have to close your browser, shut down your PC, or whatever? Without a lot of pesky clicking and searching, how can you find your way back to where you were?
Look no farther than Pause for Later. True to its name, this browser extension marks your spot in YouTube videos and lets you easily resume them later. It also keeps a record of the videos themselves, thus saving you from having to bookmark them or search YouTube again.