YouTube on the Mac: The Definitive Guide – Part 1. Saving the Videos

Just a few short years ago, YouTube was considered a fad that would burn itself out eventually. Now, its bigger than ever. Everything is on YouTube. Videos ranging from silly pet shenanigans to live accounts of political events around the world are all over YouTube. Its become a global force. With all this popularity, there’s bound to be questions on how to use YouTube. In this four part series, we’ll explore saving, watching, creating and converting YouTube videos specifically with Apple’s OS X.

Part One: Saving YouTube Videos:
YouTube uses the Flash Video format (FLV) to encode its videos. The advantage of this is cross platform compatibility within any browser. All you need to watch an FLV video is the appropriate Flash Player for your system and browser. Quality of the FLV format can range from very good to very poor depending on the person who created the video.

YouTube and other online video services stream their video, meaning that you aren’t explicitly allowed to download and keep them. You may freely share them by embedding the videos but they are still being streamed. Yet, there is always a demand to keep the videos and so developers have found ways to do this.

Saving (Downloading) YouTube Videos:
In order to save a YouTube video, you need two things. One is the correct direct URL of the video and the other is an application to download the video. There are many applications and browser extensions out there to save these videos. However, not all of them work.

There are also numerous helper websites that will help download the video and send it to your computer. I find them a bit slow and unnecessary once you find an application that does the same thing. Out of all the solutions that I’ve found, these are the best:

Flash Video Downloader 2:
Tesseract Software’s Flash Video Downloader is easy to use, and free. If you’ve ever tried to use those complicated FireFox extensions (of whom we won’t speak), you’ll appreciate the fact that this program actually works. Not limited to YouTube, Flash Video Downloader will download from any video site that uses the FLV format with the videos set to auto-play. Best of all, you can queue multiple downloads and leave it be to finish. To use, just follow these easy steps:

1. Download Flash Video Downloader and install.
Note: Make sure you download version 2, as version 1 may not work.

2. Get the URL of the video you would like to download.

3. Open Flash Video Downloader and enter the URL where it says “Video URL”.

YouTube Part 1 - Flash Video Downloader

4. Click “Begin Downloading”.

YouTube Part 1 - Flash Video Downloader

TubeTV is a freeware all-in-one solution that will search, download and save YouTube videos. It requires the Perian codec package for Quicktime and is easy to use. Here’s how:

1. Download TubeTV and install.

2. Search for videos by typing something in the search bar.
Note: By default, the search bar is set to YouTube. This may be changed in the preferences under Advanced.

YouTube Part 1 - TubeTV

3. When you find a video you want to save, click the down arrow on the right hand side to download it.

YouTube Part 1 - TubeTV

4. TubeTV will also automatically convert your video after it finishes downloading.
Note: By default, it will convert for iPod. You may change this in the preferences under Downloading.

YouTube Part 1 - TubeTV

I’ll admit that before writing this article, I thought I was going to wholeheartedly recommend Flash Video Downloader. However, after using it for a bit, I think TubeTV is wonderful. For sheer ease of use and all-in-one searching and saving, if you’re looking for the simplest and easiest way – use TubeTV. For more advanced features like multiple queued downloads and retrying after errors, go with Flash Video Downloader.

While TubeTV will convert videos automatically, for those who want more advanced control or already have some .FLVs downloaded, I will still go into detail about watching the unconverted FLVs and manually converting them to different formats in the next two parts.

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