By Casey Liss

I recently wrote about BMW’s The Hire series, starting a hopefully-weekly series about things that I like. That was… two weeks ago. Can’t win 'em all.

Nevertheless, today I’m back at it, and I have something else I like that I’d like to highlight: youtube-dl.

Have you ever wanted to download something that was available on YouTube? Perhaps you wanted to grab only the audio, but didn’t need the video? Perhaps, of a song you enjoy or of a concert you recently stumbled on. Maybe you want to grab something that isn’t on YouTube at all?

youtube-dl can do all of these things. And much, much more.

youtube-dl is a command line utility that allows you to download video (or, if you prefer, only the audio) from a staggering list of websites. I know that as soon as I say “command line”, many will go running. Seriously though, it’s really simple:

youtube-dl ""

Wait a little while, and you’ll have a download sitting on your local disk.

What if you just want audio? Easy-peasy.

youtube-dl -x ""

What if you wanted to download something that, as far as you can tell, is only available via streaming via the web? In many instances, you can use the developer tools in your browser of choice to find the m3u8 playlist that is being streamed, and feed that to youtube-dl. It will download the stream and save the result locally. This has… come in useful… from time to time.

youtube-dl is a staggeringly useful tool that I use easily every single week. If you’re one who likes to build up a large library of oft-watched videos, it’s indispensible. Or, perhaps if you are just wanting to watch a video on a long flight, you can download it onto your laptop in advance. Either way, there are other tools similar to youtube-dl, but I’ve not found one I like more.