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Downloading YouTube videos in MacOS



When I reviewed the video player IINA (see "Preparing Apple to drop old media formats with IINA Video Player," May 6, 2019), many TidBITS readers took it as an opportunity to vent their frustrations about downloading videos from YouTube. Recent changes to Firefox have broken extensions like DownThemAll, which used to be a useful way to download videos.

There are several reasons why you may want to download videos from YouTube. Like most cloud-based things, YouTube videos can be ephemeral. Videos disappear all the time for all kinds of reasons: The uploader pulls it down, copyright restrictions (sometimes legitimate, sometimes not), and YouTube's ever-changing and seemingly random standards of acceptable content. But conservation is not the only reason people download YouTube videos. For example, they may want to download a clip to be used in their own videos (respect copyright, of course). A friend of mine accidentally removed the "sizzle clip" he hit on the front of every video in iMovie, and he solved the problem by downloading one of his own videos from YouTube and extracting that clip.

Whatever the reason, you do not trust Firefox to download videos from YouTube. There are several solutions on Mac, and I'm reviewing some of them here.

Note that downloading YouTube videos with a tool other than YouTube's own apps (which requires a YouTube Premium subscription) violates YouTube's terms of use:

You should not download any content unless you see one "download" or similar link displayed by YouTube on the service for that content. You shall not copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license or otherwise exploit content for any other purpose without the prior written consent of YouTube or the respective licensors of the Content. YouTube and its licensors reserve all rights not expressly granted in and to the Service and Content.

Like I said, I've never heard of YouTube penalizing a user to download videos, even if you use copyrighted material in videos you upload to YouTube

Command-Line Grand Poobah: youtube-dl

It is perhaps the largest of the YouTube download products the humble youtube dl, a command line utility that runs many GUI applications, as mentioned above. It's not the friendliest option, but it's free and powerful.

The project provides instructions for installing youtube-dl. You can use the command curl or, as I prefer, Homebrew, a command line package manager that I strongly recommend ̵

1; refer to the Homebrew homepage for a simple one-line command to install it from the terminal. Then you can enter brew installation youtube-dl to install the download tool.

After installing youtube-dl, you can write man youtube-dl in Terminal to see the comprehensive list of options it offers. But the easiest way to use it is to write youtube-dl URL in Terminal, where the URL is the URL of the YouTube video. It will download the video into your current directory. Type cd ~ / Downloads before running youtube-dl to download the video to your download folder.

You can play the video after you download it with QuickTime or with a third-party player like IINA. 19659002] The developers of youtube-dl issue frequent updates, so I recommend installing it with Homebrew. The first time I tried to download a video for this article, I got an error instead of a video because I didn't update youtube-dl first. Homebrew makes the update easy with the command brew update youtube-dl which not only updates youtube-dl, but Homebrew itself, along with all the necessary packages that youtube-dl must work.

 A youtube-dl error message
If you don't keep youtube-dl updated, you see errors like this.

A free GUI option: ClipGrab [19659008] ClipGrab is a simple, free tool for macOS that can download individual YouTube videos and even convert them to MP3 audio files.

This tool is easy to use: Just copy a YouTube URL and switch to ClipGrab. It will automatically extract the URL from the clipboard. You can use the Format drop-down menu to select a format ("Original" is usually fine if you want video) and click "Grab this clip!" To download the video. The default download site is your desktop, but you can change it on the Settings tab.

 ClipGrab

ClipGrab offers a search tab where you can search for and download videos, but I find it easier to use the YouTube search engine to find videos and then paste the URL into ClipGrab.

A Setapp option: Downie

A subscription to the Setapp package contains a number of tools for downloading YouTube videos: Torrent client Folx, media players Movist Pro, and Elmedia Player, and a custom built for downloading YouTube videos: Downie, which costs $ 19.99 to buy if you are not a Setapp member.

 Downie

Unlike ClipGrab, Downie is tailor-made for Mac. You can drag and drop YouTube URLs to the Downies window or to the Dock icon. Downie also comes with a Safari extension, which you can enable in Safari> Preferences> Extensions. When you enable the extension, you can click the Downie icon on the Safari toolbar to download a video.

 Enable the Downie Safari extension.

In addition to Downie's simplicity, I like to download subtitles with the video (YouTube automatically generates subtitles for videos): it saves subtitles as a corresponding SRT file next to the video. Unfortunately, these files do not work with QuickTime, so you need a more compatible video player like IINA to view them. As long as the SRT file is in the same directory as the video, it works automatically when you play the video in IINA.

 Subtitles on a video downloaded with Downie

Unlike ClipGrab, Downie can download an entire playlist at the same time. Just drag the playlist URL to Downie and click Playlist to see all available videos to download. You can then click Add Selected to download the playlist.

 Download a playlist with Downie

Download an entire channel with 4K Video Downloader

Downie can download an entire playlist, but it's just a GUI app on Mac that I know who can download a whole YouTube channel: 4K Video Downloader. You can try the app for free (it costs $ 15 to unlock the entire app). To use it, copy the channel's URL, open the 4K Video Downloader, and click Paste Link to load each video into the channel.

 Download an entire channel in 4K Video Downloader

Even better when 4K Downloader is running, you can subscribe to a channel to download every new video that the channel publishes automatically.

 Subscribe to a channel in 4K Video Downloader

Note that if a channel has a lot of videos, it can take a long time to download them all and it can use significant system resources to do the. Nonetheless, I've downloaded entire channels containing hundreds of videos with 4K Video Downloader, making it my favorite tool of the gang.

4K Video Download can also download subtitles and it can download YouTube videos as MP3 audio files. Of course, individual videos are also downloaded.

There you have: four tools you can use to download YouTube videos in MacOS. Do you have a favorite? Please let us know in the comments.


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