Viewing YouTube movies offline


Ubuntu users will find the get-flash-videos Perl script in their distribution's repositories; for others, it is available from the homepage [5]. The version numbering of the tool, which is released under the Apache License 2.0, is quite confusing; the documentation is also partially obsolete. As with cclive, you only enter the URL for the movie; the -p parameter specifies the file name:

$ get_flash_videos -p bbb.mp4

The program does not provide a feature for selecting a format; it only supports one of three vague types high, medium, and low. On the other hand, the script lets you play back the movie, even while downloading, with a freely selectable player. This is the complete feature scope, and in our lab, the program refused to download any movies (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Get-flash-videos did not want to download the video for Big Buck Bunny, whereas its competitors had no problem doing so.


The Minitube movie player plays YouTube videos on your desktop and downloads the stream into a file on request. Unlike the versions for Windows and Mac OS X, the Linux version is available for free; the source code is released under the GPLv3; however, the makers do push you for a donation [6].

On Ubuntu, you can install Minitube via the package manager; users of other distributions, however, need to grab the source code and compile the program themselves. In the package manager, first install the development packages for Qt version 4.5 and Phonon. On openSUSE, these packages live in the libqt4-devel and phonon-devel packages. After unpacking the archive with the source code, call qmake && make and then launch the program with ./build/target/minitube.

Whereas the version that ships with Ubuntu 2.0 will download any video from YouTube, the current 2.1.2 version only downloads movies that are explicitly marked with a Creative Commons license. In the main window of Minitube, enter the title of the video. After clicking on Watch, the tool presents all matches in the left sidebar (Figure 5). A click on the preview starts the movie playing in the right-hand side of the window.

Figure 5: Minitube is a player for YouTube movies, as well as a downloader.

A somewhat inconspicuous button in the lower right-hand corner lets you select a different resolution. To download the movie you are currently viewing, just select Video | Download. You have no control over the file name or the format of the movie. The program shows its progress when you click on the easily overlooked Downloads in the lower right corner of the window. You also have the option of stopping the download process and pressing Change location to select an alternative location for the movie; otherwise, all movies end up in the ~/Videos directory.

The program offers the option of restarting an interrupted download but not of continuing the download. During the download, Minitube shows the progress, the file size of the movie, how many megabytes it has downloaded, the data rate, and the time remaining.


Getting started with xVideoServiceThief, alias xVST, is a fairly unusual process: First, you install Qt 5.0 and FFmpeg via the package manager. Then, you download the Compressed Package from the website [7], unpack the archive on your hard disk, and start the script, which dumps the application in the ~/xVideoServiceThief directory. You can then call the xvst program.

The program is licensed under the GPLv3. The makers, however, do ask for donations on the website and in the program. The main window summarizes all the settings and functions (Figure 6). At the bottom, you enter the directory in which you will be saving the movies; then click the Add video button, type the URL of the desired movie, and watch while the software goes about its work. For every download, the tool displays the progress, the remaining time, the speed, and the file size. The software lets users pause the process at any time and continue later, although users cannot decide the file name for the downloaded movies themselves. Additionally, the program arbitrarily decides in which format it will fetch the video from YouTube. It does not support channels and playlists, and it does not download subtitles.

Figure 6: xVST has many useful functions in its settings.

xVST hides other interesting features in its settings: You can set the address of a proxy server and other parameters, if so desired. It leaves encoding to FFmpeg but keeps the original file on request. The program also includes a function for scheduled downloads. It was the only test candidate to update itself automatically. After completing an update, however, it quits without a prompt.

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