Downloading YouTube video

There are several ways to save YouTube videos; Mark Gibbs discusses an online service and a Windows application.

Let's start off with an amusing hack I've been meaning to mention since it appeared earlier this year: YouTube's TEXTp. This feature for videos was announced on The Official YouTube Blog on March 31st (a pretty big giveaway that it was intended as a joke).

What TEXTp does is transcode video so it is rendered in images of letters and numbers. The "rationale" was that by using images of characters TEXTp videos save bandwidth (quite obviously, they don't). Check out the original version of the excellent (and slightly weird) music video, "Do The Cosmonauty" and its TEXTp version.

So, all well and good but what if you want to keep a copy of either version of this video or maybe just save the audio track? Maybe you want to you enjoy the content on your commute or other journey or use the video in a corporate training video (I can't find any information on its copyright so you'll need to do some research to get clearance). Whatever the purpose, you need to figure out how to download the content.

Over the last few months a number of tools have appeared to make this easy (although be advised that YouTube, for one, doesn't want you to do this. Keepvid is an example of a Web-based service that will help you copy video content from any site -- including YouTube -- to your PC for free.

At the top of the Keepvid home page is a button that you drag to your browser's links toolbar to create a "bookmarklet" (a JavaScript fragment in a browser bookmark). After that, whenever you are on a page with video content you would like to download, you just click on the bookmarklet. The bookmarklet appends the URL of the page you're on with the Keepvid URL and opens a new tab or page in your default browser (you can also enter the target URL on the Keepvid home page rather than use the bookmarklet if you prefer).

Keepvid displays a list of links to all of the video content on the target page and lists all the available formats it finds (why the links are rendered in a hideous lime green I have no idea). You right click on a link, select "save link as …", and BAM! You've got your copy. Very useful and very simple. Props, chaps.

If you'd rather use a more sophisticated desktop application that does a similar job, check out YouTube Music Downloader. This Windows program is free until this Sept. 15 (after which it will cost $29.95) and is neither time limited or hobbled in any way.

YouTube Music Downloader (which I will henceforth call YTMD) will only download YouTube videos and can convert them to just audio (MP3) or save them as videos (AVI, WMV, MOV, MP4 and 3GP formats are supported).

YTMD monitors your clipboard so if you copy a YouTube URL and switch to the YTMD application it automatically offers to start a download. You can also drag and drop YouTube URLs onto YTMD's download list or enter a URL manually, and the program includes a built-in YouTube music video browsing window.

If you're using a video accelerator utility such as SpeedBit (which I discussed in my Network World Web Applications Alert newsletter last November, you may see a curious phenomenon: YTMD will pause for a long time and then the download will happen very quickly … this appears to be because the video accelerator uses multiple connections to buffer as much content as possible so when the download starts, whoosh! It's done.

This is a very cool tool and so far in my rigorous testing, YTMD has worked perfectly and the price is right. Alas, because it only handles YouTube content I can only give YouTube Music Downloader a score of 4 out of 5. Even so, it's recommended.

Gibbs is content in Ventura, Calif. Your satisfaction to gearhead@gibbs.com.

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