NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, February 2010
Downloading and Converting YouTube Videos
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director;
Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

(click to email author)

http://www.forinside.com – Online download and conversion
http://www.downloadhelper.net – FireFox Add-on and converter
http://www.orbitdownloader.com – Automated downloader
http://www.download-youtube.com – Online download
http://www.videolan.org – Free universal video player

I frequently get emails from readers of this column and listeners of my radio show regarding problems they are having. While I cannot guarantee an effective answer, I can at least try to help them out, or tell them where they can find a solution. Some of the more interesting, or more common questions I will occasionally post here under the premise that if a few of you are having a similar problem, then many others are having a similar problem.

Last Friday I was forwarded an email that had been bouncing around one of the departments at Lamar University about how to download YouTube videos and convert them to a format that can be used in PowerPoint. Some of the faculty have rightly found that there is some useful content on YouTube that is applicable to academic lectures, and they would like to use this information in class. Fortunately, there are several good solutions.

My personal first choice in downloading YouTube videos and converting them into a format that can play in PowerPoint, or on most video players, is a free add-on for the FireFox browser called DownloadHelper (http://www.downloadhelper.net). DownloadHelper is extremely popular with FireFox users, having been downloaded and installed about 54 million times! DownloadHelper places a small icon on the bottom edge of the browser window consisting of three colored balls; when the balls become animated, the DownloadHelper menu becomes available by clicking on the icon. Left clicking on the icon shows the title of the video, and clicking the title downloads the video in YouTube’s native FLV format to your computer. Right clicking on the icon opens the menu which allows the user to convert the video into any of many popular formats. Alternatively, clicking on the three-ball icon that appears to the left of the video title at the top of the screen opens a one-click menu that offers all of the options. The one that I use most often is the “Download and Convert” which can download and convert the video in a single action. For compatibility purposes, especially when embedding the video in PowerPoint, I mostly select the WMV (Windows media format), but sometimes choose the QuickTime MOV, or AVI formats. For those who do not have FireFox installed, it is available free at getfirefox.com, and does not interfere with any other browser on the computer.

For those using any browser, there are several free online services that will download YouTube (and other) videos to your computer, and some will also convert them to popular formats for you. Even though its server is frequently busy and located in Brazil, I like Forinside, at http://www.forinside.com. Forinside is extremely easy to use; all the user needs to do is copy the URL (web address) of the video and paste it into the textbox, and use the pull down menu to select a format. Clicking the download button will start the process. Forinside can convert online videos into any of the 10 most widely used formats, and can download videos and audio from YouTube, MySpace, Google Video, and Mp3Tube. For those who already have videos on their computers that they would like to convert into other formats, Forinside offers that service for free. Simply click on the orange “File” tab, then “Browse” your hard drive for the file you want converted. Use the pull down menu to select any of the 10 formats available, click on “Convert” and Forinside will upload the original video to its server, convert it to the chosen format, and then download it to your computer in the new format. Your original video remains intact on your computer. As stated above, the Forinside server is often very busy.

Another service that can download YouTube videos directly to your computer is Download-YouTube.com. This site is very easy to use from any browser. Simply open the desired YouTube page, and in the address bar of your browser insert the phrase “download-“ (download hyphen) before the word “YouTube “ in the URL, and the user will be directed to the Download-YouTube web page. On the Download-YouTube page either click on the “Click here to download” link, or right click and “Save Link As” or “Save target as” and the file will be downloaded in the native YouTube FLV format.

One of the easiest free YouTube downloaders is Orbit Downloader, available at http://www.orbitdownloader.com. This download tool has some of the highest editor and user ratings on the popular download sites, and can accelerate downloading of not just YouTube videos, but most general downloads as well. Orbit Downloader integrates seamlessly into Internet Explorer, FireFox, and Opera, and includes a “Get It” button that appears when connecting to YouTube that offers a single click download. YouTube videos will be downloaded in their native FLV format.

There is a free bundle of video software that can download YouTube and other media, convert them to most formats, and even edit video and audio files. The software bundle aptly named “Free Studio” contains 23 video and audio utilities, and is a 30 Meg download available for free download from http://www.dvdvideosoft.com/free-dvd-video-software.htm. According to the publisher of Free Studio, “With this free software you can convert video and audio files between different formats and to iPod, PSP, iPhone, BlackBerry and other portable devices; burn and rip DVDs and audio CDs; upload and download videos and music to your computer, iPod, PSP, iPhone and BlackBerry; perform basic editing of audio and video files.” This bundle, reviewed and top rated by several of the major download sites, may be a worthwhile bundle to download and install.

If there is a need to convert the YouTube FLV videos, or any other video formats, into a more useful format, such as WMV or MOV, a utility called “Any Video Converter Freeware” may be useful, as it supports dozens of video and audio formats, and can easily convert files between these formats. This software is available for download from http://www.any-video-converter.com/products/for_video_free, and according to its publisher, has been downloaded over 25 million times. The online service CNet gave Any Video Converter Freeware its highest 5-star editors’ rating.

If your only need is to play downloaded YouTube videos, there is an easy and free solution that does not require any conversion utilities. YouTube’s FLV format can be played on the universal video player (free) VideoLAN - VLC Media Player (http://www.videolan.org). The VLC media player is one of the most widely used video players in the world, with over 110 million downloads, and has earned a very loyal following. VLC media Player can play almost every available video and audio format without the need for any plug-ins or add-ons, and is available for free, and will run on almost every operating system.

With these utilities and services, downloading YouTube and other videos and converting them into another useful format is simple. I routinely use such downloads in class both as individual videos, and as videos embedded in PowerPoint. There is much that can be done with online videos, and these utilities and services are worthy of a try.

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