Installing youtube-dl on a Mac to watch YouTube videos when working offline

My work pattern at the moment means that I’m spending a lot of time travelling on trains up and down the country (in fact, as this post is published, I’ll be somewhere between Bedford and Sheffield). A combination of fatigue and motion sickness means that this isn’t always a good opportunity to work on the train but it is potentially an opportunity to listen to podcasts or, unlike when I’m driving, to watch some videos. Unfortunately, travelling at 125 miles an hour with a varying quality of 4G data signal doesn’t always lend itself well to streaming from YouTube, etc.

That’s where youtube-dl comes in – I can download videos to my MacBook before I leave home, and watch at my leisure on the train. So, how do you get started?

Well, the Mac App Store website helped me. Following advice there, I issued two commands in Terminal to first install the HomeBrew package manager for MacOS, and then to install youtube-dl:

ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)" < /dev/null 2> /dev/null

brew install youtube-dl

So, with youtube-dl installed, how do I use it? The youtube-dl readme.md file has lots of information but it’s not exactly easy to digest.

I found that:

youtube-dl -F youtubeurl

would give me a list of available video formats for a given URL and reading about YouTube media types led me to the very important number 22 for MP4 video at 720p with H.264 encoding and AAC audio. That should play on a wide variety of devices (including Quicktime on my Mac).

Next, to download:

youtube-dl -f 22 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCz7bkEsygaEKpim0wu_JaUQ

(this URL is the CloudTechTV channel).

That command brought down all of the videos in the channel but I can also download individual episodes, for example:

youtube-dl -f 22 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymKSGTR55LQ
youtube-dl
I can do something similar for other YouTube videos/channels (and even for some other video services) and build a library of videos to watch on my journeys, without needing to worry about an Internet connection.

3 thoughts on “Installing youtube-dl on a Mac to watch YouTube videos when working offline


  1. Hi,
    You can go a step further like I have too…
    youtube-dl has the facility to download a playlist, remembering which videos its already downlaoded, so I have a scheduled task to do this, and download stright to a folder in my DropBox, which is auto-synced to my android phone.

    This means that just by adding a video to my YoutubeDownload playlist on the youtube website, it automatically ends up on my phone…

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