18 ways to make YouTube better than a new telly

How to master the most distracting website in the entire world...

True story - we once spent 1.5 hours on YouTube watching videos of cats jumping in fright when faced with stationary cucumbers. And all we initially wanted to do was find a decent pizza recipe.

YouTube is one of the internet's biggest distractions, full of bizarre, scary stuff, but it can also be brilliant and full of wonder. No doubt you're familiar with most of its workings by now, but we've rounded up a selection of tips and tricks to help you squeeze out every single last drop of its potential.



It’s a scientifically proven fact that everyone loves a good gif, and YouTube videos are an absolute gold mine of raw material just waiting to be chopped and converted. Luckily you don’t have to be a rocket surgeon to create your own gif. All you have to do is add ‘gif’ to the start of any YouTube url, and you’ll automatically be taken to giftoyoutube.com, where a simple online editor lets you select a chunk of video up to 15 seconds long, letting you immortalise your chosen moments forever. Off to reddit you go, and don’t forget to share some of that sweet, sweet karma.

2. Singalong

Apart from cats, YouTube’s second biggest export is probably music videos, which tend to get a lot of action during parties and gatherings amongst those who don’t have a Spotify subscription. You can do more than just listen to Taylor Swift drop sick beats though – you can sing along in unison with her too. A Chrome extension called musixmatch turns YouTube into the world’s largest karaoke library, flinging up lyrics over almost any music video automatically (though it still won’t help you keep in time with Scatman John).

3. Sound familiar?

YouTube comment sections tend to be littered with people asking what song was featured in a video they just watched, but there’s a faster, easier way to get an answer instead of waiting around for someone to respond. Just head on over to mooma.sh, paste the YouTube URL, and it’ll analyse the video’s audio and identify what song was used.

4. Banish Auto-play

One day, YouTube decided to start being "helpful" and took it upon itself to automatically play videos one after the other, non-stop. It turns out that this particular decision is less helpful, and more incredibly annoying. Thankfully you can kill it off in less than a second by flicking a Disable Auto-play switch - a tiny little thing that's easy to miss, which lives on the upper right hand side of the page, above the Related Videos column.

5. Shortcut Wizardry

With millions of cat videos to churn through, every second counts. Thankfully, YouTube supports a bunch of keyboard shortcuts to help you dart nimbly through its wares like a cheeky little monkey through an Arabian market:

  • k = pause or play
  • j = rewind 10 seconds
  • l = fast-forward 10 seconds
  • m = mute
  • 0 = jump to beginning of video
  • 1-9 = jump to 10%-90% of the video
  • + = make caption font bigger
  • - = make caption font smaller

6. We are scientists

Head to youtube.com/testtube and you'll be able to preview and use unreleased new features that Google is still tinkering away on. The features can change at any given time, and include sneak peeks at redesigns, new control options, and 4K 60fps video playlists. Go forth, and become Google's guinea pig.

7. Sharing is caring

If you're rocking a Google Chromecast, smart TV, console or PC, then you can easily control what you watch straight from your smartphone or tablet, without having to mess around with annoying onscreen keyboards or fiddly remotes. Just hit up youtube.com/pair, enter the code, and you're on your way to big screen video town.

8. Slow things down

YouTube is packed with all sorts of useful tutorials from dance moves to lifehacks, and everything in between. Sometimes it's useful to slow everything down to help you nail a particular move or step. Just hit the settings button in the bottom right of a video, and select the playback speed options. Simple and effective.