How to master...YouTube

It's time to harness the hidden powers of the most distracting website in the world...

YouTube recently announced that we're watching one billion hours of its videos every day.

For one person, that's 100,000 years' worth of viewing, a challenge even The Grail Knight would have struggled to meet. But while YouTube can often feel like a flea market of video fluff, there are riches to be discovered beyond its cheap, neon lights and clickbaity facade.

The key to success is setting up and tailoring your account, then using the array of Chrome extensions, apps and hidden settings to turn it into the world's best TV servuice.

So before you're sucked into the vortex of watching cats jumping in fright at stationary cucumbers, follow our collection of tips - or just jump to the section you're interested in using the shortcuts below.

Jump to:

Tube tweaking: how to customise YouTube | Fix the comments / Turn YouTube into Spotify

The Basics...

1) Choose your channels

The number of YouTube channels on offer makes Sky's EPG look feeble. Where do you start? Here are a few of our recent favourites:

Kurzgesagt (above)

YouTube is basically just a modern of version of You’ve Been Framed plus a few cat videos and Bruno Mars, right? Not if you dig a bit deeper. Kurzgesagt (German for ‘in a nutshell’) is a series of beautifully animated monthly videos that explain complex subjects like quantum computers and Gamma ray bursts. And yes, after that you can watch the baby hippo video. 

Subscribe to Kurzgesagt

Game Maker’s Toolkit

Journalist and games designer Mark Brown dives under the bonnet of videogames and explains the mechanics behind their design in this insightful series. You’ll find out how Jonathan Blow designs puzzles games, why regenerating health bars are so popular in first person shooters, and how Titanfall 2 has saved the first person shooter with its pacing and variation.

Subscribe to Game Maker's Toolkit

Primitive Technology

Watching a modern-day caveman building mud huts and slings in might not sound like the biggest thrill for tech fans, but this channel is one of our favourites for two reasons. It’s a great example of how to tell stories through video without a single spoken word. And if you’re a bit frazzled after too much Horizon, it’s a brilliant way to unwind before nodding off into your desert island dreams.

Subscribe to Primitive Technology

Looking for more channel inspiration? Check out Stuff's favourite classic YouTube haunts

2) Set your alarms

Spent the afternoon subscribing to your favourite channels? It’s time to set up some alerts to make sure you don’t miss any episodes.

Head to settings (the gear icon in your profile), then ‘notifications’. Now choose the kind of alert you want (email, phone alert or both).

This will only occasionally prod you when a new video is posted though - if you want to get an alert for every new video, you need to go to ‘manage all subscriptions’, click the bell symbol and check 'send me all notifications for this channel'. 

3) Save for later

One lunch break is ever enough to get your fix of cute animals, dangerous liquid nitrogen experiments or gif-with-sound compilations. That's where YouTube's 'Watch it Later' button comes in. It does exactly what it says on the tin, creating a playlist of videos for you to peruse at your leisure later on.

When watching a video just tap the + button in the top corner of the video player to add it to the playlist. If you're browsing videos instead, hit the triple dot menu button, then 'Add to Watch later'. To remove videos from the playlist you'll have to go to your Account tab, then Playlists, then 'Watch Later'. Hit the menu button near the video you want to remove, then tap 'Remove from Watch Later'.

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.