YouTube is massively popular and incredibly simple to use, but it has a few powerful features that are tucked away. This guide is to help you learn how to use some of these advanced options and to serve as a simple reference page.
Using YouTube's search tool
YouTube's search engine works much like Google's. In fact, it uses the same search operators to let you tweak your results. Here are some worth remembering the next time you're looking for a video:
- Limit to words in the title. Putting 'allintitle:' in front of your search keeps YouTube's results limited to those videos with the matching words in the title. This is great if you want to keep it from searching through descriptions or tags. Not so useful if the video you're looking for has a misspelled or misleading title.
- Exclude a term. Add a '-' then the word you want to exclude to keep it out of the results. So if you're searching for explosions, but don't want to see videos with diet Coke or Mentos, you'd type in 'Explosion -diet -coke -mentos'. Be sure to add the '-' in front of every word you don't want.
- Play the wild card. If you're too lazy to type a word, or think that YouTube will figure out the words you're leaving out, you can just put in an asterisk in place of that word. In practice, this means that searching for something like 'Fallout: Broken Steel' you could just type 'Fallout * Steel' and have it guess the word in the middle.
If you can't remember these off the top of your head you can find them in YouTube's advanced search box, which shows up as an option in the results of any completed search. It's also worth going there if you want to filter how long the videos in the results should be. This is a great way to find content that's more than 20 minutes long, say.
Search and browse with your eyes
If titles and thumbnails are not enough, you can explore additional, related video clusters by using YouTube's warp feature. This is a feature that can still be found on some videos, but YouTube has since relegated it to its TestTube section. That doesn't mean you can't use it on any old video though. Simply inserting 'warp.swf' in the URL instead of the word 'watch' will send you into full-screen 'warp speed' mode.
Third-party search tools
There are a handful of third-party YouTube search engines and tools that add a little more utility on top of YouTube's search. Here are some of our favourites:
- YouTube Fast Search lets you play the video right next to the results, as well as create a playlist by dragging and dropping videos from the results page. It also has a cool feature called VideoWall that creates a giant canvas of thumbnails, which you can play just by clicking on them.
- Cooliris, which works on iPhones and computers alike, also presents videos in a giant wall that can be browsed or searched. You simply click on the thumbnails you want to play.
- The YouTube search Firefox add-on puts YouTube's search engine in your browser, and uses Google's Suggest API to give you suggestions as you type.
- VideoSurf gives you visual summaries of YouTube videos (and other video services). If it's a movie or TV show you can search by actor, and all videos get a visual time line so you don't waste ages waiting to see what's on that 10-minute clip.
- Search The Tube is a search engine that only shows videos that can be embedded from YouTube. This keeps you from finding that perfect video that can't be stuck on a blog post.