We found these 9 hidden YouTube features

These tips make watching YouTube so much better.

Katie Teague Writer II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
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Katie Teague
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You'll use these YouTube tips on the daily.

Angela Lang/CNET

You already browse  YouTube  to watch music videos, learn new DIY skills and subscribe to your favorite influencers and shows. But if you're just pressing Play on a video, you're probably not doing enough. Did you also know you could download 500 songs at once, play back a video starting at a specific point and turn on captions and subtitles?

YouTube didn't get to be the world's biggest online video site, with more than 2 billion logged-in visitors a month, by sitting on its laurels. There's a world of deeper features to uncover and explore -- some which you might not have even known you wanted. 

Check out these helpful tips to see which ones you'll use every day.

Get YouTube Music to download up to 500 songs for you

YouTube Music is launching a new feature soon called "smart downloads" where you can download up to 500 songs to listen to offline. (If you have YouTube Music Premium, you may already have access.) YouTube chooses the songs based on the type of music you typically listen to. You'll have control over how many songs YouTube downloads. The music will download at night, over your Wi-Fi connection.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Play back a video starting at a specific time

You're watching a 38-minute-long video and discover a hilarious part, so you send the video to all of your friends and tell them to fast-forward to 13 minutes and 20 seconds. But, did you know you can just send them the link from that time point? 

All you have to do is add &t=13m20s to the end of the URL (change the numbers to the time stamp you want to share) and your friends can start watching from the right spot.

You can also pause what you're watching and hit Share (located below the video) > Start at and copy the link to send to your friends and family.

Make a GIF from a video

It's easy to make a brilliant GIF that could sweep the internet. 

1. Simply type "GIF" before "YouTube" in the URL of the video you're watching. Say, this video of real dogs meeting Sony's Aibo robot dog, which has the URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sjX-sQyLsY. Add GIF to the URL like this --https://www.GIFyoutube.com/watch?v=4sjX-sQyLsY -- and It'll change to this format: https://gifs.com/watch?v=4sjX-sQyLsY

2. This redirects you to www.gifs.com, where you can select the start and end times of the clip from your chosen video that you want to turn into a GIF. 

3. Cick the green check mark located on the lefthand side of the screen to watch it play. 

4. You can choose various editing options, like cropping, flipping and adding stickers.  

5. Select Create GIF, then choose who can see it and add a title and tags.

6. Click Next and copy the link to the GIF to share on social media. You can also download the GIF.

Keyboard shortcuts to move forward and backward

Skip ahead in a video by using the arrow and letter keys on your keyboard -- on any device. You can go forward or backward in a video on your desktop (you can also use J and L keys to rewind or fast-forward 10 seconds). Or if you're using your phone, double-tap the screen to move forward or backward. Swipe left or right on your phone to move on to the next video.

To see the full list of keyboard shortcuts on your desktop, click on the three stacked dots in the top right corner and select Keyboard shortcuts.

Watch this: Tips and tricks to master YouTube TV

Save a video for offline viewing on your phone

You can save a video for offline viewing on your phone's YouTube app if you're a YouTube Premium member. Simply tap Download and select the display quality. The video will be located in the Library tab when you're ready to watch.


Watch a YouTube later with offline viewing.

Angela Lang/CNET

YouTube TV mode (when watching a movie)

When you're watching a movie or video on YouTube, YouTube TV mode gives you a larger viewing screen without going into full-screen mode. It's especially helpful if you're watching YouTube videos on your smart TV. 

Go to www.youtube.com/tv and enter your Google login information. You'll have to verify your account information with an onscreen code. The quality of the video you select should automatically be in HD for the best viewing experience.

youtube captions
Screenshot by Katie Conner/CNET

Turn on captions when you're in a quiet place

If you're in a library or at work and you don't have headphones, or if you're having trouble understanding what people are saying, you can turn on the captions in a video. All you have to do is click the CC icon.

Also, if the speaker is using a different language you aren't familiar with, you can use the built-in Google Translate. Tap the settings icon that looks like a gear, select Subtitles > Auto-translate and choose your preferred language. 

Use a dark mode

At night time, a bright white screen can be tough on your eyes. Fortunately, YouTube offers Dark Theme to make the light on your screen less harsh. In the YouTube app, go to your settings and slide the toggle switch over. On your computer, click on the three stacked dots in the top right corner, select Dark theme and click on the toggle switch.

Read more about dark mode for Android and iPhone apps.

Picture-in-picture lets you watch video while using another app

You may want to send a text message while playing a YouTube video and that's where the picture-in-picture option comes in. Picture-in-picture shrinks the video you're watching into a smaller square that you can move around on your screen. Unfortunately, this is only available for YouTube Premium members on Android mobile devices. 

To turn this feature on, go to your Android settings > Apps & notifications > Advanced > Special access > Picture-in-picture, select YouTube and toggle the switch on.

See more YouTube Music tips and tricks and learn how to get started with YouTube Music.

CNET Senior Reporter Joan Solsman contributed to this story.