20 YouTube tips and tricks to make you a video ninja

Hidden settings, virtual reality videos, smarter ways to share, GIFs and more in our essential tips round-up

YouTube needs no introduction - the Google-owned site has been serving up video clips to the web for more than a decade now - but there's a wealth of functionality both on the website and in the YouTube mobile apps that you might not have fully explored to date.

We should point out that the screenshots below and the instructions we've outlined where needed apply to the new beta version of the YouTube layout - if you haven't yet seen it on your own account in your own part of the world, then it should appear before too long.

1. Save videos for later

YouTube creates a Watch Later playlist for you that you might not have stumbled across, so if you don't have time to watch something straight away, click the Add to button below the clip then Watch Later, or click the clock icon that appears on top of the video thumbnails.

2. Limit data use

If you're streaming videos over a mobile data connection, you probably don't want to use up too many gigabytes. Go to Settings in the iOS app or General under Settings on Android to find the toggle switch that limits HD video playback to times when you're on Wi-Fi.

3. Change the quality

YouTube selects the quality of videos based on your connection speed but you can overrule this if you want to save data or see something clearly: click the cog icon on web videos, or the three dots then the cog icon on videos on mobile to set playback quality.

4. Share clips with timestamps

If you want to share a video with someone that starts at a specific time, it's easily done: on the web, click the Share button underneath whatever you're watching, make sure the Start at button is ticked, and enter the time to begin at (this updates itself as the video plays).

5. Explore videos in 360 degrees

You don't need a VR headset to watch 360-degree videos - on the web, you can click and drag to look around, and on mobile you can physically move your handset to get a different perspective. A good place to start is with YouTube's official VR channel.

6. Edit videos online

YouTube comes with its very own video editor, saving you the trouble of having to install a desktop application on your computer. You can cut clips, drop in music, add titles and transitions and more, and it all runs in your browser - head to www.youtube.com/editor.

7. Control YouTube with the keyboard

Hitting keys is often easier than messing with the mouse when controlling video playback. A full list of YouTube keyboard shortcuts can be found here, but pressing Space to start and stop playback is very useful, as is using the cursor keys to jump forwards and backwards.

8. Find longer videos

Every time you run a YouTube search you can open up the Filter drop-down menu at the top to sift through the many results you're going to get. One of the most useful filters lets you look for videos longer than 20 minutes if you're in the mood for something substantial.

9. Find more recent videos

Speaking of the Filter drop-down menu that appears atop search results (see our previous tip), you can also use it to find videos uploaded in the last day or even hour - very handy for finding clips related to breaking news or recent updates from your favourite YouTubers.

10. Speed up and slow down videos

You can change the video playback speed on the YouTube website, which you might not have realised: click the cog icon, then click Speed, and you can choose between 0.25 (quarter speed) and 2 (twice as fast), handy for getting through your playlists more quickly.

11. Loop YouTube videos

It is possible to loop individual YouTube videos if you've found a music track or a movie trailer that you're particularly into, but the feature is pretty well hidden - you need to right-click on the video window itself during playback, then choose Loop from the menu.

12. Rewrite YouTube history

Go to your Google Account page on the web, click Manage your Google activity, then Go to my activity. You can then search for and edit your YouTube activity (searches and views), which is handy if you want to completely reset or slightly tweak your recommendations.

13. Watch videos again

On the topic of your viewing history, it's available via the History link on the main menu on the web or on the profile tab in the mobile apps. You can watch videos again from here, or remove them from your viewing history, and stop YouTube from logging what you watch.

14. Turn on the captions

Captions aren't just for the hard of hearing - they can help with foreign titles or in very quiet (or very loud) environments. Click the subtitles button on the web just under the playback bar, or the three dots and then the Captions link on mobile to switch them on.

15. Read video transcriptions

As well as captions and subtitles you can get transcriptions for some YouTube clips, which are sometimes provided by the uploader and sometimes generated automatically by YouTube. Click the three dots under a video on the web and click Open transcript to see it.

16. Get instant push alerts

If you want to know about new content on the channels you've subscribed to before anyone else, open a channel you've signed up for and click on the small bell icon on the right - how you get notified (email or pop-up) can be set through your YouTube settings.

17. Protect your privacy

Some of the activities you get up to on YouTube are visible to others if they click on your profile or happen to follow you. To check up on what you're sharing, go to the YouTube privacy settings page, and untick the boxes next to the activities you want to keep private.

18. Search for music

There's a ton of music available on YouTube that you can listen to for free (in return for a few ads). Try searching for artists in the main search bar and you'll see pop-out boxes for those artists on the right, with quick links to mixes, popular tracks, and album playlists.

19. Collaborate on playlists

YouTube has a basic playlists feature, and these playlists can be collaborative too - open your playlists page on the web, then click Edit, Edit again, then Playlist settings. Make the playlist public or unlisted, and the Collaborate tab in the dialog box becomes active.

20. Make GIFs from YouTube clips

In the past YouTube has shown hints of adding an integrated GIF maker of its own, but for now it's only available on a limited number of clips. In the meantime, many sites can create GIFs from a YouTube URL - a couple of our favourite ones are Giphy and Imgur.