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Ask Max: Downloading YouTube Videos

Asked on 03/22/2013:

The summation of my question is this: is there a way to monitor Safari's (version 6.0.x) Activity in such a way as to download items in the page, such as Youtube videos?

The extended version has some history (and a cool tip, I think), as follows…

I found a podcast a few years ago by a young fellow named Heath Mound, who called himself the Macster. He showed how one could download videos that were being played on pages such as YouTube, and I summarized the instructions for my family (see below *****), and got it to work. I am not a web page writer (or whatever that would be called by those who are), so I know only a little about this stuff, but this seems to have only been available in Safari versions prior to the one I have now (6.0.2), or possibly this changed between OS 10.6 and 10.7.

The upshot is this: The "Activity" window is no longer available, but there is a "Develop" menu and "Web Inspector." I could navigate neither to find what I was looking for, but does this possibly hide the key to the lost ability?

-Bill Smith

Radcliff, Kentucky


To Download Youtube videos in Safari (Lion):

1. Install Perian (it's free & you only need to do this the first time). It works as a plug-in for QuickTime.

a. Website:

b. Open the downloaded disc image & install

c. Perian will operate when you open QuickTime, and shows up in System Preferences. Once installed, you never have to mess with it again (it may occasionally update).

2. Access YouTube. Because this process is fairly attention-taking, CLOSE ALL OTHER SAFARI WINDOWS & TABS!

a. Before you play the video, go to the Window menu (in the Safari toolbar) & click "Activity." This will open a window that you'll want to see as the video begins to play. Place it beside the active Safari window (half-screen each will work best).

b. Begin playing the video. You will see many things happen in the Activity window

- Look on the far right side of the window for the largest file size (usually greater than 5 MB; it varies in proportion to the length of the video).

c. This part is different in Lion, as you can't get the contextual menu if you "right-click" any of these links:

-click the largest file-sized link once to highlight it (preferably while it's still loading), then

-Hold down the "option" key and double-click it (preferably while it's still loading), then

-Look wherever Downloads are saved to see if there is any activity with a file named "video player," "get_video," or anything like that: this should be the video. This can be in the new Download button in Safari, or glance in the Downloads file in your dock.

-If nothing is happening, you have to experiment with the functional keys (fn, control, option, command) until you get results. That's what I did.

3. Convert the video.

a. Once the file has finished downloading (it should have the extension ".flv"), you have to tell the system what application to open it with. (You might want to rename the video file to something recognizable at this point.) Now you can "right-click" it, and select "Open with…"

b. Check the box that says "Always open this file with this application," (or similar), then locate QuickTime Player in the list of applications and select it.

c. By this point, you should be looking at the video in QuickTime. There are two options from here: Share or Export. Share has its own button in the QT toolbar; Export is under File. Either choice will probably only have limited options for how the video is converted.

1. "Export" will simply create a file that you can work with further, if you want to.

2. "Share" will convert the video & place it wherever you've selected.

d. You can delete the original file, and repeat this process from step 2 for another video.


I've heard of this method of acquiring Flash video and converting it over to a Quicktime/iTunes compatible format. The method outlined can work; however, when YouTube changes formats, it would most likely have to be revised. There are number of specific applications that handle downloading and converting at the same time, and if maintained, would allow for YouTube updates.

  1. TubeSock, is one of the more popular options, as it's versatile and easy to configure.
  2. There are a large number of freeware and shareware software titles available that have similar capabilities as well.
  3. MacX YouTube Downloader has received good reviews.

I believe those options may save steps and give you more control of the file output options as well.

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