Free Software Series, Part 2: Video Downloading Software

One of my coworkers came to me a week or so ago, frustrated because he wanted to show a YouTube video to his art class but wasn't able to, since our district blocks YouTube access. As you probably know, YouTube videos can't be downloaded through the site, and TeacherTube, which lets you download their videos, doesn't always have the ones that are needed. I promised him I would do some research into freeware that lets you download YouTube and other videos to your computer. So Nate (our art teacher), this one's for you!

Get YouTube Video
This is a very simple program that downloads YouTube videos in Flash Video (FLV) format. It has a very simple interface and is easy to use. It does take a little longer than average to download a video. There's nothing fancy about this program, but it does what it's meant to!

Orbit Downloader
This program has a few more features than the one above and downloads videos much faster. Among other options, this one will let you tag videos, choose a name for the video you're downloading, as well as run the downloaded media through your virus scanner. It can download any type of streaming media, including Flash games, though I didn't try that particular feature. You can either open the program and download the file that way, or you can let your mouse hover over the video/media and you will see a "get it" option appear that you can click on to download the file. This little program likes to get involved in all your downloads, so it will pop up its own window when you try to download anything, though you can just close it if you prefer not to use it for that purpose.

YouTube Downloader
This one got fairly high marks from Cnet and has the added value of being able to convert videos from one format to another, which is quite handy. Alas, this little program did not work on my computer, generating error messages both when I tried to download a video and when I tried to convert one. To be fair, my computer is in desperate need of a reformat, and given its high marks on Cnet, I'm inclined to think the problem lies in my computer, not in this program.

VDownloader
This is probably my favorite of the downloading programs largely because it doesn't make you save the downloaded file in FLV format, and it actually worked on my computer, which is always a plus! There's a list of possible file formats outputs, including AVI, so the saved video file can easily be watched on any computer or device. This program also lets you search for videos on four differenct sites, and has its own built in browser.

If you decide to use a video downloader that only creates FLV files, you  may want to consider also downloading a free video converter application, since many computers won't play FLV files without a special player. After looking at a few, I like Pazera which allows you to convert Flash Video formats, both FLV and SWF, to more standard movie formats, MPG or AVI, which can be viewed on most computers. You can adjust a lot of audio and video settings, and it's quite easy to use. Just drag and drop the file you want to convert into the window and you're ready to go!

This program is also handy if you decided to use Jing, a screen recording program I mentioned in a previous blog post. Jing creates SWF files which YouTube and TeacherTube doesn't recognize if you try to upload your video.

As with most freeware, these are just a few of the programs available, but they seem to be the cream of the crop from what I found. As always, if you have another favorite, please let me know!

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