There are a lot of ways to enjoy YouTube videos. You can, of course, go to YouTube in your favorite web browser and spend hours browsing through your favorite clips. There are web browser extensions available that allow you to download videos from YouTube and watch them with your favorite desktop multimedia player. Many of those same download programs also offer the ability to convert videos from YouTube into different formats, for when you want to transfer them to a portable device or play them on your TV.
Minitube, a YouTube application for Linux and Mac OS X (a Windows version is promised, but isn’t currently available), doesn’t offer all the functionality you can get from combining all the above options, but if you’re looking for an easy way to view YouTube videos right from your desktop, without ever opening a web browser, then it’s a good place to start. Add to it a few extra features, and I think Minitube is a real winner.
The first thing to know about Minitube is that it doesn’t require Flash to be installed in order to work. YouTube uses Flash technology (at least at the moment, although there is a pretty good chance it will eventually be based on HTML5 technologies, and use Google’s new WebM format), which means that it can sometimes be a bit of a resource hog. Try opening multiple YouTube videos at once in different browser tabs, and you’ll likely notice your browser become sluggish, and probably your system as well. Minitube doesn’t use Flash, and doesn’t require it to be installed. It’s able to find the actual URL of the videos being played, and present them to you in a slick interface, all without Flash.
You can’t necessarily browse through YouTube with Minitube the way you can on the YouTube website, but Minitube has a great search function. Just type in what you’re looking for and Minitube shows you a list, complete with descriptions and thumbnail images. Click on whatever you want to watch and it start up automatically. You can arrange the results in whatever order you want, meaning the search results act as a play queue. And the next time you return to Minitube, the main screen will show you a list of items you recently searched for, so you can pick up viewing immediately.
Minitube also allows you to set a standard resolution. Many videos on YouTube are still fairly small, but a large number have moved to high definition, including not only 720p but 1080p as well. Minitube allows you to select a standard resolution to play. If it isn’t available, Minitube defaults to the standard resolution available.
Finally, Minitube allows you to easily download videos from YouTube. While a video is loaded, simply click the arrow in the toolbar and Minitube will begin the download process immediately, even while you continue to watch the video. On a slow connection, this could cause the video playback to be choppy, but with highspeed Internet becoming more and more common, it probably isn’t a huge issue, unless you’re downloading multiple videos at once.
As I alluded to at the beginning, there are a lot of available options, as far as viewing, downloading and converting videos from YouTube is concerned. Minitube doesn’t offer the most; it doesn’t convert videos, for starters. But it has a great interface, is intuitive and easy to use, and in my testing, didn’t seem to be all that hard on my system. Everything chugged along nicely, meaning Minitube is something I’m more likely to keep around. Add the option to encode videos to other formats, and it’s a big winner. As it is, it’s still pretty darn good.