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10 YouTube Tips and Shortcuts to Make You Look Like a Pro

These secrets and easy-to-use tricks help you get more out of the video-sharing service

spinner image person using a tablet to watch a yoga tutorial video
Eva Blanco / EyeEm / Getty Images

From dancing cats and how to fix a toilet to full-length movies and live-streamed content, YouTube has something for everyone, regardless of age, interests or preferred device — from phones, tablets and laptops to Alexa- or Google-powered smart displays, smart TVs and video game consoles.

Google's online video platform even works on virtual reality headsets. The 16-year-old service is the second most visited website in the world, behind Google's own search engine. It has more than 2 billion monthly users.

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And the totally free portion of YouTube's content keeps growing: More than 500 hours of videos are uploaded to the site every minute.

Three out of 4 U.S. adults use YouTube, according to a Pew Research Center study. But you may not know that YouTube has tips, tricks, secrets and shortcuts that you can adopt immediately:

1. Change playback speed

You’re learning how to make a soufflé, but the baker is going too fast. Or you’re listening to a classic episode of The Shadow radio plays and have only 20 minutes instead of half an hour. YouTube lets you speed up or slow down the playback of a video.

While watching a video on desktop, click the Settings gear at the lower right of the video and then choose the desired playback speed, anywhere from .25x speed to 2x speed. On a mobile device, tap the More icon (three little dots) at the top right of the screen, and select playback speed.

2. Double tap to seek on mobile

If you're using a phone or tablet, you can double tap to the left or right of a video while it is playing to fast forward or rewind 10 seconds. To quickly enter and exit full-screen mode on a mobile device, swipe up to enter or down to exit.

3. Enable the dark theme

Dark theme turns your background dark. It was developed to cut down on glare and give you the true colors of your videos. It's available on smartphone, tablet and desktop versions.

Check out AARP's
YouTube channels

AARP has four YouTube channels to help you find videos in your areas of interest:

AARP, our main channel, featuring celebrity interviews and inspiring stories of people living their best lives as they age

AARP Answers with tips to help you on topics from health to folding a fitted sheet

AARP Live, a monthly live call-in show that airs every third Thursday at 10 p.m. ET here and on RFD-TV; the episodes are also available on demand.

AARP Livestreams for live events including virtual concerts and exercise classes that also are archived for on-demand viewing

You can turn this on in the app's settings by clicking or tapping the account icon, which may have your photo. Then, on mobile, it's Settings | General | Appearance | Dark theme. On desktop, click your account icon followed by Appearance | Dark theme.

4. Find related videos

On a mobile device, you can quickly view a row of suggested videos by tapping the screen while you're watching full screen. Some thumbnail images will pop up, each of which YouTube suggests based on your viewing history.

When watching on desktop, suggested videos are listed along the right side of the screen.

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5. Go ‘Incognito'

If you want to look up something weird, glance at something at random or just browse YouTube without affecting your personalized recommendations, Incognito mode behaves as if you aren't signed into your account. This means any of your activity, such as searches, subscriptions or videos watched, won't influence your YouTube experience, and it won't affect the recommendations you get.

To enable Incognito mode, tap your profile picture in the top right of the screen and select Turn on Incognito.

6. Use a keyboard shortcut

These computer keyboard shortcuts will help you do more in less time. While watching a video:

  • J will rewind 10 seconds.
  • L will fast-forward 10 seconds.
  • M will mute and unmute the video.
  • Spacebar or K will pause or play the video.

Pro tip: Use the numbered keys to quickly skip to a part of the video. For example, pressing 2 will take you 20 percent into the video, pressing 7 will take you to 70 percent into the video, and pressing 0 will restart the video.

7. Search for something quickly

To find something you want, you know you can tap or click the search window and type in some keywords, but here are tips for a more accurate search:

• Add quotation marks to search for a specific term. For instance, if you search for tie-dye masks without quotations, the search engine will look for any of those three words, in any order. You will get better results with “tie-dye masks."

• Add a plus or minus sign to include or omit results. For example, type “recipes -chicken” if you don't want to see any chicken recipes. Or type “best games -nintendo” to omit games for Nintendo platforms.

• Add “allintitle” in the search box before the keywords to make sure the results will include all the keywords you searched for in the title.

• Add “HD” to your search query to get high-definition results. You also can add “3D” for three-dimensional content.

• Add “channel” or “playlist” to your search query to find sets of related videos.

8. Share a video starting in the middle

Did you watch a part of a video you just have to share? Instead of sending the entire video to play from the start, YouTube lets you share a URL that takes someone to an exact moment in the video.

On the desktop version, pause the video at the time you want, right click over the video and then select Copy video URL at current time. Now you can paste that URL into a message and send to a friend.

9. Watch 360-degree videos

Ever wanted to go somewhere you couldn't, such as an expensive bucket-list African safari, or back in time to the dinosaur age or an outer space vacation? You can experience it on YouTube with 360-degree videos.

If it's a 360-degree video recorded with a special camera or created with a computer program, move your phone or tablet — iOS or Android — around when in full-screen mode, and you'll see all the different angles while the video plays, or press your finger on the screen and manually move it around. On the desktop, use your mouse to drag the point of view around.

You can watch YouTube's more than 1 million virtual reality (VR) videos on a VR headset. Download the YouTube app inside your VR headset — such as Oculus Go, Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest or PlayStation VR — and launch fully immersive videos that change the “camera” angle whenever you move your head.

10. Watch videos with captions

YouTube says it has more than 2 billion videos with automatic captions. This could help you better understand the thick accents in a British soap opera or perhaps not disturb others around you. Just click on the Settings icon and choose to enable captions. If you want to see the closed captions in another language, you also can get an automatic translation where available.

Other video-sharing platforms to explore

As big as YouTube is, it’s not the only player in town. Several other free video streaming services are available. Three to check out:

Dailymotion. Owned primarily by French media conglomerate Vivend, Dailymotion says it has more than 300 million monthly users. Content, available in 183 languages, is divided into featured videos that  are profiled on the front page of the website and app, as well as in categories including news, sports and entertainment. Dailymotion includes 4K and 360-degree videos.

Facebook Watch. Leveraging the enormous popularity of its parent social media platform, Facebook Watch is a free, 4-year-old YouTube alternative that includes original — and often exclusive — content produced by partners and personalized recommendations based on your viewing history, social media activity such as “liking” certain posts, and what’s trending. Like YouTube, short- and long-form videos are offered. In fall 2020, the ad-supported platform said it had 1.25 billion users a month.

Vimeo. With a self-reported 200 million users, Vimeo is another incredibly popular streaming platform that focuses primarily on delivering high-definition video. Along with ad-supported access to upload or view videos, it has ad-free subscription plans for video content producers and businesses. You can search for what to watch or browse through “human-curated” staff picks, video premieres and award-winning content.

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