Two Chrome Browser Add-ons For A Better YouTube Viewing Experience

chrome youtube addonFew things online can be as fun as YouTube. I can lose myself for hours watching videos. But the basic YouTube experience could use some improvement. Wouldn’t it be nice if videos could buffer as soon as a tab opened, and did so at exactly the quality I liked (or which worked with my connection)?

And wouldn’t it be refreshing if YouTube was a tad less cluttered with widgets, doodads, comments, related videos and other bits of text?

A Cleaner YouTube

A Cleaner YouTube is an add-on available for Chrome, Firefox and Safari. In fact, we’ve covered the Safari version before. It may not be for everyone; but if you’re a minimalist at heart, this is one add-on you’re going to like. Here’s what YouTube looks like with this add-on installed:

chrome youtube addon

I intentionally captured my entire browser window, so you would see just how uncluttered it is. A Cleaner YouTube somehow manages to distill YouTube down to just the bare essentials, while still leaving everything you need in reach.

The top bar contains a search bar, Browse and Upload buttons, your user menu (if you’re logged on) and a Sign Out link. Under the video you can see this:

google chrome youtube addon

So you can easily access comments and other information. Here’s what happens when you click that link:

google chrome youtube addon

The comments open up instantly and seamlessly, and you can do all of the “social” things Google so very much wants you to do.  But if you’re more of an “I just want to watch this video and move on with life” kind of person, you may appreciate how the comments stay out of the way.

As an added bonus, A Cleaner YouTube also cleans out Amazon. Here’s what Amazon looks like after the Cleaner treatment:

google chrome youtube addon

Okay, that stripped-down Amazon is just a bit too 1990’s for me, but for YouTube, A Cleaner YouTube is almost perfect. The only feature I would like them to add is a dark background. Being able to “turn off the lights” on YouTube with this add-on would make it a perfect ten in my book.

But now that we’ve got everything around the video taken care of, what can we do about the video itself?

SmartVideo For YouTube

SmartVideo For YouTube is a great deal more complex than A Cleaner YouTube, but it lets you exert uncompromising control over every aspect of your video experience. Check out the options panel:

youtube addon for chrome

Just a little bit scary, right? Who knew there could be so many options for just one video?

The configuration you see above is the one I use day to day. SmartVideo buffers the video for me as soon as the page loads. Once it’s ready to play, it pops up a Chrome desktop notification, so even if I’m in another tab or another application. I know the video is ready to play. When I watch videos on YouTube itself, SmartVideo makes sure I get the highest quality possible (see Video Quality on the left pane). When I watch embedded videos in other websites, SmartVideo stays out of the way and lets Google decide what quality I should be watching.

This way, embedded videos stay fast and don’t slow me down on other websites. When I want to really enjoy a video, I just click it to go to its YouTube page and enjoy it in maximum quality (and minimalist, see above).

By default, SmartVideo also shows a pop-up interface below every video, which looks like this:

chrome youtube addon

To me, this is a fairly annoying feature. The pop-up often gets in the way and overlays other things I’m trying to click, and generally feels messy. Fortunately, it can easily be disabled within SmartVideo’s preferences (“Hide player settings popup“).

Bottom Line

These two lovely add-ons can make your life on YouTube much simpler. I’ve been using SmartVideo for over a month now, and have been loving it. I’ve only just found A Cleaner YouTube, but it looks like a keeper.

What are your must-have YouTube add-ons and tricks?

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