Download Web Videos With The Command Line Using Movgrab [Linux]

Justin Pot 25-02-2012

download videos command lineUse the command line to quickly download videos from YouTube, Vimeo, Ted, Discovery and over 40 other sites using one simple program. It’s called MovGrab and it’s a great, free program for Linux.

We’ve shown you a few easy ways to download online videos 5 Easy Ways To Download & Convert Online Videos Streaming video websites are such a big part of our lives, it’s hard to remember a time when they didn’t exist. These websites revolutionized our computer video experience - no longer do we have to... Read More , and Linux and Mac users can check out check out Clipgrab for basic video downloading The 5 Best Tools to Download Streaming Video From Any Website If you want to download videos from websites using online tools and programs, we've rounded up the best to get the job done quickly. Read More . It’s hard to match Movgrab, though, in terms of the sheer number of sites it supports. As of this writing, 45 different sites are supported. Combine this with a simple command-line interface – all you need to do is type the name of the program followed by the URL of the file – and MovGrab is a program worth having for anyone who likes to watch their online video offline.

Basic Usage

Are you familar with the terminal? The basic command here isn’t that hard, then. Just browse using cd to the folder where you’d like to store your download, then type movgrab followed by the URL of the video you’d like to download.

For example: if you’d like to download Nyan Cat (and you would), the command would would be movgrab

Here’s what the command looks like when it’s running:

download videos command line

You should do this right now, and watch Nyan Cat on a continuous loop for the rest of your life. At the very least there should be a computer in your house that is always playing it, music and all.

The basic process is pretty much the same for any video, regardless of where it’s hosted. Here’s me dowloading a video about trick photography from Ted:

download videos command

Once the download is done, you’ll find the video in the folder your Terminal was set to. Here’s me watching my Ted download:

download videos command line

Wasn’t that easy?

A Few Advanced Features

Do you want to know what this program can really do? Type movgrab -h to see the full instructions. Command line experts will be able to figure out pretty much everything based on that, but let’s go over the highlights.

  • If you want the download to happen in the background just add -b to the command. The download will happen in the background, letting you use your terminal for other things.
  • If you want to continue a download you started earlier, you can add -r to the command.
  • If you want to pick a particular format, you’ll need to do two things. First: use the -T option to get a list of your options. Then, run the command again using the -foption followed by the format of your choice. For example, downloading Nyan Cat, I would use this command:movgrab -f webm:845x480It’s the same command, just followed by -f and the format I’d like to download the video from.

Do you want to see which sites are and aren’t working? Run movgrab -test-sites and your computer will test each and every supported site. If many are broken, it may be time to update Movgrab.

There’s a lot more this program can do, so be sure to check out the -h option to get a complete rundown.

Installing MovGrab

I found this program thanks to a great article on WebUpd8 The 5 Best Tools to Download Streaming Video From Any Website If you want to download videos from websites using online tools and programs, we've rounded up the best to get the job done quickly. Read More , a site I recommend you all check out. That site’s PPA is probably the simplest way for Ubuntu users to install MovGrab, and all you need to do is enter the following three commands in the terminal:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nilarimogard/webupd8
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install movgrab

You’ll need a relatively recent version of Ubuntu for the first command to work.

Users of other operating systems can grab the source code at the movgrab homepage. You’ll need to compile the source code yourself, but it’s not anymore complicated than the standard configure, make and make install.

Get a Linux geek to help you out if you’re not sure what that means!

Supported Services

This program supports a lot of different sites. Some may or may not be working, but here is a currently complete list:

  • YouTube
  • Metacafe
  • Dailymotion
  • Vimeo
  • eHow
  • vbox7
  • Ted
  • MyVideo
  • ClipShack
  • MyTopClip
  • RedBalcony
  • Mobando
  • Yale University
  • Princeton University
  • Reuters
  • LiveLeak
  • Academic Earth
  • Photobucket
  • VideoEmo
  • VideosFacebook
  • Aljazeera
  • Mefeedia
  • IViewTube
  • Washington Post
  • CBS News
  • Euro News
  • MetaTube
  • MotionFeeds
  • Escapist
  • Guardian
  • RedOrbit
  • Sciive
  • Izlese
  • British Academy
  • Kitp
  • Dotsub
  • Discovery


This is simply a must-have video downloader for anyone who wants to download from a wide variety of sites. The command-line interface may make it inaccessible to some, but those who take the time to figure it out won’t be disappointed.

How do you like this program? Please leave a note in the comments below, along with any recommended similar software.

Related topics: Download Management, Online Video.

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  1. Pal Himanshu
    September 18, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    unable to use movgrab....
    unable to locate package movgrab but i have already added the repository....

  2. Yiannis Argyropoulos
    March 11, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    Thanks for the interesting article. Being quite new to the Linux environment I tried the movgrab and says "command not found". I then thought that I need to install it first but a sudo apt-get returned no results. Is there something that I'm missing here? Btw, excuse my naivety again but I was wondering what the ~/ symbols do in your screenshot and google search shows nothing. Thanks in advance.

    • jhpot
      March 11, 2012 at 10:41 pm

      Hey there Yiannis. The installation instructions are above; you need to add a PPA. Check out the "Installing Movgrab" section.

      The "~" refers to my home folder. "~/Downloads" means I'm running the command in the Downloads folder in my home folder.

      • Yiannis Argyropoulos
        March 11, 2012 at 10:53 pm

         Oh, god, I guess I should stop the bad habit of not reading articles all the way to the end. Thanks for the very quick response and the info. It worked like a charm. Thanks!

    March 2, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    Cool if you want to use the command line.   I just use flashgot with flashgot media to download "everything".

    If you really want to beat sliced bread, find something that will detect and download rtmp: streams in Linux without having to be a genius to get it to work.

    March 2, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    Cool if you want to go to the command line.  I just use flashgot with flashgot media in Firefox to capture "everything".

    But, if you really want to beat sliced bread, show me something that will find and download rtmp: streams in Linux - without having to be a genius.

  5. Miggs
    February 26, 2012 at 8:08 am

    Does it support batch downloading using a file?

    • Lazza
      February 28, 2012 at 8:01 pm

      You can script it. Suppose you have a file with one URL per line
      (and NO spaces), then do:

      for i in $( cat links.txt ); do
      movgrab "$i";

      This should do the trick.

      • jhpot
        February 29, 2012 at 10:23 pm

        That's awesome!

  6. Colin
    February 26, 2012 at 6:21 am

    What's the terminal font in those screenshots?

    • Dhruv Sangvikar
      February 26, 2012 at 9:33 am

      it's the default terminal font in ubuntu. guess its the ubuntu font only. :)

      • Colin
        February 27, 2012 at 4:44 am

        Close, but I don't think so.  Compare the lowercase i:

      • Colin
        February 27, 2012 at 5:39 am

        Ignore my last comment. You're right. Thanks!

        • jhpot
          February 29, 2012 at 10:22 pm

          It is indeed simply the default in Ubuntu...

  7. Lalit Indoria
    February 26, 2012 at 6:00 am

    The format of the downloaded video is .webm How do I run it?

    • Carlwc
      February 26, 2012 at 6:32 am

      try it like this:

        movgrab -T

      The output will show the file formats available for that particular file.  For example:

        Formats available for this Movie: webm:640x360 flv-h264:640x360 mp4:480x360 flv:400x240 

      So, after choosing the mp4:480x360, my final command looks like this:

        movgrab -f mp4:480x360

      Then, after a few seconds, you have a video file, in mp4 format, waiting to watch it.  Then, you can use mplayer, vlc or whatever video program you like.

      • Lalit Indoria
        February 26, 2012 at 4:55 pm

        When I do this, I get it format:webm followed by resolution of the video :(

        • Lazza
          February 28, 2012 at 8:00 pm

           WebM is an open format and you can play it with VLC. :) If you want a conversion, have a look at Arista Transcoder or WinFF. ;)

        • jhpot
          February 29, 2012 at 10:22 pm

          Yep, VLC should do the trick. 

  8. Austin Beatty
    February 26, 2012 at 12:43 am

    Wow, that's pretty cool, I've always used Youtube-dl which is great for youtube, but looks like this is another good option for basically everything else :)

    • jhpot
      February 29, 2012 at 10:22 pm

      Yeah, it works quite well for just about everything. I'm enjoying it a great deal.