I only watch Netflix in two ways: on my smart TV and on my Windows PC. While the big-screen-and-couch combo is nicer for movies, I prefer watching TV shows on the computer because smart TV interfaces are often terrible.
And while I used to watch Netflix solely in my browser, I recently switched to using the Windows 10 app — and am now convinced that it’s the better way to watch.
Yes, the Windows 10 app is somewhat primitive. But it’s also equipped with a few unique features that you can’t make use of when watching in your browser, and they may convince you to switch. We also have a few tips for making the Windows 10 app more pleasant to use.
1. Download and Play Offline
Here’s the biggest reason why you may want to start using the Windows 10 app: in a recent update, Netflix made it possible to download content for offline viewing. This feature isn’t available on all Netflix platforms, so if you want to start taking advantage of it right now, the app is one way to do that.
A few of the benefits include:
- Save data usage on frequently-watched movies and TV episodes. You only need to expend data on the initial download.
- Eliminate buffering issues due to a poor internet connection.
- Watch content even when you don’t have Wi-Fi access.
To download, just navigate to any title and look for the Download button. Not all titles are available for download, but many of them are. You can delete downloaded content by opening the sidebar and clicking My Downloads. You can also manage downloaded video quality by going to the Settings page.
2. Change Appearance of Subtitles
I’m a huge fan of subtitles, even when foreign languages or unfamiliar accents aren’t involved. Subtitles make it easier to stay engaged in the story, are great for low-volume listening, and come in handy for mumbled lines of dialogue.
But subtitles are only useful when they’re legible, and a one-size-fits-all doesn’t exist for Netflix’s subtitles. The good news is, you can customize them! The catch is that you can’t do so from the app itself.
Open your web browser, visit the Netflix site, log into your account, and select your profile. At the top right, hover over your name and click Your Account. Scroll down and click Subtitle appearance. Customize the options to your heart’s content, then click Save.
The new options will now be reflected in the Windows 10 app for Netflix. If you’re in the middle of watching, you’ll have to reload the show for the changes to take effect.
3. Load External Subtitles
Netflix is surprisingly good about offering subtitles for every single TV show and movie in its library. I’ve yet to come across one that doesn’t have any subtitles, and trust me, I’ve seen a lot of shows.
But that’s only for English subtitles. Netflix isn’t as consistent when it comes to other-language subtitles. I am using the U.S. version of Netflix so it makes sense that English is the primary focus. But what if you want subtitles in, say, Arabic or Greek?
All you need is the Subtitles for Netflix app. Once installed, you can access online subtitles in dozens of languages from right inside the official Netflix app with a single keyboard shortcut. Subtitles are sourced from OpenSubtitles, and they may not always be accurate or synced but many of them are fine.
4. Add the Live Tile to Start Menu
Not sure what a Live Tile is? Check out our overview to customizing the Start Menu to learn more. If you don’t use your Start Menu much or don’t care about Live Tiles, then feel free to skip this tip.
The Live Tile for the official Netflix app cycles through your “Continue Watching” list. When you click on it, the currently displayed TV show or movie will be launched in the Netflix app. Want to remove certain titles from the cycle? Use this nifty Netflix trick.
To add the Live Tile, open the Start Menu and search for Netflix. When the app listing shows up, right-click on it and select Pin to Start. Once pinned, go back to the Start Menu and look for the newly-added Netflix tile, then right-click and resize to Medium, Wide, or Large.
5. Voice Commands With Cortana
Cortana, the voice-activated assistant that’s built into Windows 10, provides an easy way to stay organized and perform tasks just by talking. Not everyone uses it, of course, and some have concerns about privacy and spying, but there’s no doubt that Cortana offers a lot of convenience.
As far as Netflix, you can simply say “Hey Cortana, launch Netflix” to open the app on demand. You can also say “Netflix, find [title of show or movie]” (this one may not work depending on your region). Support is still thin, but it’s likely that Netflix will offer deeper integration in the future.
To get started, check out our guide to setting up Cortana.
6. Stay Up-to-Date With Notifications
This last feature isn’t exclusive to the Windows 10 app — it’s also available on Android, iOS, and the web browser — but isn’t available on all Netflix platforms, so take advantage of it.
Simply open the sidebar, click Notifications, and you’ll see a history of New Arrivals and Now Available titles that may interest you based on your Netflix viewing habits. It’s a convenient way to find new material to watch and stay on top of new library additions.
7. Stream Netflix to Your TV
If you have a smart TV, it probably has its own Netflix app that you can install. If you have a streaming media device, like a Roku or Fire TV, then it also has its own app or channel for connecting to Netflix. But what if you have a regular TV?
The first option is to use an HDMI cable. This is probably out of the question if you’re on a desktop PC, but it’s my favorite method for Windows 10 laptops. Just plug one end of the HDMI cable into your laptop, the other end into the TV, and set Windows 10’s projection mode to Extend or Duplicate.
The other option is to use a Chromecast, a device that plugs into your TV and acts as a receiver. It only works with the Android, iOS, and web versions of Netflix. If using the web version, you need to be in the Chrome browser. Also, the Chromecast needs to be on the same Wi-Fi network as the source device.
Do You Use the Netflix App on Windows?
While the Windows 10 app for Netflix is light on features and complexity, it’s more than adequate for watching TV shows and movies. The ability to download content is its winning attribute, but the other bits may be nifty enough to win you over as well.
I’m convinced. What about you? Are you going to start using the Netflix app on Windows? If not, what’s your favorite way to watch Netflix? Share with us in a comment below!