Jan 032014

In the past I’ve published some articles regarding how to download music from youtube with the program YouTube to MP3, or videos with the programs xVideoServiceThief and flareget, they all accomplish the work with graphical interfaces, and this can be a great plus for many users, but others could prefer a simple command line program that can easily download videos and optionally extract the audio in a specific format: youtube-dl.

youtube-dl is a small command-line program to download videos from YouTube.com and a lot more sites. It requires the Python interpreter (2.6, 2.7, or 3.3+), and it is not platform specific. It should work in your Linux box, in Windows or in Mac OS X. It is released to the public domain, which means you can modify it, redistribute it or use it however you like.


youtube-dl it’s available on the repository of the main distribution so, if you want, you can install the package with your package manager, for Debian based distributions such as Ubuntu and Mint the command is:

sudo apt-get install youtube-dl

But these packages could not keep the pace with the changes/update made on the youtube website, so in this particular case I suggest to download the binary directly from the official website

Looking at that page today the command to download the latest version it’s:

sudo curl https://yt-dl.org/downloads/2014.01.03/youtube-dl -o /usr/local/bin/youtube-dl
sudo chmod a+x /usr/local/bin/youtube-dl

If you do not have curl, you can alternatively use a recent wget:

sudo wget https://yt-dl.org/downloads/2014.01.03/youtube-dl -O /usr/local/bin/youtube-dl
sudo chmod a+x /usr/local/bin/youtube-dl

As example today I could use the official Mint 16 version, that it’s based on a release of the 29 of august 2013:

mint-desktop ~ # apt-cache policy youtube-dl
  Installed: 2013.08.29-1
  Candidate: 2013.08.29-1
  Version table:
 *** 2013.08.29-1 0
        500 http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ saucy/universe amd64 Packages
        100 /var/lib/dpkg/status

While the direct download give me the latest version of this software.
So this method will guarantee that you’ll have the latest version youtube-dl and you’ll be able to use the “upgrade feature” available with the command.

Basic Usage

To download a video

1- Go to youtube and search the video you want to download
2- Copy the Video URL from the browser’s navigation(address) bar (As shown in the image)


3- Open up terminal and type in

youtube-dl {video URL}

~ Don’t forget to replace ‘{video URL}’ with the URL you copied from the browser’s navigation(address) bar and your video will start downloading

Change video Format

This will download the video at the highest resolution available, something that perhaps you don’t want/need, so it’s possibile to see which formats are available with the option -F, in my case:

linuxaria@mint-desktop ~/Downloads $ ./youtube-dl -F http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22UiGcxrbu8
[youtube] Setting language
[youtube] 22UiGcxrbu8: Downloading webpage
[youtube] 22UiGcxrbu8: Downloading video info webpage
[youtube] 22UiGcxrbu8: Extracting video information
[youtube] 22UiGcxrbu8: Encrypted signatures detected.
[info] Available formats for 22UiGcxrbu8:
format code extension resolution  note 
139         m4a       audio only  DASH audio , audio@ 48k (worst)
140         m4a       audio only  DASH audio , audio@128k
160         mp4       192p        DASH video 
133         mp4       240p        DASH video 
134         mp4       360p        DASH video 
135         mp4       480p        DASH video 
136         mp4       720p        DASH video 
17          3gp       176x144     
36          3gp       320x240     
5           flv       400x240     
43          webm      640x360     
18          mp4       640x360     
22          mp4       1280x720    (best)

Now I can choose which format download with the flag -f, so to download the webm at 640×360 I can use the command:

./youtube-dl -f 43 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22UiGcxrbu8

Extracting Audio of Youtube Videos

If you just want the audio of the youtube video, you can issue the following command to get it. The default is 128kbps. If you want to keep the video file too after the audio has been extracted, you can use the -k option (keep).
Hence all together to download the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22UiGcxrbu8 and extract the audio in mp3 format with a bitrate of 176kbps and keep the video, you can use the command:

youtube-dl http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22UiGcxrbu8  --audio-format mp3 --audio-quality 176 -k

From the man page:
-x, –extract-audio convert video files to audio-only files (requires ffmpeg or avconv and ffprobe or avprobe)
–audio-format FORMAT “best”, “aac”, “vorbis”, “mp3”, “m4a”, “opus”, or “wav”; best by default
-k, –keep-video keeps the video file on disk after the post-processing; the video is erased by default

As noted in the man page I’ve had to install some extra software to extract the audio in mp3 format, for my mint 16 (aka Ubuntu 13.10) the packages are:


Other Useful options:

Autoupdate the software at the latest version, this is not possible if you installed the software via the distribution package:

linuxaria@mint-desktop ~/Downloads $ ./youtube-dl -U
youtube-dl is up-to-date (2014.01.03)

Pausing and Resuming downloads:
To pause or cancel the download, use Control-C. You can resume downloading the video using the following command

youtube-dl -c


youtube-dl it’s a powerful tool that allow you to download easily video from youtube and many more websites with ease, and included in the program there is also the option to extract only the audio tracks, really useful for music video.

Popular Posts:

Flattr this!

  7 Responses to “How to Download Youtube Video or Audio Tracks from the Linux Terminal”

  1. On ArchLinux, can be found too.

  2. I posted a script that can simplify youtube-dl downloading at http://blog.mpshouse.com/?p=855

  3. When you say “To pause or cancel the download, use Control-C.”, do you mean Press Ctrl + c while a terminal emulator (like Konsole) is open?

  4. I wish I was a computer geek with a photographic memory so I could remember all the required command characters to type. It was so nice when DownLoad Helper was still working…….sigh

  5. You have not included the -x parameter the example command for Extracting Audio of Youtube Videos

    youtube-dl http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22UiGcxrbu8 --audio-format mp3 --audio-quality 176 -k

    It should be

    youtube-dl http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22UiGcxrbu8 -x --audio-format mp3 --audio-quality 176 -k

  6. I downloaded the video but cannot find where it goes

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>