Marcos Tanaka’s Play has become the way I watch YouTube, which isn’t something I expected would happen as much as I’ve enjoyed the app since its launch early last year. The app, available on the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV, started as a way to save YouTube links to watch later. That made Play indispensable for keeping track of videos in a way that is similar to how I save articles I want to read later in Matter.
With version 2.0, Marcos has transformed Play from a utility where I save links for later to how I find videos and watch them in the first place. The big difference is that Play now allows users to manage YouTube channels inside the app. I still come across YouTube links on social media, iMessage conversations, on the Club MacStories Discord server, and elsewhere that I add to Play using its excellent share sheet integration. However, with support for YouTube channels, I now have a chronological list of everything published by my favorite channels delivered to an inbox where I can quickly pick the ones I want to watch, which is wonderful.
If that sounds a lot like RSS, that’s because it is. That’s how I prefer to scan my favorite websites for articles to read, and now, it’s how I’m watching my favorite YouTube channels.
Today, Marcos Tanaka released Play, an iPhone, iPad, and Mac app for saving links to YouTube videos for later. The app doesn’t save the videos themselves. Instead, it saves their URLs, along with metadata, making it easy to organize, sort, filter, and rediscover videos that might otherwise fall by the wayside.
Play is an excellent example of how purpose-built apps often outshine more general solutions. There are many ways to save a YouTube video for later, from a bare URL pasted in a text file to a bookmarking or read later app. YouTube has its own solution, too, with its Watch Later playlist. Each solution I’ve tried in the past works to a degree, but by focusing solely on the experience of saving YouTube links for watching later, Play outshines them all.
There are various apps for the Mac that’ll download YouTube videos, but there’s nothing comparable for the iPad. I discovered that it’s possible to download these videos using the iCab browser if you change the user agent, but I could never get this to work consistently. There is a command-line program you can run called youtube-dl that will download videos from YouTube (and other sites). The problem is, the iPad doesn’t ship with a Terminal app like the Mac does, so while I could do this on my Mac, I struggled to find a way to use this command on my iPad.
Greg has written an excellent tutorial on how to install the (recently reinstated) youtube-dl utility (which I’ve been using to download YouTube videos on my Mac mini for years) and use it on iPad via a-Shell. I followed their tutorial and was able to get youtube-dl up and running on my iPad Pro – with support for encoding files via ffmpeg – in literally two minutes. There’s probably less of a need for downloading YouTube videos on iPhone and iPad now that the YouTube app supports native 4K playback on Apple platforms, but I think it’s great to be able to download videos offline for research and archival purposes regardless. I always like to download the best possible version of a video in the WebM format, which plays beautifully at crisp 4K in the free VLC app for iPad.
One crisp Tyler.
Side note: I’ve been trying to use this shortcut to pass the URL of the current video from Safari/YouTube to a-Shell via the share sheet. Unless I’m missing something obvious, the a-Shell app launches but doesn’t run my command, which is passed as a ‘Text’ parameter to its Shortcuts action.
Update: Thanks to MacStories reader Jay, I was able to make a-Shell’s Shortcuts action work by switching from single- to double-quotes. I’ve made a shortcut that lets you pass a YouTube URL from either Safari or the YouTube app to a-Shell – which will start downloading it – so you don’t have to type the command (and related options) manually each time. You can find it below and in the MacStories Shortcuts Archive. Also, don’t miss this tip by Greg on navigating a-Shell’s local folder structure.
Download a video from YouTube using youtube-dl and the a-Shell app for iPhone or iPad. The shortcut accepts any YouTube URLs passed from Safari or the YouTube app via the share sheet. Detailed instructions on how to set up youtube-dl and a-Shell can be found here.
YouTube is being updated to support 4K streaming on the Apple TV 4K for the first time, although it’s limited to 30fps and doesn’t support HDR. The speculation is that higher frame rate, HDR content could be forthcoming in an update to the Apple TV hardware.
First spotted by 9to5Mac over the weekend, The Verge confirmed on Monday with Google that 4K streams are indeed rolling out to Apple TV 4K users, although they are not yet live for everyone. While at least some 4K content is also available on select iPhone models already, including my iPhone 11 Pro Max, The Verge notes that it’s not yet available on all iPhones and iPads with compatible resolutions. When asked about iPhone and iPad 4K compatibility, Google told The Verge that YouTube would support 4K content on the iPhone and iPad soon.
Apple today published a new video on YouTube that shouldn’t be missed. It’s called “Creativity goes on,” and it celebrates the resilience of humanity amidst a pandemic and self-quarantine.
The video shows how people around the world are using Apple devices to express themselves and connect with each other. One example shows an elderly man and presumably his grandson playing chess together, with the grandfather connecting over FaceTime on the child’s iPad. Another features a person following an instructional yoga video that’s playing on their Mac. The soundtrack for the whole thing is lovely, evoking Apple’s traditional sentimental holiday videos. It’s well worth 98 seconds of your time.
For this week’s installment of the Shortcuts Corner, I’ve prepared quite an assortment of miscellaneous shortcuts to share with MacStories readers and Club MacStories members (because I’ve been spending all my time at home due to the state of emergency in Italy, I’ve been reorganizing my entire Shortcuts library, among other things). Following this week’s launch of NetNewsWire for iPhone and iPad, I’ve adapted an existing shortcut to let you subscribe to feeds using the popular RSS client. I’ve also created shortcuts to reopen the watch later queue in the YouTube app, copy app links from the App Store, and copy a webpage selection from Safari as rich text.
Furthermore, exclusively for Club MacStories members, I’ve created an advanced shortcut to upload images to a remote FTP server and copy their public URLs to the clipboard. Let’s dig in.
As I explained in today’s issue of MacStories Weekly for Club MacStories members, we’re bringing the newsletter’s Shortcuts Corner section to the site, with a twist: in this series, you’ll find simpler shortcuts that you can download for free, and which will be added to the public MacStories Shortcuts Archive; you’ll also get a preview of an exclusive shortcut available today for Club MacStories members.
In this week’s Shortcuts Corner, I share shortcuts to quickly launch a search query in the YouTube app, preview the contents of a folder in iCloud Drive, and start playback for one of your recently played albums in the Music app. Let’s dive in.
Today on its YouTube channel, Apple published a new video highlighting some of the titles coming to Apple Arcade once it launches next Thursday alongside iOS 13.
The video spends nearly two minutes providing quick glimpses at a lot of Arcade titles, while lingering for extended periods over a handful of titles that haven’t been seen much before, such as Earth Night, Hot Lava, Skate City, and more.
The demos Apple shared on-stage at its September event received mixed responses, but I would expect a much more enthusiastic response to greet this video. Everything showcased looks fantastic, offering interesting stories, gameplay mechanics, and visuals. If Apple really does have 100+ games like this at or near launch, Arcade is going to quickly become a very compelling service.
Over the last few weeks Apple has quietly debuted a new YouTube channel dedicated to one of its services: Apple TV. The Apple TV channel is home to a variety of videos, like trailers for upcoming films and TV shows, exclusive behind the scenes clips and interviews tied to popular shows and movies, and, of course, videos highlighting Apple’s own original content efforts, like an Apple TV+ trailer and Carpool Karaoke previews.
Every video on the channel appears to be ad-free, which could offer a compelling reason to watch trailers for upcoming films, such as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, through the Apple TV channel rather than a competing channel where ads are commonplace.
The launch of an Apple TV channel on YouTube is no big surprise, particularly as Apple moves further into the video and entertainment space. However, the channel does have an odd, yet interesting relationship with Apple’s own TV app. While the channel serves to promote the Apple TV service, its videos by and large aren’t available on that service’s app. The behind the scenes clips and interviews found on this new channel are not currently available in the Apple TV app, only on YouTube – though it’s certainly possible that will change in the future. Similarly, most of the trailers on YouTube are unavailable in the TV app, since unreleased films and shows don’t exist in TV’s content database.
Trailers for unreleased films have historically been served through Apple’s iTunes Trailers platform, which is still alive though somewhat stagnant – the iOS app hasn’t been updated for a year and carries many dated design conventions. However, the launch of an Apple TV YouTube channel may indicate Apple’s plans to slowly shutter that service.
As Apple’s redesigned TV app launches next month as part of tvOS 12.3 and iOS 12.3, and we draw nearer to the launch of Apple TV+ this fall, it will be interesting to see what kind of content Apple funnels through this new YouTube channel rather than the TV app itself. Will most videos continue to be YouTube-exclusive, simply serving to promote films and shows that can be watched in the TV app? Or will the TV app eventually house all of this content as well, with YouTube merely serving as a means of greater exposure for Apple’s TV efforts? We shouldn’t have to wait long to find out.