Download YouTube Videos in Linux Command Line Using youtube-dl

Easily download YouTube videos in Linux using youtube-dl command line tool. With this tool, you can also choose video format and video quality such as 1080p or 4K.

There are various ways to download YouTube videos. But when it comes to Linux, nothing beats youtube-dl. In this tutorial, I am going to show the steps for using youtube-dl for downloading videos from YouTube and other websites.

Download YouTube Videos in Ubuntu and Other Linux [3 Ways]
Download YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion and Facebook videos in Ubuntu and other Linux distributions with these applications.

What is youtube-dl?

youtube-dl is a Python-based command-line tool that allows downloading videos from YouTube, Dailymotion, Photobucket, Facebook, Yahoo, Metacafe, Depositfiles and few more similar sites. It is written in pygtk and requires Python interpreter to run this program, it’s not platform restricted. It should run on any Unix, Windows or in Mac OS X based systems.

The youtube-dl tool supports resuming interrupted downloads. If youtube-dl is killed (for example, by Ctrl-C or due to loss of Internet connectivity) in the middle of the download, you can simply re-run it with the same YouTube video URL. It will automatically resume the unfinished download as long as a partial download is present in the current directory. Which means you don’t need download managers in Linux just for resuming downloads.

youtube-dl features

This tiny tool has so many features that it won’t be an exaggeration to call it the best YouTube downloader for Linux.

  • Download videos from not only YouTube but other popular video websites like Dailymotion, Facebook etc
  • Allows downloading videos in several available video formats such as MP4, WebM etc.
  • You can also choose the quality of the video being downloaded. If the video is available in 4K, you can download it in 4K, 1080p, 720p etc
  • Automatical pause and resume of video downloads.
  • Allows to bypass YouTube geo-restrictions
Attention! Downloading videos from websites could be against their policies. It’s up to you if you choose to download videos.

How to install youtube-dl on Linux

youtube-dl is a popular program and is available in the default repositories of most Linux distributions, if not all. You can use the standard way of installing packages in your distribution to install youtube-dl. I’ll still show some commands for the sake of it.

If you are running Ubuntu-based Linux distribution, you can install it using this command:

sudo apt install youtube-dl
The version in Debian/Ubuntu is usually old and you might face errors while downloading videos. Hence, I recommend installing it directly from its source repository.

For any Linux distribution, you can quickly install youtube-dl on your system through the command line interface with:

sudo wget -O /usr/local/bin/youtube-dl

After fetching the file, you need to set a executable permission on the script to execute properly.

sudo chmod a+rx /usr/local/bin/youtube-dl

Once installed, you can update it to the latest version using this command. This is helpful when you have been using it for a few months:

youtube-dl -U

Using YouTube-dl for downloading videos

To download a video file, simply run the following command. Where “VIDEO_URL” is the URL of the video that you want to download.

youtube-dl <video_url>

The video is saved in the directory from where you run the command.

Download YouTube videos in various formats and quality size

These days YouTube videos have different resolutions, you first need to check available video formats of a given YouTube video. For that run youtube-dl with “-F” option. It will show you a list of available formats.

youtube-dl -F <video_url>

Its output will be like:

Setting language
 BlXaGWbFVKY: Downloading video webpage
 BlXaGWbFVKY: Downloading video info webpage
 BlXaGWbFVKY: Extracting video information
Available formats:
37      :       mp4     [1080x1920]
46      :       webm    [1080x1920]
22      :       mp4     [720x1280]
45      :       webm    [720x1280]
35      :       flv     [480x854]
44      :       webm    [480x854]
34      :       flv     [360x640]
18      :       mp4     [360x640]
43      :       webm    [360x640]
5       :       flv     [240x400]
17      :       mp4     [144x176]

Now among the available video formats, choose one that you like. For example, if you want to download it in MP4 version and 1080 pixel, you should use:

youtube-dl -f 37<video_url>

Download subtitles of videos using youtube-dl

First, check if there are subtitles available for the video. To list all subs for a video, use the command below:

youtube-dl --list-subs <video_url>

To download all subs, but not the video:

youtube-dl --all-subs --skip-download <video_url>

Download entire YouTube playlist

To download a playlist, simply run the following command. Where “playlist_url” is the URL of the playlist that you want to download.

youtube-dl -cit <playlist_url>

Download only audio from YouTube videos

If you just want to download the audio from a YouTube video, you can use the -x option to simply extract the audio file from the video.

youtube-dl -x <video_url>

The default file format is Ogg which you may not like. You can specify the file format of the audio file in the following manner:

youtube-dl -x --audio-format mp3 <video_url>

And a lot more can be done with youtube-dl

youtube-dl is a versatile command line tool and provides a number of functionalities. No wonder it is such a popular command line tool.

I have only shown some of the most common usages of this tool. But if you want to explore its capabilities further, please check its manual.

I hope this article helped you to download YouTube videos on Linux. If you have questions or suggestions, please drop a comment below.

About the author
Abhishek Prakash

Abhishek Prakash

Created It's FOSS 11 years ago to share my Linux adventures. Have a Master's degree in Engineering and years of IT industry experience. Huge fan of Agatha Christie detective mysteries 🕵️‍♂️

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