How to Use Subtitles with VLC

A beginner's guide to playing and managing subtitles with the VLC media player.
Warp Terminal

I'm a huge fan of anime and if you want to watch the latest episodes, then you have to watch in Japanese audio only making subtitles essential for non-japanese audiences.

Thankfully, my favorite video player VLC supports subtitles pretty well. No wonder it is one of the best video players of all time.

VLC can actually do a lot more than just playing the provided subtitles.

In this guide, I will walk you through the following:

  • How to use available subtitles (if there are any)
  • How to use downloaded subtitles
  • How to download subtitles automatically (using the vlsub extension)
  • How to synchronize subtitles with video
  • What are the supported subtitle formats with VLC

So let's start with the first one.

How to enable subtitles in VLC

Some videos come with companion subtitle files. If the subtitles are in the same folder as the video file, you can enable subtitles easily.

While there are several ways to enable subtitles, I will show you two effective ways to do so.

By pressing V (easiest way)

If you have one or more subtitles for the currently playing video, then you can press the V button and it will change the subtitles between the available options:

0:00
/0:04

And as you can see when I pressed the V, it roamed through multiple subtitles and even had the option to disable the subtitles completely.

Using top menubar or right click context menu

While pressing the V key is the easiest way to enable subtitles but it won't work best if you have multiple subtitle files (perhaps in multiple languages) and you have to select one of them.

Suppose that the subtitle which you're looking for is in the last position then you have to press the V key several times and if you missed it, repeat the process again.

So in that case, choosing a subtitle track from the top menu is an easy and convenient way.

To use this method, you have to follow two simple steps:

  • Click on Subtitle menu, located in the top menu bar
  • Choose Sub Track and then, select the preferred subtitle track

You can also do it by pressing the right-click on the playing video and choosing the subtitles option.

How to use downloaded subtitles in VLC

If you have downloaded subtitles from the web and have no idea how you can use them in VLC, then this section will solve the problem.

To use the downloaded subtitle, you'll have to import it to VLC. And can easily be done by following the given simple steps:

  • First, click on the Subtitle from the top menubar
  • Choose the first Add Subtitle File option and it will open the file manager
  • From here, navigate to where the subtitle file is located and select it

Once done, added subtitles can be accessed through the Subtitle menu located in the top menubar:

Add subtitles in VLC
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If you are saving the video for future use, I advise copying the subtitle file in the same folder as the video file itself. Even better would to be to rename the file the same the video file. So if video file is my-xyz.mp4, the subtitle file should be my-xyz.srt. This way, either the subtitle plays automatically or it will be recognized when you press the v key.

How to download subtitles automatically in VLC (for Linux users)

Did you know that VLC has a plugin called VLsub that can be used to download subtitles from the web and accessed them directly in VLC?

And if you're a Linux user, then follow the given instructions to add it in VLC.

First, download the zip file using the wget command:

wget https://github.com/exebetche/vlsub/archive/master.zip

Next, unzip the file using the unzip command as shown:

unzip master.zip

After that, you'd need to create a new directory:

mkdir -p ~/.local/share/vlc/lua/extensions

And finally, move files to the created directory using the mv command as shown:

mv ~/vlsub-master/vlsub.lua ~/.local/share/vlc/lua/extensions

Now, open the VLC player, and under the View menu, you'll find VLsub:

use VLsub extension in VLC to download subtitles easily

To download subtitles using VLsub, first, enter the name of the movie with the year to have better results, and hit Search by name button, select the subtitle file from the results, and click on the Download selection button as shown:

How to download subtitles in VLC using VLsub extension

That's it!

To learn more about how to use the VLsub extension, refer to our detailed guide on that topic:

Download Subtitles Automatically With VLC Media Player
VLC is a versatile media player. One of the lesser known features is the automatic subtitle download. Here’s how to use it.

How to synchronize subtitles with the movie in VLC

Sometimes the downloaded subtitles may be a little behind or forward to what's going on in the movie which can be frustrating!

Worry not! VLC has a solution for this problem too!

In VLC, you can forward or backward subtitles by pressing G and H keys.

  • The G key will forward the subtitle by 50 milliseconds
  • The H key will backward the subtitle by 50 milliseconds

While 50 milliseconds sounds too less, you will notice a significant difference within 2-3 keystrokes.

You can also press and hold them if you're running too ahead or behind the actual scenes.

Still confused? You may refer to our detailed guide on how to synchronize subtitles in VLC:

How To Synchronize Subtitles With Movie [Quick Tip]
Some people, especially the non-native English speakers prefer to watch a movie or TV program with subtitles. Even the native English speakers need use subtitles if it is in a language other than English. Normally, you download movies from one source and the subtitles from another source. And t…

What are the supported subtitle formats in VLC?

If you wish to download subtitles from the internet, then, you must know the supported subtitle formats by VLC.

Here is the list of the supported subtitle formats by VLC:

  • *.idx (VOBSub)
  • *.cvd (Chaoji VCD)
  • *.usf (Universal Subtitle)
  • *.ttxt (MPEG-4 Timed Text)
  • *.srt (SubRip)
  • *.ssa (Sub Station Alpha)
  • *.smi (SAMI)
  • *.aqt (AQTitle)
  • *.txt (ML2/VPlayer)
  • *.rt (RealText/Smil)
  • *.psb (PowerDivX)
  • *.pjs (Phoenix Subtitle)
  • *.dks (DKS)
  • *.mpl (ML2)
  • *.jss (JACOSub)
  • *.svcd (Super Video CD)
  • *.txt (ML2/VPlayer)

But the most popular subtle type is *.srt and often shipped by default when you download video files.

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Did you know that you can download YouTube videos using VLC? Well, it can do a lot more than just that.

And for that purpose, we made a detailed guide on cool things you can do with VLC player:

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And here's how you can get more out of VLC:

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I hope you will find this guide helpful.

About the author
Sagar Sharma

Sagar Sharma

A software engineer who loves to write about his experience with Linux. While reviving my crashed system, you can find me reading literature, manga, or watering my plants.

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