Downloading YouTube videos on Android for offline viewing later

One of the all-time great tools of the internet era is youtube-dl. It enables you to download any YouTube video for watching offline/later. It has been a fantastic boon over the years for watching all my hundreds of subscribed channels when in planes, trains, automobiles and treadmills. It’s also the basis for my own YTPodders tool for generating podcasts from videos.

Normally I run it on the PC and copy the files to the mobile devices, tablets or media players. On Wednesday I was cut short in the middle of watching the latest episode of the wonderful Project Binky on the tarmac in Heathrow when it came time to take-off. There would have been no viewing interruption if I’d had a mobile version of youtube-dl. Of course I immediately checked to see if that existed when I got home.

It doesn’t, but…..


It’s really easy to set it up since it’s written in Python and doesn’t need to be compiled. Just follow these few steps to always have the ability to grab a video on to your Android phone for watching later.


(Updated Oct 13th 2018)

  • Save my little wrapper code on to your phone by long-pressing this link and selecting Download Link
  • Install QPython (Make sure to pick QPython2 not 3)
  • Launch QPython
  • Tap the QPYPI icon
  • Tap QPYPI Client
  • In the Terminal that launches, install youtube-dl with:
pip install -U youtube-dl
  • Exit the Terminal (answer No to the question)
  • Tap the Editor Icon
  • In the Editor, tap the Folder icon
  • Tap the Explorer Tab
  • Now browse to where you saved my wrapper code in step 1 - likely to be the Download folder
  • Tap the file
  • This opens the file in the Editor
  • Long tap the small floppy disk icon to save the file as a new name
  • Tap the projects directory
  • Tap the folder icon with the + sign in it to create a new folder called get-youtube
  • Save the file as in the get-youtube directory
  • Tap Back to get to the main screen
  • Exit QPython
  • Install VLC to play the downloads

From then on you can download videos like so

  • Browse to the video in the YouTube App
  • Tap Share > Copy Link
  • Launch QPython
  • Tap the Projects icon (large unlabelled one above the sign-in link)
  • get-youtube will be listed there
  • Tap it to run it
  • If the clipboard has a YouTube URL, it’ll automatically download the video.
  • Otherwise if the clipboard is empty or has a non-YouTube video URL you must paste it by long-pressing at the cursor and tapping Paste. Then tap again near the cursor if the keyboard has not appeared, and tap Enter.
  • The video will download to /storage/emulated/0/qpython
  • Open VLC, which should automatically find the video. If not, browse to /storage/emulated/0/qpython

Even better, you can add a direct short-cut on your Android Home Screen

  • Go back into QPython
  • Go to Projects (large unlabelled icon above the sign-in link)
  • Long press the icon for get-youtube in Projects
  • Woohoo, now you have a Home Screen shortcut to download a video whenever. Just copy the video URL and launch get-youtube
  • And remember it’s not just for YouTube, it works for Vimeo, BBC iPlayer and many more
  • Note: Re-run the pip install -U youtube-dl step above if it ever stops working. The developers are in a constant battle with YouTube to keep it working
  • If you ever get weird errors about DistributionNotFound, tap the More icon in QPython. Then Permissions and Storage > Storage > Clear Cache and Clear Storage. Then re-run QPython and accept all permissions dialogs.
  • Link to the source code for my simple wrapper.


Conor O'Neill

Tech guy who likes running slowly

Bandon, Cork, Ireland