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.


  • Install QPython (Make sure to pick QPython2 not 3)
  • Launch QPython
  • Tap the Terminal Icon
  • Install youtube-dl with:
pip install -U youtube-dl
  • Exit the Terminal
  • Tap the Editor Icon
  • Paste my crappy code in to the editor
# Wrapper around youtube-dl for Android
# Grabs URL from clipboard if it's a YouTube one. Otherwises prompts for URL
# See for instructions
# Copyright Conor O'Neill 2018. Apache License 2.0:

from __future__ import unicode_literals
from androidhelper import Android
droid = Android()

import youtube_dl

def input_default(prompt, default):
    return raw_input("%s [%s] " % (prompt, default)) or default

# If clipboard URL is a YouTube one, grab it and automatically download
if droid.getClipboard().result.startswith('https://youtu'):
    url = droid.getClipboard().result
    # Either the clipboard is empty or it has a non-YouTube URL. User must paste the required URL.    
    url = raw_input("YouTube URL?: ")

ydl_opts = {
    'nocheckcertificate': True, 
    'outtmpl': '%(title)s.%(ext)s'

with youtube_dl.YoutubeDL(ydl_opts) as ydl:[url])

(Latest code here on GitHub Gist)

  • Tap the small floppy disk icon to save the file
  • Save it as in a new project called get-youtube
  • Tap back to get to the main screen
  • Exit QPython and Install MX Player
  • Open MX Player and go to Settings > List > Folders
  • Tap “Add” and browse to /storage/emulated/0/qpython

From then on you can download videos like so

  • 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
  • The video will automatically appear in MX Player when you launch it
  • You can delete it in MX Player once you are done

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

  • Go back into QPython
  • Go to Projects
  • 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


Conor O'Neill

Tech guy who likes running slowly

Bandon, Cork, Ireland