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Netflix jumpstarted the cord-cutting culture and continued to innovate with new and exciting ways to watch our favorite flicks. It turns out there are a lot of ways to trick out Netflix and make it work even better for you. You can tweak your settings, install third-party apps, add a Chrome extension from the Google Play store, or build on the wisdom of others to change your viewing experience.
Using these tricks makes Netflix even more convenient and simplifies the way you find new movies to watch. Admittedly, we all spend too much time watching Netflix, but maybe these changes will help you be more efficient while you binge-watch an entire season of Orange Is the New Black.
The man behind the curtain will let you download your content to watch on the go, so you don’t have to suffer data charges from streaming. Netflix will let you download most movies on the iOS or Android apps, with limits on the number of times you can download it, or limits on how many devices to which you can download it – all based on the rights they have per title. Complex licensing laws sometimes render a title available for streaming, but not download. Netflix Original titles are always eligible for download, while other titles are indicated by a small arrow icon next to the title.
Although the 2013 sequel had nothing on the original Oz movie, this tip will still save you space on your device drive when downloading content. Download your movie or show in standard definition instead of high definition because a 2-hour SD movie takes up about a ½ GB, while the HD version is closer to 1GB. You’ll be able to fit twice the shows and movies on your device. Most users don’t notice the difference in resolution on a small device.
The full-featured Google Chrome extension Magic Actions for Netflix allows you to customize and make your viewing experience unique as easily as Mickey’s crew of brooms danced around the room. You can add custom subtitles, change the video and audio quality, easily browse Netflix’s classification categories to find interesting titles to watch, and more.
Another handy Chrome extension is Netflix Party which allows you to share movie night and watch with a friend in a different location. Although it might not be possible to share a feed with your friend in Ireland due to content restrictions, you’ll still enjoy catching up with an old friend like Benny and Jack in the classic Irish film. The concept is simple: one person launches the movie and essentially shares the feed with one or more other people so you can all watch it together. It also adds a chat window to the screen so you can share your thoughts and feelings about the flick while you watch it. Alternatives with similar functions are the services Rabbit and Showgoers, which also offer group viewing experiences with augmented chat capabilities.
Watching foreign films can make you feel like Gene Kelly did playing a veteran WWII soldier trying to make his way as a painter in the City of Love. Foreign films can be painful enough without the subtitles being hard to read. Sign into Netflix on the web and go to Subtitle Appearance to customize the color, backdrop, size, and font style for your subtitle text.
It’s possible that if one device on your account is overseas rolling around on a beach, you could get blocked by licensing restrictions which won’t allow a download to your account due to the location of one specific device. You can fix this by logging into Netflix.com and going to your Account page to manage your active download devices.
You don’t have to be James Bond to have a villain who follows you and ruins your future. Watching one bad movie can interfere with Netflix’s industry-leading algorithm that serves future recommendations. You have the license to selectively delete your history by signing into your Netflix account via the web and going to your viewing history.
Perhaps you aren’t your own villain, and instead your little brother or ex- is ruining your algorithmic suggestions by signing into your account. Fix this problem by kicking off any additional users. Sign onto the Netflix website. Go to My Account > Sign out of all devices. Then quickly change your password to something new.
You can’t kick your parents off of the family account, but you can create separate profiles so that their preferences and watch history won’t affect your recommendations and playback settings. This will keep future recommendations, playback, and watch lists separate.
One last way to clean up your recommendations from Netflix is to rate movies after you watch them. If you don’t rate movies with a thumbs up or down, Netflix will base recommendations off of everything you’ve watched, not just the movies you liked.
Netflix has built-in controls that allow you to adjust the playback quality on the web or your device app. You can specify a higher resolution, which can deliver a better picture while you’re on Wi-Fi, or set it on a lower-quality stream to minimize data usage when streaming to a handheld device.
On the web, go to Your Account for access to the settings. Alternatively, if you’re in the midst of playing a title, hold down Shift+Alt and click on the screen to open up a "hidden" menu with buffering fixes and other streaming options.
If you're streaming on Wii, Xbox 360, or PlayStation 3, use the directional pad and click the Konami-like code of up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, up, up, up, up to access the same menu.
On an Apple TV or another streaming device, go to Your Account > Playback Settings. Selecting Auto will load your content in slightly lower quality when the connection dips in strength, but it will continue playing.
Netflix has such a huge library of options; sometimes it’s hard to pick on your own. If you haven’t cleaned up your viewing history to tweak your algorithm, you might need guidance from one of the hundreds of Netflix recommendation sites. For those times, the free to use FlickSurfer can be helpful movie companion. It’s so easy to sort through films and genres and look for specific actors and directors that it will make you feel like an angel gets its wings every time you use it.
There are those days when you don’t even have a genre, and you just wish that someone else would pick a movie. If you’ve ever wished for a Lady Luck to help your chances at the tables, try out Flix Roulette for a fun way to narrow down a good weekend flick.
Netflix only licenses titles for limited engagements, so the library of available movies changes quickly. If it’s a critical addition to your library, check the expiration date on Netflix before you download it. If a movie or show you have downloaded is no longer available on Netflix, the download will expire, too. You won’t be able to play it even though it’s downloaded. One of the best websites available to see what’s new and what’s on the way out is New on Netflix, one of the most comprehensive listings sites out there.
Netflix uses category codes to group movies into buckets like drama (5763), gangster movies (31851), martial arts movies (8985), or screwball comedies (9702). You can access the categories directly on the web using Netflix.com/browse/genre/####.
Chrome extensions for Netflix Flix Plus for Chrome hides episode descriptions as you browse so you can avoid potential spoilers. It lets you launch episodes in a random order, pulls in ratings from IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, fades out parts of the Netflix library that you've already seen, and prioritizes expiring titles and shortlisted movies in the interface.
Grab a Chrome extension from the Google Play store called Netflix Enhancer to add IMDb links, ratings, and trailers to your browser. Or if you’re watching on an iOS or Android device, you can download the Upflix for Netflix app which helps you sort and filter titles to watch.
Successfully implementing Netflix hacks might cause you never to leave home again. Pick a few that make it more convenient to watch Netflix on your terms. You’ll be able to find the content you like more quickly and enjoy the movies in the time you have to watch. Popcorn, anyone?
Megan Southard is a writer, mom, technology enthusiast, and movie junkie. She dreads the day her kids have to explain gadgets to her and is old enough to say, "I was the remote for our TV growing up."
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