No technological skills needed. Just a computer and an undying love of boxsets...
Thought Netflix was just, well, Netflix? A simple way to watch series online for free (ish). A clever means of justifying your eighth evening in in a row. An efficient-but-not-all-that-groundbreaking technique for distracting yourself from your work, and not even feeling all that bad about it.
Turns out, there are tonnes of hacks to make Netflix even better than regular old Netflix. Think tiny tweaks that you can make to your settings, to make watching films in bed faster, clearer and funnier. Super quick downloads that you can pop on your laptop to boost your viewing experience, and makeover your movies.
And they’re not even that hard to do.
Netflix hack#1: Unblock it, and access other countries’ film lists
Download an unblocker, or a VPN, and you can trick your computer into believing that it’s actually in America, or Australia, or Antarctica. In fact, you can even convince your laptop that you’re in countries that don’t begin with the letter A. And while we’re not sure what films are available in Antarctica specifically, we’re sure they’re amazing. If you want to save some money, download Hola – a Google Chrome extension, but be aware that it’s been accused of a few security risks this summer. If you’d rather prioritise your privacy settings, add-ons like Media Hint come with a monthly cost, but you can try them for free for the first seven days, and see whether they’re worth it.
Netflix hack #2: Play roulette
Seriously, this is one of the most fun ways to spend an evening in on your own. Or in company, if your ‘Netflix and Chill’ plans (wink wink nudge nudge) has gone tits up and resulted in all Netflix, and absolutely zero, ahem, ‘chill’ time.
Simply download Flix Roulette and you’ll be introduced to the random series, shows and movies that lurk in the depths of the online library, but never quite made it to your homepage before. It’s basically the equivalent of walking into Blockbusters in 2003 and ignoring the ‘new releases’ aisle in favour of the alphabetised section at the back. You’ll never find yourself rewatching the same episode of The Office on repeat ever again.
Netflix hack #3: Keyboard shortcuts
You don’t need a preamble to set the scene for these.
F makes it full screen
Esc makes it not full screen
Spacebar pauses and plays
Shift + Right Arrow is fast forward
Shift + Left Arrow is rewind
Netflix hack #4: Watch with friends on the other side of the world
Nope, you don’t have to both load the same episode of Homeland, then sit with your index fingers poised over the play button while you both count down from five (only to find that she clicked on ‘five’, while you clicked on ‘go’). Instead, download Rabbit. Like Skype crossed with Gchat crossed with Netflix, this programme allows you to open up a window that can be viewed by multiple people in multiple locations, all at the same time. Open Netflix within that window, and there you go – group viewing, without moving a muscle. Perfect for long distance relationships. And hangovers when none of your flatmates can bear to get out of bed.
Netflix hack #5: Stop the spinning wheel of death for good
You’re halfway through episode one of season two of House of Cards. Kate Mara is talking to Kevin Spacey, and they’re waiting for a train. It’s all incredibly tense. And then, just as you feel like something big (really, really, really big) is about to happen, the screen freezes, and the buffering wheel appears. But before you throw your Macbook out of the bedroom window, there’s a simple hack that could speed up your streaming time. Just hold down Shift+Opt (Shift+Alt for Windows) and left click, to open up a “hidden” menu with loads of ways to fix your buffering and streaming speeds. If you are using Chrome, press Ctrl+Shift+Alt/Opt+S to access this menu.
Netflix hack #6: Watch TV at 3PM
Get practising your sick voice and call your boss. You’re so sorry, you splutter in between coughs. You’re just far, far too sick to sit at your desk today. You’re just going to have to stay at home in bed. With your laptop balanced precariously on a tower of pillows, obvs.
Yep, if you’ve ever noticed that your shows load faster when you’re off work, you’re not losing your mind: the fewer people there are in the world watching Netflix, the faster your programmes will buffer. Making that your sudden bout of flu totally justified.
Netflix hack #7: Weed out the rubbish
Download Netflix Enhancer – another of those Google Chrome add-ons – and when you hover over shows on Netflix, a box with the trailer (alongside its Rotten Tomatoes score) will pop up on your screen. Quick and easy if you want to know whether your mate’s ‘totally amazing and unlike anything you’ve ever seen before’ new favourite show is actually a dud.
Netflix hack #8: Find something specific
Sometimes you’re in the mood to watch something really specific, and thanks to some lovely people on the Internet, you can now see Netflix’s secret categories that allow them to recommend your films.
On your desktop computer, log in to your Netflix account and go to www.netflix.com/browse/genre. Enter the category code, at the end of the URL – eg. http://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/52117 for British TV shows – and see exactly what you’re looking for. The categories range from the super specific (‘Critically-acclaimed British Movies from the 1970s’ (code 1640) to the general (‘Classic Romantic Movies’ 31273).
ANnd now the best one… Netflix hack #9: Work and watch at the same time
Download Helium. Immediately. Seriously, if there’s one Netflix hack to revolutionise your series streaming, it’s this. A transparent browser that allows you to watch Mad Men while typing out a word doc, replying to your emails, or stalking your ex-boyfriend’s-new-girlfriend’s-best-mate on Facebook, there’s no clicking back and forth between screens, trying to guess who’s saying what to who when, or misspelling your own name because you’re so busy staring at Don Draper’s trouser bulge. Instead, you can just type and watch at the same time. It’s glorious.