Ubuntu - Download TV replay and Videos from Firefox with YouTube-DL GUI



Since TV replay sites have started coming out like mushrooms after a spring rain, it has always been a big challenge to be able to download their videos for offline viewing. The two major problems are that all the site are not using the same streaming protocol and that they change their site quite often. We also face this problem for YouTube video, as YouTube is slightly changing its site and protocol on regular basis.

Hopefully, youtube-dl project is there to help us. This project is very active and it can handle video stream downloading from most of the major video or TV replay sites. The project site provides an exhaustive list of supported sites (for example YouTube, DailyMotion and french Arte+7 & Pluzz are well supported).

The major drawback of this fantastic tool is also its strength : it is a command line tool. So it isn't very user friendly, as every time yo need to download a video, you have to open a terminal, cut & paste your browser URL, type the command line, wait for the download to finish and close the terminal.

It would be so confortable to be able to do a simple right click from any video or TV replay page, to select the video format you want to download and to follow the YouTube-DL download process in a progress dialog box.

This is exactly what this article helps you to achieve. It provides instructions to install all needed packages, to create a YouTube-DL GUI and to integrate it within Firefox. You'll then have the power and flexibility of youtube-dl fully integrated in Firefox browser.

1. Install packages

The download GUI is using :

  • youtube-dl to download the video stream
  • zenity to display download progress
  • mkvmerge to generate MKV file

youtube-dl is available in official Ubuntu repositories but this version will mostly be outdated.
Latest version is available from the main Web Upd8 PPA, which is actively maintained. So you just neeed to declare this PPA.

zenity is provided by zenity package and mkvmerge is provided by mkvtoolnix package.

Here are the commands to declare the PPA and install all needed packages :

# sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nilarimogard/webupd8
# sudo apt-get update
# sudo apt-get install youtube-dl
# sudo apt-get install zenity mkvtoolnix

2. Video Stream Download GUI

The following script provides a Graphical User Interface to download video streams with youtube-dl.

It handles few actions :

  1. Collect video URL from input parameter
  2. Retrieve the stream title and all video formats available in the stream
  3. Let you select the video format to download


  4. During the stream download, a progress dialog is displayed.
    If youtube-dl provides a download percentage it is used to display the progress.
    Otherwise progress is displayed in a pulsate mode.

    If available, a thumbnail will be downloaded.

  5. Muxing of the video stream in a MKV container file

#!/usr/bin/env bash
# ---------------------------------------------------
#  youtube-dl GUI generating MKV file
#  Parameter :
#    * video stream page URL 
#  Depends on :
#    * zenity
#    * youtube-dl
#    * mkvtoolnix
#  Revision history :
#    20/02/2014, V1.0 - Creation by N. Bernaerts
#    10/03/2014, V1.1 - Progress with % and pulsate
#    22/03/2014, V1.2 - Add multi-stream download
#    01/04/2014, V1.3 - Handle empty attachments
#    05/03/2017, V1.4 - Code cleanup
# ---------------------------------------------------

# check youtube-dl and mkvmerge
command -v zenity >/dev/null 2>&1 || { echo "Please install zenity"; exit 1; }
command -v youtube-dl >/dev/null 2>&1 || { zenity --error --text="Please install youtube-dl"; exit 1; }
command -v mkvmerge >/dev/null 2>&1 || { zenity --error --text="Please install mkvmerge [mkvtoolnix package]"; exit 1; }

# check mkvmerge minimal version (v9.1.0)
MKV_VERSION=$(mkvmerge -V | cut -d' ' -f2 | tr -dc [0-9])
[ ${MKV_VERSION} -lt 910 ] && { zenity --error --text="mkvmerge should be v9.1.0 or higher"; exit 1; }

# config file

# get default download directory
TARGET_DIR=$(grep "^directory=" "${FILE_CONF}" | cut -d'=' -f2-)

# if no target directory, default to home
[ "${TARGET_DIR}" = "" ] && TARGET_DIR="${HOME}"

# set separator as line feed

#  exit if script called without URL parameter
[ -z "$1" ] && STREAM_ERROR="Error : No URL passed"

# init variables and get stream main data
if [ -z "${STREAM_ERROR}" ]
  # create temporary directory & set log file
  TMP_DIR=$(mktemp -d)

  # first parameter is stream URL
  echo "## Video URL: ${STREAM_URL}" > "${STREAM_LOG}"

  # get video title
  STREAM_TITLE=$(youtube-dl --get-title "${STREAM_URL}")
  [ "${STREAM_TITLE}" = "" ] && STREAM_TITLE="No title"
  echo "## Video Title: ${STREAM_TITLE}" >> "${STREAM_LOG}"

  # get available resolutions
  echo "## Getting video streams list" >> "${STREAM_LOG}"
  youtube-dl --list-formats "${STREAM_URL}" >> "${STREAM_LOG}"
  } | zenity --progress --pulsate --auto-close --width=700 --title "${STREAM_URL}" --text "Collecting stream title and available resolutions"

# if no error, look for available streams 
if [ -z "${STREAM_ERROR}" ]
  # getting stream title previously logged
  STREAM_TITLE=$(grep "Video Title:" "${STREAM_LOG}" | sed 's/^.*: \(.*\)$/\1/')

  # extract stream table from the log file (all lines after the one starting with 'format ...
  STREAM_TABLE=$(sed -r -n -e '/^format/,${p}' "${STREAM_LOG}" | tail -n +2)

  # streams array generation : extract streams list from log, revert line order (best res. first) & extract one data per line
  STREAM_CHOICE=$(echo "${STREAM_TABLE}" | sed '1!G;h;$!d' | sed 's/^\([^ ]*\)[ ]*\([^ ]*\)[ ]*\([^ ]*\)[ ]*\(.*\)$/FALSE\n\1\n\3\n\2\n\4/')

  # if no stream detected by youtube-dl, error 
  [ "${STREAM_CHOICE}" == "" ] && STREAM_ERROR="No stream detected.\nThis site may not be compatible with youtube-dl." 

# if no error, select stream(s) to download
if [ -z "${STREAM_ERROR}" ]
  # display stream selection dialog
  echo "## Selecting stream to download" >> "${STREAM_LOG}"
  TEXT="Please select stream to download.\nYou can select video only + audio only streams."
  STREAM_ID=$(zenity --list --checklist --title "${STREAM_TITLE}" --text "${TEXT}" --height=400 --width=700 --separator='+' --hide-column=2 --print-column=2 --column="Select" --column="Code" --column="Resolution" --column="Format" --column="Detail" ${STREAM_CHOICE})

  # handle zenity double answer bug #1267788 (in case)
  STREAM_ID="$(echo ${STREAM_ID} | sed 's/ /+/g' | cut -d'|' -f1)"
  echo "## Stream(s) selected : ${STREAM_ID}" >> "${STREAM_LOG}"

  # if no stream selected, error
  [ "${STREAM_ID}" = "" ] && STREAM_ERROR="Error : No stream selected"

# if no error, start stream(s) download
if [ -z "${STREAM_ERROR}" ]
  # launch download command
  echo "## Stream(s) download - Beginning" >> "${STREAM_LOG}"
  youtube-dl --prefer-avconv -f "${STREAM_ID}" --write-thumbnail --write-description --all-subs --restrict-filenames --output "${TMP_DIR}/%(title)s-%(width)sx%(height)s.%(ext)s" "${STREAM_URL}" >> "${STREAM_LOG}" 2>&1 &

  # get command PID
  STREAM_PID=$(ps -ef | grep "youtube-dl" | grep "${STREAM_URL}" | sed 's/^'${USER}'[ ]*\([0-9]*\).*$/\1/g')
  echo "## Download process PID: ${STREAM_PID}" >> "${STREAM_LOG}"

  # loop thru download progress (0 - 90%)
  while [ "${STREAM_RUN}" = "${STREAM_PID}" ]
    # display download percentage, wait for 1 second and check if process is still running
    echo "#Downloading stream ${STREAM_ID} ${CURRENT_PROGRESS}"
    echo "${STREAM_PERCENT}"
    sleep 1
    STREAM_RUN=$(ps aux | awk '{print $2 }' | grep "${STREAM_PID}")

    # get current download percentage
    CURRENT_PROGRESS=$(grep "\[download\]" "${STREAM_LOG}" | grep "%" | sed 's/^.* \([0-9.]*\)%.*$/\1/')
    CURRENT_PERCENT=$(echo "${CURRENT_PROGRESS}" | sed 's/\([0-9]*\)\..*/\1/')

    # if no percentage displayed in youtube-dl log, simulate pulsate by adding 2%, else convert % from 0-100 to 0-96

    # if pulse is up to 96%, back to 2%
    [ ${STREAM_PERCENT} -gt 96 ] && STREAM_PERCENT="2"
  # end of stream download, check if error is looged
  echo "## Stream(s) download - End" >> "${STREAM_LOG}"
  [ "${LOG_ERROR}" != "" ] && STREAM_ERROR="${LOG_ERROR}"
  # if no error, mux downloaded files to final MKV
  if [ -z "${STREAM_ERROR}" ]
    # get parameters for final mkv muxing (96%)
    echo "96"
    echo "#Determining muxing parameters ..."
    echo "## Final video - Determining muxing parameters" >> "${STREAM_LOG}"

    # get description, thumbnail & subtitle filenames
    STREAM_DESCR=$(grep "Writing video description to:" "${STREAM_LOG}" | sed 's/^.*: \(.*\)$/\1/')
    echo "## Video description : ${STREAM_DESCR}" >> "${STREAM_LOG}"
    STREAM_THUMB=$(grep "Writing thumbnail to:" "${STREAM_LOG}" | sed 's/^.*: \(.*\)$/\1/')
    echo "## Video thumbnail : ${STREAM_THUMB}" >> "${STREAM_LOG}"
    STREAM_SUBS=$(grep "Writing video subtitles to:" "${STREAM_LOG}" | sed 's/^.*: \(.*\)$/\1/')
    echo "## Video subtitle : ${STREAM_SUBS}" >> "${STREAM_LOG}"

    # try to get stream filename from ffmpeg streams merging result
    STREAM_FILE=$(grep "Merging formats into" "${STREAM_LOG}" | sed 's/^.*into .\(.*\).$/\1/')

    # else, get filename from direct stream download
    [ "${STREAM_FILE}" == "" ] && STREAM_FILE=$(grep "Destination:" "${STREAM_LOG}" | sed 's/^.*: \(.*\)$/\1/')
    echo "## Video filename : ${STREAM_FILE}" >> "${STREAM_LOG}"

    # generate final MKV filename
    STREAM_MKV=$(echo ${STREAM_FILE%.*})".mkv"
    # MKV muxing parameters : filename & title
    MUX_ARR=("--output" "${STREAM_MKV}" "--title" "${STREAM_TITLE}")

    # MKV muxing parameters : thumbnail (if file exists and not empty)
    [ -s "${STREAM_THUMB}" ] && MUX_ARR=("${MUX_ARR[@]}" "--attachment-mime-type" "image/jpeg" "--attachment-name" "cover.jpg" "--attach-file" "${STREAM_THUMB}")

    # MKV muxing parameters : description (if file exists and not empty)
    [ -s "${STREAM_DESCR}" ] && MUX_ARR=("${MUX_ARR[@]}" "--attachment-mime-type" "text/plain" "--attachment-name" "comment.txt" "--attach-file" "${STREAM_DESCR}")

    # MKV muxing parameters : downloaded stream
    MUX_ARR=("${MUX_ARR[@]}" "${STREAM_FILE}")

    # MKV muxing parameters : subtitles (if file exists and not empty)
    [ -s "${STREAM_SUBS}" ] && MUX_ARR=("${MUX_ARR[@]}" "${STREAM_SUBS}")

    # muxing final MKV file (98%)
    echo "98"
    echo "#Muxing final MKV file ..."
    echo "## Final video : ${STREAM_MKV}" >> "${STREAM_LOG}"
    mkvmerge "${MUX_ARR[@]}" >> "${STREAM_LOG}"
    # move resulting file to target directory
    [ -s "${STREAM_MKV}" ] && mv "${STREAM_MKV}" "${TARGET_DIR}" || mv "${STREAM_FILE}" "${TARGET_DIR}"
  } | zenity --width=700 --progress --auto-close --title "${STREAM_TITLE}" 

# if download has been canceled, kill main process and all its children
if [ -n "${STREAM_PID}" ]
  # get PID of running process
  STREAM_RUN=$(ps aux | awk '{print $2 }' | grep "${STREAM_PID}")

  # if process still running, kill it
  if [ "${STREAM_RUN}" == "${STREAM_PID}" ]
    pkill --parent ${STREAM_PID}
    pkill ${STREAM_PID}
    STREAM_ERROR="ERROR : Download has been canceled"

# if no error, check if there is an error in final log
[ -z "${STREAM_ERROR}" ] && STREAM_ERROR=$(grep "ERROR" "${STREAM_LOG}")

# if no error, clean-up of all temporary files, else error message
[ "${STREAM_ERROR}" != "" ] && zenity --error --no-wrap --title "Download error" --text "${STREAM_ERROR}\n(temporary files in ${TMP_DIR} till you close this dialog)"

# remove temporary files
rm -R "${TMP_DIR}"

To install this main download script, you just need to retrieve latest version from my Github repository :

# sudo wget -O /usr/local/bin/youtubedl-gui
# sudo chmod +rx /usr/local/bin/youtubedl-gui

3. Firefox Integration

Last step is to integrate previous GUI script within Firefox.

This can be done thru a very simple plugin called AppLauncher.

This plugin allows you to launch any command thru a right click menu.

You can pass your current page URL thru the &url; parameter ... this is all we need.

So here are the last steps :

  1. install AppLauncher plugin
  2. restart Firefox
  3. configure the plugin declaring our previous script as external application

Application parameters should be :

  • Name : Download Video
  • Path : /usr/local/bin/youtubedl-gui
  • Arguments : &url;


4. Download your video streams

Everything is now ready to download your video or TV replay streams straight from Firefox.

You just need to :

  1. Go to the video stream page
  2. Select right click menu AppLauncher / Download video
  3. Wait for few seconds
  4. Select the stream format you want
  5. Wait for the download to finish


Your video will then be available in the download directory as a MKV file. It will be named with the site stream title.

If available, it will include the video thumbnail provided by the site.


Hope it helps.

Signature Technoblog

This article is published "as is", without any warranty that it will work for your specific need.
If you think this article needs some complement, or simply if you think it saved you lots of time & trouble,
just let me know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Cheers !

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