Hack Netflix with these add-ons and tricks

Supercharge your streaming.

a dark photo of a TV with the Netflix logo on it, with some red lighting in the background
Netflix can do more than you know.Thibault Penin via Unsplash

Part of Netflix's appeal is that it just works. Whether you're on a phone, a tablet, or a smart TV, you can fire up the streaming service and pick up where you left off. Dig a little deeper under Netflix's simple interface, though, and you'll find a number of ways to customize your viewing experience, as well as a selection of handy add-ons.

Stop previews from playing automatically

One of viewers’ longest-running criticisms has been the trailers that automatically play when you open the app or hover over a movie or show. No longer: Netflix recently announced users can control whether or not they see these teasers. To turn previews off, sign into Netflix in a web browser, select Manage Profiles from either the “Who’s watching?” screen or the drop-down menu under your avatar (top right). Then, simply uncheck the box next to Autoplay previews while browsing on all devices.

Dive into Netflix's hidden categories

a screenshot of Netflix showing Blade Runner
Netflix category codes can point you to something specific, like dramas. Or something really specific, like "romantic Indian dramas" (that's 4729, in case you were wondering).David Nield

For reasons unknown, the Netflix library is organized into more categories than you’ll ever see on the front screen. Sure, you’ll find expected groupings, like plain old “drama,” which lives at netflix.com/browse/genre/5763. But if you replace that “5763,” you’ll uncover a world of hidden, oddly specific categories.

If you want to roll the dice, you can pick a random number and see what category comes up. But given the sheer volume of options, it’s best to use an unofficial guide to see what’s available: everything from deep sea horror movies (45028) to flicks for kids aged 8-10 (561). When you’re having a hard time finding something to watch, let the category guide, well, guide you.

Download episodes for offline viewing

The Netflix apps for Android and iOS let you download certain shows for offline viewing, in case you’re planning a long flight or a vacation far from a Wi-Fi signal. If something can be saved to your phone or tablet—ready to watch when you don’t have a strong internet connection—it will have a small arrow icon next to it.

Netflix lets you download all of its original content, but whether or not you can store your favorite movies and shows for offline viewing depends on the deal Netflix struck with their creators. Still, there’s a lot available. So next time you have a long trip ahead, remember to snag some videos for your flight, bus, or train ride while you’re packing.

Change the playback quality

a screenshot of Netflix's playback quality selection screen
Want to save those gigas? You can tweak Netflix's playback quality to forgo the data-sucking HD.David Nield

You won’t find many settings inside the Netflix apps and web player, but one of the most important ones controls playback quality. It’s accessible from the web or your mobile device. In a browser, move the mouse over your avatar (top right), then pick Account from the drop-down menu.

Click on Playback settings and make a choice. If you're a resolution junkie, you can tell Netflix to play the best-available quality every time, no matter how shaky your Wi-Fi connection. If you prefer a shorter loading time, or you're watching on a phone and want to keep your data usage to a minimum, you can force a lower-quality stream. In the Netflix mobile apps, you'll need to tap More, Account and Playback settings.

Create multiple user accounts

Netflix lets a single account access videos from several devices. That means you can start a video on your phone and seamlessly switch to watching it on a computer screen, or vice versa. People often use it to let various friends and family members share a single account, but if you use the service to watch dramas, your significant other streams comedies, and your kids are busy loading cartoons all day, your personal recommendations will become a nebulous mess.

To keep things like recommendations, playback positions, and watchlists separate, you can create individual user profiles within the same account. To do this on the web, go to Manage Profiles from the drop-down menu under your Netflix avatar in the top right corner of screen.

Watch along with friends with Netflix Party

a screenshot of people watching Stranger Things together online with Netflix Party
With Netflix Party, you can have a slumber party with your friends from abroad without worrying about somebody putting toothpaste in your hand.Netflix Party

One handy Netflix plug-in for your browser is Netflix Party for Google Chrome. Fire it up, and it’ll make two important tweaks to the standard Netflix experience: It synchronizes playback and adds a chat window to the side of the screen.

These tweaks will let you enjoy Netflix with a special someone or a group of friends, even if you’re not in the same physical location. It’s movie night, but over the internet—not as good as actually being together, of course, but better than nothing.

Get through your binge-watching more quickly

So much to watch, so little time. If you find your shows-to-catch-up-on list growing longer by the day, you can speed things up with the help of a browser extension that tweaks video speed, such as Video Speed Controller for Chrome.

Video Speed Controller works with any HTML5 site, including Netflix. You can control playback speed with your keyboard (by default, the S and D keys, though you can change them), and get through all those episodes of Minhunter just a little bit faster.

Browse Netflix more easily

a screenshot of the JustWatch interface for Netflix
JustWatch lets you scan all of Netflix.David Nield

The Netflix interface is designed for simplicity, and doesn't always give you the best options for digging deep into what it has to offer. Plus, it tends to prioritize its own in-house content over anything else that happens to be available for streaming, especially when it comes to TV shows.

Enter JustWatch, one of the most comprehensive listings sites out there. Not only does it tell you what’s new on Netflix (as well as other streaming services like Amazon Prime Video), it also lets you see what’s popular with other viewers. Plus, it’s location-specific as well.

Get a heads-up on upcoming content

Netflix recently rolled out a Coming Soon tab to its TV and Android apps (it's coming soon to iOS). If you switch to it, you'll see what will shortly be arriving on the service in your region. It's a handy way of making sure you don't miss shows and movies you want to watch, and lets you start watching as soon as they drop.

Netflix can actively remind you when something has arrived on the platform, too—just choose the Remind Me option next to a title on the Coming Soon page, and you'll get a notification when the content is available to watch.

Master Netflix with My List

a screenshot of the Netflix app showing its My List feature
In the distracted boyfriend meme, My List is the horrified girlfriend looking at you as you fall, yet again, for another new show.David Nield

Choose My List from the front of the Netflix app or web interface and you’ll see a list of shows and films that you’ve bookmarked—it’s really useful for keeping track of what you want to watch. To add something to this list, tap or click the My List button next to it while browsing.

The list is smarter than you might think, too. It’ll reorder items based on what's leaving Netflix soon, and which shows just got new episodes. You can have up to 500 titles at once on your Netflix list.

Improve your Netflix recommendations

With so much content to watch, and so many other demands on your time, rating the TV programs and movies you’ve seen on Netflix might not be high on your list of priorities. However, it can make a big difference in the quality of the recommendations Netflix serves up in the future.

If Netflix knows what you like (and don’t like), it’s got a better chance of guessing what you might want to watch next. Help the algorithm by clicking or tapping the thumbs-up and thumbs-down icons next to any bit of content to give it your seal of approval—or not. To see and rate what you’ve previously watched, go to the My Activity page on the web.