Hack Netflix with these add-ons and tricks

Supercharge your streaming.

tv with netflix logo in the dark
Netflix can do more than you know.Thibault Penin/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.

Download episodes for offline viewing

download page in netflix app screenshot
Keep titles ready for those times when you don't have Wi-Fi.David Nield

The Netflix apps for Android and iOS now let you download certain shows for offline viewing, should you be 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.

Dive into Netflix's hidden categories

netflix screenshot showing blade runner
Netflix category codes can point you to something specific, like dramas. Or something really specific, like "British Dramas based on a book from the 1980's" (that's 702, for you).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 it is for. 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 stuck for something to watch, let the category guide, well, guide you.

Change the playback quality

netflix playback screenshot
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 on the front screen), 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.

Make use of multiple user accounts

screenshot of multiple profiles on netflix
Don't let your roommate's terrible taste in movies mess with your recommendations. Get them a different user profile.David Nield

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. We most 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 in the top right corner of the Netflix front screen.

Block trailers and more with Netflix Extended

screenshot of extended add on for google chrome
Extended lets you skip intros automatically. If you are into that kind of blasphemy, that is.David Nield

There's no shortage of browser extensions for Netflix, but Netflix Extended for Google Chrome is one of the best. One of the extras it brings to Netflix on the web is stopping trailers from auto-playing as you browse, so you're not met with a constant barrage of video and audio as you choose what to watch next.

There's plenty more to Netflix Extended, as well. It lets you skip intros and recaps, for example, disables the “play next episode” feature if you want to put the brakes on your binge-watching, and can pause the video you're watching if you switch to a different browser tab.

Get through your binge-watching more quickly

screenshot of video controller for google chrome
Use Video Speed Controller to get through shows more quickly. Maybe you'll even be able to get through all 5 seasons of Breaking Bad before someone spoils the movie for you.Video Speed Controller

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 up your binge-watching 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.

Watch along with friends with Netflix Party

screenshot of netflix party add-on
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

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

These tweaks 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.

Browse Netflix more easily

screenshot of justwatch.com
JustWatch lets you scan all of Netflix's very specific genre library.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

screenshot of netflix showing reminders
You can get reminders about upcoming shows. Now, if you manage to watch them before they get out of Netflix, that's a whole other thing.David Nield

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

screenshot of netflix app showing my list
In the distracted boyfriend meme, My List is the horrified girlfriend looking at you falling 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

screenshot of netflix activity page
Help the recommendation algorithm by going through your Netflix activity and rating what you've seen.David Nield

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 up 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.