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Netflix Nuggets: Use These 7 Tips to Be a Better Streamer

After a long day of making decisions at work, it can feel overwhelming some evenings when you sit down to watch a show or movie before heading to bed. Even when you settle on Netflix for your streaming service for the night, it can be a struggle to find something to watch given Netflix’s giant library. Here are some tips on getting the most out of the service, from finding a show to watch tonight to downloading a movie to take with you tomorrow.

Read moreNetflix: The Absolute Best Movies to Watch

Get help with finding something to watch

My least favorite part of settling into an evening of Netflix is choosing what to watch. I quickly get lost in Netflix’s endless grid of thumbnails and become paralyzed by choice. Sure, there’s the Surprise Me option to have Netflix pick something for you, but I’m too picky to cede total control to the algorithm. There are many sites that attempt to make sense of Netflix’s vast catalog of shows and movies, but two of my favorites are Flixable and JustWatch. Each site shows you what’s new and popular on Netflix with helpful filters that let you drill down to find something to watch. You can also try CNET’s Netpicks to find what to watch.

Unlock hidden genre categories

Netflix displays a handful of genres — comedies and dramas to reality and romance — but there are hundreds more hiding below the surface. You can search manually by looking up the code for each subgenre or use a Chrome extension to access them. Here’s how to access Netflix’s hidden genre categories.

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Delete embarrassing binges

Your embarrassing binges need not stick around. You can delete your moments of weakness and nostalgia from your watch history to remove any chance of future shame. And in doing so, you’ll improve recommendations from Netflix, since it won’t use your recent Too Hot to Handle binge as a guide for future suggestions. On a laptop, head to your Account page, expand the options for your profile under the Profile & Parental Controls section and then click the small View link to the right of Viewing activity. For anything you’d like to hide from your history, just click the circle with a slash through it on the right.

Keyboard shortcuts for laptop viewers

If your laptop is your go-to Netflix screen, here are some useful keyboard shortcuts you need to know:

  • Spacebar or enter: Toggle pause and play.
  • Tap the right or left arrow key: Skip ahead or back 10 seconds.
  • Hold down right or left arrow key: Fast forward and rewind in 10 second intervals. 
  • Up and down arrow key: Raise and lower volume.
  • M key: Mute and unmute.
  • F key: Toggle full screen on and off.
  • S key: Skip the intro of television shows.

Stop next episode from autoplaying

Once you start, it can be hard to stop. If you find your Netflix binging habits are spiraling out of control because Netflix starts up the next episode of a show immediately following the end of your current episode, you can stop it. Go to your Account page, click the account you want to change the settings for and then click Playback settings to open a new page. At the top of the new page, uncheck the box next to Autoplay next episode in a series on all devices and click Save. You can turn off autoplay for each profile, which means you can continue your binging ways but turn it off for your kids’ account.

Stop previews from autoplaying

Tired of opening Netflix and being met with a preview for a movie or show you have no interest in watching? On the same Account page as the above tip, click the account you want to change the settings for and then click Playback settings and then uncheck the box next to Autoplay previews while browsing on all devices and click Save. Not only will previews stop when you first open Netflix, but now moving your mouse over a show won’t cause a preview to play either.

Read moreThe Absolute Best Sci-Fi TV Shows on Netflix

Download shows to go

Netflix lets you download shows so you can watch them on the go. I urge you to download Netflix shows as part of your packing routine for any family car trip that’ll take longer than three hours. You can download Netflix shows and movies on any device that supports the Netflix app — iPads and iPhones, Android phones and tablets, Fire tablets, Windows devices and Chromebooks. The biggest omission is Macs, since there’s no Netflix app for MacOS.

To download a show or movie, just click or tap the Download button next to a listing. Keep in mind that not every show or movie on Netflix is available for download. All of your downloaded shows and movies are conveniently listed on the Download tab in the app.

And to prevent your kid from running up data charges in the backseat of the family wagon while you’re cruising down the highway, you can block them from downloading content while on cellular service. In the app, go to App Settings your Account page and make sure Wi-Fi only is toggled on. While you’re here, you might also want to make sure that Smart Downloads is enabled. It downloads the next episode of a show you’re watching and deletes the previously downloaded episodes after you watch them.

One last thing: There is a limit to the number of devices on which you can store downloads. One device for the Basic plan; two for Standard; four for Premium. You can mange your devices by going to your Account page and clicking Manage download devices. Here, you can remove a device (wiping all of its downloads) so that you can download content on another device.

Want recommendations about what to watch? Check out our picks for the best moviestelevision shows or documentaries to watch on Netflix.

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