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Solve YouTube’s Spacebar Problem with These Keyboard Shortcuts

Published on 01 March 16
Solve YouTube’s Spacebar Problem with These Keyboard Shortcuts - Image 1

Does this sound familiar? You start to watch a video on YouTube, and want to pause it. So you press the spacebar on your keyboard, but rather than pause the video, you randomly jump down the page instead.

If you’re like me, then you probably find this thoroughly aggravating. As it turns out, YouTube has its own keyboard shortcuts that solve this problem–albeit a little messily. But let’s start by talking about that annoying spacebar.

Why Does Pressing the Spacebar Jump Down the Page?

Solve YouTube’s Spacebar Problem with These Keyboard Shortcuts - Image 2

You’ve essentially been programmed to use the spacebar through a gradual and likely accidental form of Behavioral Engineering. Most, if not all, media players available today, including video streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, utilize the spacebar as the shortcut for playing and pausing media. It’s hard to tell where this started, but in my research, I found references to both RealPlayer and QuickTime as far back as 2001. During that time, other media players were using Ctrl+P as the method to control this function but eventually practically all media players adopted the spacebar convention.

Like other media players, YouTube also allows you to press the spacebar for play/pause, because that’s what everyone else does. There’s one catch, though: pressing spacebar only pauses when the player is focused or in Full Screen.

If the player isn’t in focus, it’ll use your browser’s default spacebar behavior: scrolling down the page. Why do browsers use the spacebar as a standard shortcut for page scrolling rather than just using the arrow keys? Your guess is as good as mine, but it’s a standard shortcut in nearly all browsers. YouTube is just respecting it.

Thankfully, you should never have to use spacebar to control YouTube: it has its own special keyboard shortcuts built-in.

YouTube’s Different Modes: Page Focused, Player Focused, and Full Screen

Here’s where things get messy: YouTube uses different shortcuts depending on how you’ve interacted with the page. YouTube essentially has three modes: Page Focused mode (1) is when you are watching a video on YouTube but you have not directly interacted with the video player. Player Focused mode (2) becomes enabled when you click one of the controls on the player. As you’d expect, Full Screen mode (3) is activated when you full screen the video.

Page Focused mode is the most limited mode for shortcuts, as to not interfere with normal browser controls. (That’s why spacebar jumps down the page instead of pausing the video). Full Screen mode and Player Focused mode can utilize YouTube’s full range of shortcuts.

Unfortunately, YouTube doesn’t make it easy to discover the various shortcuts, or even indicate which mode you’re in. But we have you covered.

Keyboard Shortcuts for Page Focused Mode

If you’re watching a video but haven’t interacted with the player itself yet, the following keyboard shortcuts are available to you:

Solve YouTube’s Spacebar Problem with These Keyboard Shortcuts - Image 3

Keyboard Shortcuts for Player Focused and Full Screen Modes

If you’ve interacted with the video player or full-screened your video, you’ll be able to utilize a larger set of shortcuts, including all of the Page Focused mode shortcuts:

K or SpacebarPlay & Pause (toggle)
JRewind 10 seconds
LJust forward 10 seconds
MMute audio
FFull Screen (toggle)
>Increase playback speed
<Decrease playback speed
Shift+NNext video in the playlist
Shift+PPrevious video in the playlist
Left Arrow keyRewind 5 seconds
Right Arrow keyJump forward 5 seconds
Up Arrow keyIncrease Volume (by 5%)
Down Arrow keyDecrease Volume (by 5%)
CClosed Captioning / Subtitles (toggle)
BChanges the visual elements of the Closed Captioning text.
(repeat to explore all the available options)
+ or =Increase the Closed Captioning font size
(only available in Blink-based and Webkit-based browsers)
– or _Decrease the Closed Captioning font size
(only available in Blink-based and Webkit-based browsers)
Escape or FExit full screen mode
Home or 0Jump to the beginning of the video
EndJump to the end of the video
1Jump to position, 10% of the video
2Jump to position, 20% of the video
3Jump to position, 30% of the video
4Jump to position, 40% of the video
5Jump to position, 50% of the video
6Jump to position, 60% of the video
7Jump to position, 70% of the video
8Jump to position, 80% of the video
9Jump to position, 90% of the video

These keyboard shortcuts should give you some relief to the frustrations of video playback on YouTube and in some ways might make YouTube viewing more enjoyable.

This blog is listed under Digital Media & Games and Hardware Community

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  1. 02 March 16

    Great post. Generally most of the users are aware of only spacebar, up arrow and down arrow.

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