Programs that grab videos from Web sites like YouTube aren't a dime a dozen--they're a dime for 200 dozen. Most of them aren't that good, either, which makes Ashampoo's freeware ClipFinder such a breath of fresh air in the video-grabbing game.
ClipFinder sports an atypical interface that's nevertheless simple to navigate. It appears as a long panel, and within it are a series of long filmstrips. Each strip represents a video Web site. You can choose in the options which of the 14 video portals should appear on the main page. Unfortunately, you can't add new portals, but the ones available include all the major video sites: Google, YouTube, Yahoo, iFilm, Veoh, DailyMotion, and others.
When you start up, the strips will be empty except for the logo of the Web site that they're connected to. You can search video portals individually at the top of each strip, or globally with the search above the main navigation bar. When you search, videos will appear as frames in the strip. Horizontal navigation scrolls through videos, but if you only want to look at YouTube, for example, there's a maximizing button that clears the non-YouTube strips and shows you the field of YouTube videos that match your search.
Each frame on a strip in the main panel represents a video you can download. The title of the video appears at the bottom, with the search result number and length of video superimposed over the top of the clip. Mousing over a frame will load the video and sound, in miniature, while double-clicking will load it in a child window.
The child window has standard close, maximize, and minimize buttons at the top--there's no easy way to watch the video in full-screen mode. There are basic volume, forward, and back buttons at the bottom of the window, and the standard setting in Options is to loop the video. Below the controls in the child window are three ClipFinder buttons: Download, Add, and Copy URL. On every video site we tested, all three worked flawlessly. The Download button opens a download manager window, lets users rename the video before saving, and shows the percentage downloaded.
CopyURL copies the video URL to your clipboard with one click, while Add adds the video to your My Videos panel. Users can create various categories to keep their favorites organized, and add Flash videos already saved on their hard drives to My Videos so they can manage them all from the same place.
ClipFinder notably lacks an uploading feature and also has ads for other Ashampoo products. Fortunately, the advertising is unobtrusive and can easily be ignored. Also, to get access to the full range of ClipFinder's features, you must go through the publisher's free registration process. It's an annoying way to keep track of customers, but there is an option to get out of the junk mail that you would otherwise receive.
ClipFinder does so much right, and in such an effortless package to use, that it should be near the top of everybody's video-grabbing programs. If you've got a favorite Flash video downloader, tell us about it in the comments below.