One of my favorite parts of Windows Vista Ultimate edition is Dreamscene – the ability to use a video from your PC as your Windows wallpaper. The drawback is that it only supports .wmv and .mpg formats. This makes it difficult to use videos from the internet, as most of these are in .flv format.
To the rescue comes the Video Download Helper add-on for Firefox.
Download helper allows you to capture streaming video from the internet and either save it as is or convert it to another format.
To install Downloadhelper, open your Firefox browser, then, from the menu bar, go to tools>add-ons. This will open a window showing the recommended add-ons. (If it defaults to extensions, themes or plug-ins, simply click the add-on tab at the top of the window.) Click on the line that says “Browse All Add-ons“. When the new tab opens in your browser, enter downloadhelper in the search box. Your first result should be Video Downloadhelper. Click “add to Firefox” and follow the instructions to install the add-on.
Once it’s installed, the Video Downloadhelper icon will appear in your Firefox toolbar.
The black and white icon indicates that there is no video available for download on the page; the color icon means that there is.
If you left-click on the icon, it will open a menu that shows the Downloadhelper media sites (including an option to show or hide adult sites), and an option to enter a registration code, which I’ll talk more about later.
If you left-click on the arrow next to the icon when there is a video available, it will give you a list of the videos available on that page for download.
If you mouse over any of these videos, you will get a list of options for that video, including download and convert and tweet this video. The formats available for saving are .wmv, .mpg, iPod, iPhone, Mobile 3gp (for cell phones), Zune, Quicktime, .avi and mpeg 2, 3 and 4.
Right-clicking on either the icon or the arrow gives you the full Downloadhelper menu, including an option to covert videos already stored on your hard drive.
Any video downloaded and/or converted using the free version of Downloadhelper will include a small, unobtrusive Downloadhelper logo in the upper left corner of the screen. The higher the video resolution, the smaller the logo will be. The way to fix this, if it really annoys you, is to register your copy of Downloadhelper. This can be done by left-clicking on the icon, clicking on the converter registration tab, then “get registration code”. Registration costs $28.50 USD, which eliminates the logo, allows you to convert videos directly to .mp3 format and allows you access to support.
Frankly, though, I’ve been using Downloadhelper for several years, and have never found it necessary to register the product.