Force YouTube videos to play full-screen in Safari on iPad

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full screen youtube iPad safari
Is it time you took a break from YouTube?
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

If you’re watching YouTube on your iPhone or Mac, then you can just tap a button to watch the video in proper full-screen, just you and a skateboarding dog, with nothing to distract you. But on the iPad, the same “full-screen” button just maximizes the video into the browser tab, with all the Safari chrome still surrounding it. And because it doesn’t use the native iOS video view, you can’t watch the video in Picture in Picture mode.

Happily, we can fix that. Today we’ll see how to make YouTube play its video in full screen on your iPad, with one tap, using a bookmarklet.

How to force full-screen video in YouTube on iPad

Ugh. This is YouTube's supposed 'Full Screen' view.
Ugh. This is YouTube’s supposed ‘Full Screen’ view.
Photo: Cult of Mac

First we have to give up on the idea of YouTube actually letting use do this simple thing. There’s no trick in the YouTube settings that will enable full-screen. If you try to get around the mobile limitations by asking Safari to load the desktop version of the site, you’re out of luck. As soon as you hit the full-screen button, you get a message telling you that the browser isn’t supported.

But there are a few ways to get full screen YouTube video on the iPad.

Use this bookmarklet to view YouTube in full-screen on iPad

Ahhh, that's better.
Ahhh, that’s better.
Photo: Cult of Mac

If you find yourself on the youtube site, then the best way to view a video in full screen is to use my bookmarklet. This will force the video to display in Mobile Safari’s native full-screen mode, with full support for the skip forward and skip back buttons, Picture-in-Picture, and keyboard shortcuts to control playback. Here’s the Javascript, which you can paste into a bookmarklet using these instructions.

javascript:document.querySelector("video").webkitEnterFullScreen ();

Or, if you’re reading on your Mac, you can just drag the bookmarklet to Safari’s bookmark bar, and it will sync to your iPad and iPhone via iCloud. I can’t put the link here in the blog post, thanks to WordPress limitations, but I copied it over to the Bookmarkify bookmark-sharing site: Full Screen Video bookmarklet.

Now, whenever you’re watching a video on YouTube, just tap this bookmarklet, and you’ll instantly switch to proper, native full-screen view.

Use this bookmarklet to view YouTube Picture-in-Picture on iPad

What about Picture in Picture? This lets you float a video window over the rest of your apps on the iPad. You can access PiP from the full-screen video view, but you can also use the following code. As above, either roll your own, or drag to the bookmarks bar in Safari for Macby following this  PiP link at Bookmarkify

javascript:document.querySelector("video").webkitSetPresentationMode("picture-in-picture");

Works on Mac, and other sites, too

Bonus: Both these bookmarklets also work on your Mac, so you can quickly switch to a PiP view, for example. They should also work on any video site, not just YouTube. Also, you may find that once you have used this bookmarklet in a Mobile Safari tab, its effect is persistent. That is, any other YouTube video you browse to in the same tab will also expand to full screen just by pinching out.

Alternatives

Here are a couple of other ways to get full-screen video on your iPad.

Get an app

This is likely the option Google wants you to take. If you download the YouTube app, you will be able to watch video full-screen. There are plenty of YouTube apps around, but I don’t find any of them any less badly-designed than the YouTube site, so I don’t use one.

Use DuckDuckGo

Duck Duck Go plays YouTube videos full-screen.
Duck Duck Go plays YouTube videos full-screen.
Photo: Cult of Mac

DuckDuckGo is a great alternative search engine. Unlike Google, it doesn’t track you, it keeps your search history private, it lets you do proper image searches, and it lets you watch YouTube videos full-screen, direct from he search results page. Say you wanted to watch one of Cult of Mac’s amazing videos in full screen. Just search Duck Duck Go, and you’ll see a grid of video results. Tap one, and you’ll be able to pinch to zoom the video to full screen, as nature intended.