How to Use Kodi – In-Depth Overview

If you are new to the streaming video scene, you are probably hearing a lot about Kodi.  But many of you are probably wondering what Kodi is and how you can benefit from using Kodi.  In this tutorial, I hope to show you what Kodi is and how you can make the most of Kodi to maximize your streaming experience.

Kodi is basically a piece of software that is designed to organize and play digital media of all sorts.  Right out of the box, Kodi is the best media center software available.  It is open source and free and is available for Windows, Linux, Mac, Android (Fire TV, Android Boxes).  The biggest feature of Kodi is that there are literally thousands of add-ons available that extend its functionality far beyond its intended purpose of being a media center controller.

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If you haven’t already installed Kodi, then you can follow my tutorial How to install Kodi on Fire TV or Fire Stick. But if you already have Kodi installed, I want to show you the best way to use Kodi and the best way to access Movies, TV shows, and other streaming media.

Like I said before, Kodi is free software.  You can easily download Kodi and there are versions for almost every type of device.  Whether you are running Windows, Linux, Mac, or Android devices such as the Amazon Fire Stick, Amazon Fire TV, NVIDIA Shield or any number of other streaming devices, there is a version for you.

The current version of Kodi is 17.6.  The developers have stated that this will be the last of the 17.x series or Krypton series.  A beta version of Kodi v18 is available.  Kodi 18 will be called Leia and offers many improvements over Krypton.  While the Leia beta is not really ready for primetime, you can still install it and check it out.  On the surface, there aren’t a ton of differences, but under the hood, there have been some significant changes.  Follow my tutorial How to Install the Kodi 18 “Leia”  Beta.

With that in mind, I recommend installing version 17.6 for now, as it is the latest stable version.

Follow one of the guides below in order to install Kodi 17.6 for your device

How to Install Kodi on Android

How to Install Kodi on Windows

How to install Kodi on Fire TV or Fire Stick

How to Install Kodi on Linux

How to Build an HTPC with Raspberry Pi

If you don’t have a device or are unsure about which device you have, you should check out my article Top Android Streaming Media Devices of 2018 for some great information.

How To Use Kodi

Once you have Kodi installed, you can see that it has a home screen.  This screen may look different on different Kodi devices.  This is because Kodi uses “skins”.  Skins are like themes.  You can change the look of your Kodi device easily and quickly just by changing the skin.  There are tons of great skins available, and when you install one of the Kodi Builds, it will come with a preconfigured skin as well.

All skins offer access to Kodi’s features in a similar style, and it’s easy to change out skins and try different ones.  I personally prefer the default Kodi skin called Estuary.  I find it to be the least confusing skin available, although it is not as pretty as some of the very refined skins such as Aeon Nox.

No Limits Build with the Aeon Nox: SiLVO Mod skin

Now that you have chosen a skin, let’s work on getting all the functionality set up.  You can add functionality to Kodi by installing Kodi Add-Ons.  Add-ons are available from many different sources and offer a wide variety of functionality.  There are Video Add-ons that provide video content, Music Add-ons provide music stations and other ways to get music.  Take a look at my article Top Kodi Add-Ons for 2018 for some ideas.

Almost all add-ons are installed in the same manner.  You will add a “source” into Kodi’s file manager.  The “source” is basically the address of a website or server that holds the software you want to install.  In most cases, the source contains a zip file that you install.  This zip file rarely contains the actual add-on.  Instead, Kodi uses a system of repositories.  Each repository or “repo” can contain hundreds of add-ons.  So, normally, the zip file you download and install contains the repository information.  Then, after installing the repo information, you install the add-on from the repo itself.  

That sounds a little confusing, so, let me do a quick overview on how to install an add-on.  From this point on, when I show the install process, I will be working toward installing the Poached Add-On which is by far one of the best Kodi Add-Ons out there for Movies and TV shows.  Complete instructions on how to install Poached are available in this article How to Install Poached Add-On for Kodi

Installing a Kodi Add-On

Here are the basic instructions for installing an add-on.

From the Kodi home screen, click on the little gear icon at the top left of the screen.
This is the Settings Menu
.

Kodi Settings Gear

Click on System settings

Scroll down to Add-ons and toggle Unknown sources on in the right pane.

You will be prompted to confirm that you want to turn this setting on.  You will want to choose YES. This is the key setting that allows you to extend your Kodi installation much further than you normally would be able to by installing third-party add-ons.

Back to the Settings Menu, select File manager

File manager lists all the “sources” that have been installed.  Choose Add source to add a source.

Click on where it says <None>

A window will open that allows you to input the source link or URL. In this case, I have typed in the link to the Eggman repo where Poached is available for installation.

After adding the source, then the repository becomes available.  We can then install the add-on from the repository.

Kodi Install from Repo

The repo is shown in the list of repos

Listed inside every repo are the categories of add-ons that the repo contains.  In this case, Eggman only contains Program Add-ons and Video Add-ons.  We are going to install Poached, which is a Video Add-on.

You can see that the Poached Add-on is listed under Video Add-ons.  As well as any other Video Add-ons that are available from this repo.

Clicking on the program from the repo brings up the main info screen for the add-on where you can install, uninstall or configure the add-on.

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This is the standard method of installing Kodi Add-ons.  Some add-ons are installed differently, but those exceptions are rare.

How to Choose an Add-On

Choosing which add-ons to install is the most important part of setting up Kodi.  My article Top Kodi Add-Ons for 2018 lists some of the add-ons as well as the source links to the repos that contain them.  I also include detailed instructions to install each of the add-ons listed.

There are no right or best add-ons for the most part.  Add-ons are widely varied in their functionality and they are ever-changing.  Some add-ons offer specific content such as only horror movies, or only old movies.  While some contain entire collections of content.  Which add-ons you choose to install are entirely up to you and should reflect the types of content you want to watch.  Yes, there are even add-ons for cartoons.

Most Kodi users choose to only install those add-ons that specifically give them the content they want.  Because many streaming devices have limited memory available, you will want to install only those you need.  You don’t want to bog down your system with add-ons that you won’t use.

Kodi Video Addons
Kodi Add-On Categories

As I’m writing this article, some of the most popular Kodi Add-ons are Placenta, Neptune Rising, Covenant, and Poached.  Some people have a better experience with Placenta and some prefer Neptune Rising.  You will want to try out all of these and decide which one works better for you and offers you the content you want.

As of the writing of this article, two of the most popular Kodi add-ons are Placenta and Neptune Rising. I suggest installing both to determine which one suits your specific needs.

When the add-on has been installed, it will show up on the Kodi home screen.  Depending on which skin you are using, it might be presented in a different manner.  Here is Poached sitting on the home screen of a fresh Kodi installation

How To Use a Kodi Add-on

Kodi Add-ons are generally very simple to use.  They are designed to be user-friendly.  For example, the Placenta Add-on lists the content by type.  Movies, TV Shows, etc. 

You can browse through the content to your heart’s desire as well as search for content.  Drill down through the categories and/or genres and you will see that there is a LOT of content in Placenta.

Once you pick the content you want to watch, in this case, we will choose Black Panther.  Clicking on Black Panther will kick off a search of all the available streams.

The list of streams may be presented to you in different ways depending on the add-on you are using.  The default sorting order for Placenta is to show them to you in order of quality.  This normally equates to file size, so higher quality streams will require better Internet speeds.  hint: If your TV doesn’t support 1080p HD, or even if it does, choose the 720p streams.  The quality is just as good for the most part, and the smaller file sizes make them easier to stream.  Same goes for if you have a 4K UHD TV.  The question then becomes if you have enough Internet bandwidth to stream content of that quality.  I usually stick with the 720 or 1080 streams.  You will start to see which stream quality and/or stream sources work best for you.

If you can’t get any of the links to play, there are a couple of things to consider.  I find that slow or unstable Internet connections are the culprit in 99 percent of these cases.  However, there can be cases where there is a problem with the add-on itself.  Make sure you have updated the add-on to the latest version.  You may also need to uninstall and reinstall the add-on to alleviate the problem.  Try using another add-on to see if that one functions any better.  Standard troubleshooting methods apply.

Device Pairing Request

Sometimes when you choose a stream, you will get a message that your device needs to be paired with the site that is hosting the content.  There is usually nothing nefarious about their request.  They do this to ensure that it is a real person requesting the content and not a bot that is leeching the content for its own redistribution.  You will see a message like the following in most cases.

You can simply follow the instruction in the message to pair the device.  But, keep in mind that, if you do this, the server logs your IP address as a normal part of this process.  If you don’t want to expose your IP address, then you have two options.  Don’t do what it says, and miss out on that particular stream.  Or you can get a VPN.  I recommend IPVanish and right now you can get an exclusive 57% discount on IPVanish.  

If you want to get rid of those messages and permanently turn off access to those providers that require pairing, you can follow the instructions in this article: How to Remove Openload Stream Authorization on Kodi

Using the Player Controls

When the media begins streaming, you can control various aspects of the stream such as subtitles, dubbing language, audio quality and more.  You can make these adjustments from within the player.  Normally the menus are hidden, but with a click of your remote, you can bring up menus to control most everything to do with the playback. Subtitles are a very common feature that many people use.  While you can control this within the player, you will have to do a little configuration of Kodi in order to take advantage of subtitles.  Follow my article How to Enable Subtitles in Exodus.  While this article uses Exodus as an example, the method works with most every Exodus/Covenant fork, which includes all of those mentioned here and most others.

Add-On Settings and Tools

Most every Kodi Add-on has a section for Tools or Settings, and many of the best add-ons are very configurable.  You can make a lot of tweaks and configuration changes to maximize your experience with the app.  You can adjust video and audio quality, disable providers that never seem to work, set the default media language and more.  Don’t be afraid to experiment with some of these settings.  Most are intuitive and you can easily reset the settings back to default in one click in most cases.

Types of Kodi Add-Ons

Movies and TV shows are not the only types of add-ons available for Kodi. There are add-ons for music and adult content. There are add-ons to help you manage local content as well.  There are screensaver apps, there are music visualization apps.  Anything you can think of, there is an app for it.

This all sounds great.  There are apps for everything.  The problem is, which are the best apps?  How many tutorials do you have to go through to sort out the right apps for the job?  Kodi’s biggest strength, its add-ons, are also one of its biggest drawbacks.  What if you just want to get up and running and watching Movies?  

The answer to that question is to install a Kodi Build.  

Installing a Kodi Build

You could install the dozens of add-ons, then install a skin and then configure the skin, etc.  Or you can install a Kodi Build.  Kodi builds are pre-configured Kodi images that can be downloaded and installed into Kodi.  These images contain pre-installed apps for almost all the content types you could possibly want.  They come with complex and beautiful skins that are already pre-configured to work with all the installed add-ons.  Using a build is the fastest and easiest way to go from a boring device to a full-blown streaming media center.

Kodi No Limits Addon Screenshot
No Limits Build Home Screen

Kodi builds contain tons of add-ons and wizards to help you maximize your streaming experience.  Most builds come in various flavors so to speak.  If you are using a device with a limited amount of memory, you might opt for a more lightweight build that only includes the functionality you want or need.  Or if you are running a custom Android box or an HTPC that has more memory, you might want to try out all the different add-ons that the build has to offer  I find that I initially like installing the big builds but prefer a much smaller build in reality.  Even if I am using a device with plenty of memory.  

Now that you have a Kodi Build installed, you have just saved yourself a lot of work.  Builds are nice in that the add-ons usually all work and they are normally updated automatically.  Notice I say “usually” and “normally”.  It’s not a fool-proof method of having the latest and greatest builds, but the better the build is maintained by its author(s), the better your experience will be.  So, choose builds that are actively updated and maintained for the best result.

Kodi Extras

Some of the things you will want to consider when using Kodi, especially with some of the add-ons that provide free movies and TV shows, is privacy.  Many of the add-ons you will encounter are using the controversial and sometimes illegal BitTorrent technology.  The best way to avoid issues while using these great applications is by installing a VPN.  I go on and on about VPN Services sometimes, but it’s not a joke.  In fact, I don’t even consider it an option to use the Internet without a VPN.  I won’t go into all the reasons to use it here, but suffice it to say I believe it is the most important tool you can have in your digital life.  If you want to get more info, read the following articles.

What is a VPN? Why do I need it?

Net Neutrality Repeal; A VPN is Essential for Privacy

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How to Use Kodi – In-Depth Overview was last modified: December 16th, 2018 by

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