How to Use Kodi

How to Use Kodi

If you’re looking for a way to organize your local and streaming media, you would do well to take a close look at Kodi. We’ve spilled plenty of digital ink over the years talking about Kodi: what Kodi is, why you should still be using it, and what devices to use it on. If we’ve convinced you, great! We’re back for one more bit of Kodi-related explanation that may be useful to you. Today, we’re going to talk about how to actually use Kodi.

Learning how to use Kodi isn’t too tough, but there are a few things that are worth emphasizing. Below, we’ll lay out what you need to know about installing Kodi and setting it up with your media. We’ll also touch on ways to get more out of Kodi, such as installing and using add-ons and setting up Kodi on multiple devices.

Installing Kodi

First things first: you’re going to need to install Kodi.

This is easy enough to do in most cases. You’ll just need to grab a copy of Kodi from your device’s official app store or from Kodi’s official website.

As of this writing, the latest version of Kodi is v17.6 “Krypton.” Unless you’re working on a DIY project that requires an older version for some reason (and, since you’re reading our introductory guide, we’ll assume you’re not!), then you’ll want this latest version. Just choose the right download for your device and operating system and have at it — or, again, just use the app store!

How to Use Kodi - Downloading Kodi

Kodi is available in many an official app store, as well as via download through Kodi’s website.

If you’re downloading Kodi on a computer, can run the installation program once you download it. From there, Kodi will guide you through the installation set-by-step. If you’re going through the app store, the process is foolproof and all-in-one.

Installing the Kodi app on a mobile device that supports it is easy. Installing Kodi on a device that does not offer an official Kodi app is a little tougher. It can still be possible, though! Check out our guide to sideloading Kodi on Fire TV devices for more information on that.

How to Install Kodi on Fire TV (and Why You Should)

Helping Kodi Find Your Media Files

Kodi’s greatest strength is its ability to manage local media files. You know the ones we’re talking about: those movie and music files that you’ve had on your computer for ages, the ones that you downloaded (legally, we’re sure!) or ripped from DVDs and other physical media. Now that so much of our media exists as streaming content, it’s hard to find a great solution for local files. Thankfully, Kodi is here to pick up the slack.

But Kodi can’t help you organize your library unless it knows where your library is. So let’s help Kodi find it!

When you first open Kodi, you’ll see a big prompt to add media files because your library is “currently empty.” Go ahead and accept Kodi’s invitation to rectify that. You’ll be directed to the “Files” section of Kodi, and your screen will look something like this:

How to Use Kodi - adding files

Click on “Add videos…,” of course, and you’ll get Kodi’s simple system for browsing and adding file folders. This process will be easiest if you already have your folders more or less organized, so go ahead and do that now: the main thing is that you’ll want just one type of media in each parent folder, e.g. only TV shows in one folder and only movies in another. Kodi will handle less basic stuff, though: you can tell it later on whether each movie is in its own sub-folder or not, and things like that.

Select the folder you want to add first and click “Okay.” You’ll be asked a few basic questions about the folder. Take a moment to tell Kodi whether it’s looking at TV shows or movies and where you’d prefer to get your information about these movies from (Kodi will assign things like covers and metadata to your files for you — nice, right?).

How to Use Kodi: adding a folder full of files

Rather than adding the whole “Movies + TV” folder, I’ve drilled down to the “Movies” sub-folder. That will make it easy for me, because I’ll be able to tell Kodi that there are just movies in this folder.

How to use Kodi - adding a movies folder

I can tweak the answers on this screen to help Kodi figure out how to organize my stuff.

Do the same for the folders with your other media types in them, and you’ll have a nice library with a pretty basic organization system, courtesy of Kodi.

Organizing Your Media With Kodi

A lot of Kodi’s built-in features make organizing your movies, TV shows, music, and other media a breeze. You’ll get some of this stuff automatically, and you can add to features like Kodi’s ability to identify and add covers images to your movies by installing some add-ons (more on that in a moment).

How to use Kodi - organizing movies and TV shows

Having done nothing more than tell Kodi where to find the files, my Kodi interface is already looking very organized and helpful. But there’s more we can do here.

But you can also manually tweak the ways in which Kodi organizes your media. Here are a few ways to do that — you’re sure to discover more yourself and, if you so choose, through the very active Kodi community.

Organize sets and series

Want to put all of the Star Wars movies together? Go to the “Videos” tab in Settings>Library Settings and enable “Group movies as sets.”

Make your own playlists

You can add a new layer to your media’s organization by creating your own playlists. Kodi can even help you select chunks of movies by genre and other categories.

Use add-ons

We’ll explain add-ons in the next section, but you should know right off the bat that some add-ons are great for adding new ways to organize and display the media you already have on Kodi.

Improving Your Kodi Experience With Add-Ons

Kodi has great functionality right out of the (metaphorical) box, but its real appeal lies in how customizable it is. You can change all sorts of things about your Kodi experience, including the appearance and menus of the program (to do that, switch which Kodi “skin” you’re using). And you can add lots of functionality to Kodi, too, thanks to Kodi’s system of add-ons.

Add-ons are extensions for Kodi that give it the power to use new apps or perform new functions. They’re easy to download and install. Here’s how they work.

To find and install an add-on for Kodi, all you have to do is head to the “Add-ons” tab and click on “Enter add-on browser.” You’ll be able to add add-ons you downloaded outside of Kodi, but the best and easiest way to get official, legal add-ons is to click on “Install from repository.”

Within the repository, add-ons are grouped by type and are easy to download and install. Just click the ones you want!

It’s also possible to add new repositories and install add-ons from zip files. For more on how to install Kodi add-ons, check out our coverage right here at Cordcutting.com

How to Install Kodi Add-ons

Now that you know how to install add-ons on Kodi, all that’s left is for you to choose the right ones. Here are a few that you may want to consider:

  • Apple iTunes Podcasts (default repository)
  • PlayOn (adds apps for Netflix, HBO, and other popular streaming services, but costs $5 per month; get it here)
  • Plex (adds Plex media server functionality; default repository)
  • SHOUTcast 2 (free radio stations; default repository)

Of course, there are also add-ons that enable quasi-legal and outright illegal streaming. We don’t endorse those. If you choose to seek them out and install them, you should have no trouble doing so without our help!

Installing Kodi on Multiple Devices and Setting Up a Media Server With Kodi

Kodi is most useful, generally speaking, for handling local files on a single device. But in the modern world of multi-device streaming, you may want to use Kodi on multiple devices.

To do that, start by installing Kodi on the devices that you want. We covered the basics in the first section of this article, but here’s a refresher: you can install Kodi from a downloaded .exe file (which you can find on Kodi’s website); or you can install Kodi through the app store on your device, assuming Kodi has an official and approved app for that device; or you can get creative and put Kodi on devices that don’t officially support it, such as Fire TV devices (to get Kodi on Fire TV, you’ll have to sideload — or “jailbreak” — the app or device).

Kodi is a media center app by default, but you can use add-ons to turn it into a media server. A media server is an app that can make media files on a given device available on other devices running the app.

So which add-ons can you use to set up a media server that you can access using Kodi? Interestingly enough, you’re best off turning to one of two options that come from Kodi competitors: Plex and Emby.

Plex vs. Emby

Plex and Emby are media server programs first and foremost, so they’re not exactly like Kodi. They’re also a little different from each other: for instance, Emby is open-source (like Kodi, but unlike Plex). But all three services are similar enough that it’s a bit funny to see everyone getting along in this context. Still, if you love Kodi’s interface and flexibility — but crave the shared-library features of Plex and Emby — then marrying Kodi and one of the other two to form a super-solution just makes sense!

You can find both the Plex add-on for Kodi and the Emby add-on for Kodi in the default repository.

If this seems a bit to involved for you, but you need a media server solution, you may want to consider using one of those two options directly instead. Our Cordcutting.com pick would be Plex. Just as we consider Kodi to be the killer app for local media files, we consider Plex to be the ultimate option for consumers looking to create a media server and stream those local video files from other devices. But, again, there are lots of reasons to bother combining the two solutions if that’s your preference!

More fun with Kodi

We’ve covered the basics of how to use Kodi, but there’s still plenty more that you can learn about the popular media center application. Die-hard Kodi fans can get really into the weeds with this stuff, and some talented folks even try their hand at making their own Kodi add-ons. That’s above our pay grade here at Cordcutting.com, but here are some resources that you may want to check out if you’re thinking of getting into the nitty-gritty of how Kodi works and what it can do.

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About the Author

Stephen Lovely
Stephen Lovely
Stephen Lovely is a freelance writer and a longtime cord cutter with a passion for technology and entertainment. You can find his work on Cordcutting.com and his tweets at @stephenlovely.

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