Last Updated: October 28, 2015 5

The Basics of Using Netflix

Found In: Video

It’s Friday night. Delicious smells waft up from your popcorn bowl, and in your hand you feel the satisfying weight of the TV remote. All that’s missing is a movie. You’ve watched and re-watched everything in your video cabinet at least a dozen times. You’ve already missed the first hour of the only movie on TV you actually want to see. And the video store only ever has the same old stuff. Your night seems doomed. But what’s that? It’s Netflix to the rescue!

Netflix is an internet-based service that allows you to access to a vast video library, putting all sorts of movies, TV shows, and original made-for-Netflix series at your fingertips. You can choose to get an offline plan, where you choose DVDs and they are mailed to you, an online plan, where you can watch (or “stream”) video instantly on your computer, Tivo, and similar devices, or a combination of the two.

The simplest way to use Netflix is with its offline plan. This is easy to use and has the benefit of giving you access to a wider array of choices than the online plan does. Even better, Netflix allows you to keep DVDs as long as you want with no late fees. Take that, video store! And remember that, once you use the DVD’s free, easy-to-mail slip to send it back to its home, Netflix will send you a new movie. That means that you get to pick the pace!

Signing Up for Netflix

Interested in signing up? Great! Netflix is convenient, powerful, and extremely affordable, and creating your own account takes just a few simple steps.

  • First, go to On the left-hand side of the screen will be a button that says “Start Your Free Month.” That’s right, Netflix now has a promotion where the first month with them is free! You’ll need to enter some information, such as email, credit or debit card, etc. (don’t worry, Netflix is 100% trustworthy). Check out the “Standard” plan, and when you click to confirm, you’ll be able to watch movies online.
  • You’ll be taken to a new page where you can get a free trial of the offline DVD service. In for a penny, in for a pound, right? There’s no reason not to get the free trial of both of these services. Remember, you can always cancel one and keep the other later.
  • Finally, Netflix will show you a list of movies and TV shows, and ask you to choose three that you like. Do this, and you’ll get more accurate recommendations and have to spend less time deciding on what to watch.

Congratulations! You now have a Netflix account! You don’t even need to worry about remembering to make payments, as Netflix auto-bills you every month.

Choosing Movies on Netflix

With all those thousands of titles, you might think it would be difficult to settle on one thing to watch. While a certain amount of indecision gridlock is inevitable, it’s actually easier than you’d think. Netflix has a useful feature in the top right corner of the browser window — a search bar. You can use this bar to search for movies by name. You can even use it to find actors, bringing up a list of the films they’ve been in. Of course, if you want to be old-fashioned about it… well there’s only so old-fashioned you can be when you’re using the internet, I suppose, but a simpler way to look through movies is simply to browse by genre.

When you get to a movie that looks interesting, click on it. Netflix will bring up information about the movie, including the year of its release, its running time, prominent actors and actresses, and — of course — a brief synopsis, so you know what you’re doing with the next two hours of your life. With thousands of movies in its library, Netflix will be sure to deliver at least one that will make your night.

The rest is easy. For the offline, physical DVDs, click the “Add” button to add the movie to the bottom of your queue. If you’re watching online, either click the “+” button in the lower-righthand corner of the movie’s icon to add it to your list, or simply click the large play button that will appear when you move the mouse over the movie.

All that, and your popcorn hasn’t even had a chance to get cold!

Saving Movies on Netflix

Of course, once you’ve found movies, you’ll want to put them somewhere you can find them. This is convenient for online watching but vital for offline accounts, so let’s talk about this a bit. Netflix uses a “list” of movies for its online subscription, and a “queue” of movies for its offline version. These are similar but have important differences. Let’s look at the offline queue first, since that’s the most important.

The queue is fairly simple. It’s the order in which Netflix will send you your DVDs. If you send back the DVD you currently have, then whatever movie is in slot one will be shipped to you, and everything else will advance a slot (number three will become number two, etc.). Make sure to fill your queue — if it’s empty, Netflix won’t send you anything except a bill!

Netflix also recommends you fill your queue to at least six titles — if your top choice is unavailable, the service will attempt to send your second. This is rare, but it’s good to have backups, just in case.

The “list” (which Netflix calls “My List”) is even simpler. With the online subscription, you can watch anything at any time — they don’t need to be in a queue. So the list is basically just a place where you can bookmark things you want to come back to. Simple as that.


At one point or another, all of us have wanted to watch a movie with subtitles. This is easy to do with Netflix. If you are using a DVD, it will be included in the usual DVD options menus. If you are online, begin playing the video. After a short time, you will see a dialogue bubble on the bottom far right of the screen. If you click on this, it will give you options for both audio and subtitles.

Easy as pie. Specifically, easy as really easy pie — some pie recipes are actually very difficult, especially if you’re trying to make the crust from scratch.

Tips from the Netflix Pros

Pie aside, you now know all the basics! Congratulations! Here are a couple of more “advanced” tips for you. I’m sure you’ll get them with no problem.

  • Rating – whenever you finish watching a movie, go online and rate it as being from one (hated it) to five (loved it) stars. This helps to give feedback for future viewers and also helps Netflix to learn more about what you like and dislike. Expect to see better recommendations — and good karma! — if you do this reliably.
  • You Can Always Edit Your Queue – if you decide that you want to see your movies in a different order, you can do so quite easily. Just click the “queue” button at the top of the screen, and you will see the queue appear below. From there you can drag each title or type its new number into the box on its left. You can also move any movie immediately to the first slot.
  • You Should Always Check Your Queue – when you add a movie to your queue, go check to make sure it’s there. Ninety-nine times out of 100, everything will be fine, but it’s never fun to be that one person who accidentally clicked the wrong button had a computer error occur, etc. Then you’re stuck waiting for weeks for a DVD that will never come. Now that is a tragedy.
  • Return Upon Completion – the faster you mail in your DVD, the more quickly a new one will be sent to replace it. Don’t let DVDs sit in the player, where you’ll forget about them — move them immediately into their mailing slip, slip them into the mail, and bid them bon voyage.

Netflix is revolutionizing the way video is watched. They were the pioneers in the field and are still going strong after all these years. And while it may be true that other services such as Hulu and Amazon are competing quite closely with them, I will always have a special place in my heart for Netflix.

So give Netflix a try — before you know it, you, too, will be waiting for Friday night, to get your next fix of the ‘flix.