How to download for offline viewing and archiving those expensive website based courses

This article is inspired by three concrete problems I had this weekend, where I had premium content locked in a paid membership site and wanted a local copy of.  That content was often a rather large complicated site consisting of 200-300 files of 500-1GB of size.  While possible to do manually, getting it all, would have been time consuming and tedious to do so, regardless if I did it or one of my staff.  So in this we are going to review and cover 3 automated solutions I tried to get a copy and keep it safe.  So like the pharaohs of old you can take it with you.

Like the pharoahs of old, you can take it with you, provided you know these tricks...

The problem with online courses:

1) your course is only available online in some password protected site. Lose the password, downgrade your membership you lose access to it all.

2) you can’t take the course with you on the road or in places with poor internet connectivity, often which is a perfect time to learn and review this.

3) courses get outdated, and taken offline. E.g. gurus retire, or retire courses.  You spend $2k on the information it’s only fair that you get a copy of it, regardless of what the guru does with it in the future.

If you could get a copy for later for your “Learning Library” you could keep a copy even if you never use it. I still keep copies of my university books just occasionally to refresh my memory on certain subjects. Can’t say that they’ve gotten much use out of (e.g. Linear Algebra and Chemistry) but I spent like $200 on some of them when that was a LOT of money to me (as in a full month of rent) and years later…still… can’t… quite let them go in the trash 🙂

My Inspirations

First, I own Jeff Walkers Product Launch Formula 2.0, which was $2k or so when I bought it about a year ago.   Jeff is retiring PLF2.0 in favor of PLF3.0 in just a couple of days. That means he’s deleting ALL of the excellent content and sites surrounding that product, partly to push people to buy the upgraded “redone from the ground up”.  Much of that pricey but good content I just don’t remember OR worse have paid lots of money for but haven’t gotten a chance to view yet, which come to think of it, is true for many of the courses I have bought, even if I have been working my butt off the entire year!!!.   While I could manually download files one by one, I wanted an easier way and one that would make sure I didn’t lose anything,  and being so busy, I put it to last few days…and just realized I only had a few days left.    I had planned originally just to download the core modules files, but getting into the site after almost a year ofnot seeing it,  I realized there was a huge amount I haven’t seen, and most available in several formats like PDF transcripts, that would benefit me more than just the video. It would be rather insane downloading the entire site that way so I went with the automated approach.

Second I am canceling one of my $300/mo mastermind groups, as over the 4 months, I’ve gotten most the value I need out of it and would rather have that money going someplace else -that’s about what I pay for a month of some of my Filipino workers!  As soon as I cancel though I lose access to ALL the information in the premium mastermind section. Which kinda sucks.  A much better way to go would be to just stop allowing me access to things I haven’t paid for but their membership software doesn’t do that.

Third one of the other membership sites  I wanted local copies of the videos, as they way they organize the site, you can’t watch a video and actually see the slides and take notes at the same time unless you use a spare PC, which make it hard for me to learn the site.

In every one of these cases downloading the videos is perfectly permitted and encouraged, as it’s for personal -not pirated use.  You almost never have the permission to reupload the site to make it ‘your’s” but in some cases (like in the case of employee training) it’s borderline, just make sure you only grant permission to authorized parties.

How to get a copy of that website for safe keeping.

The good news is there are a few different ways to go about this important if somewhat daunting task.

Manual This is great if you only need a few files, pick and choose style.  You can just use the browser to right click over a link and hit save as, or  from the main menu choose File>Save As> Webpage Complete.  This however won’t download video files on say S3 or youtube to keep them safe.   The reason for this is that it’s saves the html file verbatim, and keeps the links intact pointing to the web.

If it’s a video on say youtube there are a few different websites services for this like keepvid and  FireFox plugins like Orbit downloader.

In a pinch when people make it hard to find the video (e.g. EZS3) you can often use the firefox plugin firebug to see where the files are coming from and open the the file in new tab then save it. Firebug is meant as a web development tool (and it kicks butt at this).  Basically how you use it, look at this 9 step picture.

9 Steps to Using Firebug to download a video
9 Steps to Using Firebug to download a Video

Last I should say there are some times when people stream video, that video cannot be saved via any of these approaches, as the video never hits  your harddrive ever. In this last case you can use any screen capture program (Screenflow on a Mac, Camtasia on a PC) to do a capture of everything.  This is particularly great for webinars on gotomeeting.

Automated: If you have a lot of files special software is website rippers, that basically behave as you would viewing the site, except instead of saving it to a local cache they save it permanently to a folder of your choice.

So there are many tools to help you automatically download entire website for later.  They have basically have the responsibility to automatically follow each and every link from a given start page and download each and every file much like google’s search engine bots crawl your site, and once downloaded rewrite the links to something local and not still on the web.   This can actually be relatively complicated job given most sites link out to many other resources (like amazon S3) to host media files, or cross promotions. You have to sometimes setup boundaries on what you do and don’t follow, you don’t want to download the entire web!

Generally you first start a “project” that will contain all the files (e.g. 1 project might be 1 website) , so in my case I needed 3 projects, one for each site.  These projects can exist in various formats: the raw files as they exist on the web, or various compressed archives like zip folders or “chm” help files, which saves space and makes them say easy to share with mastermind or employees.   In all cases these tools try to download everything at a fast rate so will both hog the netconnection and consume significant CPU, so I recommend doing this when you aren’t trying to do something super important at the same time, or better yet start it when you go to sleep etc and check it in the morning.   Also it’s generally a good idea to make sure these files are virus checked in case the site got hacked.

There are MANY programs that do this, I tried the first 3 that caught my eye searching google for “download website offline viewing“, alternate search terms to try are “download entire website”

3 Website Software to Download for Offline Viewing

  • Htttrack, this is an open source free, near the top of the results.  It appears to be a command line utility minimal UI.  It worked fine for normal sites, but I couldn’t figure out how to get it to work with the password protected websites requiring a non popup login.  Though looking at it’s logs I was able to see that one of the sites was using the WP membership site plugin Aweber which I couldn’t have known before hand. It was the cheapest as it was opensouce/no cost.
  • SpideSoft’s Webzip:    this is not free but it has a fully functional 30 day trial, which for my purposes was good enough as I didn’t need this for more than a week.  They’ve been out for it seems a couple of years, various copyright dates on the software.  This is based on InternetExplorer so it’s workflow is different, and it worked better than Httrack for the password sites.  Basically with it’s built in browser, you browse like you would normally to the part of the site you want to copy, login if needed, and then hit go.   If needed to purchase they were also the cheapest of the 3. at $39.95 for the normal version.  The UI is reasonably polished and fancy feeling, some questionably graphics showing all the bytes in an bytes out.  I found running on Windows XP that it crashed a few times but was easy to resume from where it left off.  Viewing the results it added a extra note at the top about where the files came from, and the date. There is also a resync website so for example if the contents had changed and you wanted to only download the new ones. By default it stores the site in a conventional file/folder.
  • Bimesoft’s SurfOffline:  this is not free but has a 200 link trial, which for my purposes on 2 of the sites wasn’t good enough. It had a polished UI, good reporting on what it’s doing, it also had a visible browser so I could log into the sites before downloading them.    It did not crash like Webzip, but it’s not a fair comparison it also didn’t go as far as the trial version stopped at 200 links.  I found it a bit more limited and market/nagware. After you complete the download pops up a message to upgrade to the full version it had four different versions $39.95 for the standard ‘non-commercial’ version and $69.95 for the non-commercial professional version, commercial versions in both would run *significantly* more.  I couldn’t really figure out what the difference was between the standard and pro version.   It by default stores files in a compressed archive which is a great space saver but I didn’t like, as I prefer to be able to jump to movie files I want.
Screenshot of Webzip, after downloading the PLF website for offline viewing
Screenshot of Webzip, after downloading the PLF website for offline viewing.

At the end I was pretty happy with the trial version of Webzip, it did the job I needed, without costing anything.  If I needed this on a regular basis I would probably investigate some of the others out there, that didn’t require restarting. In any case I imagine that most tools like this run $40, and a 1TB harddrive is about $50 as of this writing, which is nothing compared to the price of one of these pricey courses and the peace of mind having the ability to consume it however you want, whenever you want, however long you want, without being dependent on those pesky gurus.

ADVANCED:
I have what I call a Learning Library currently about  1.5TB in size. It contains ALL the courses I have bought to date, some $10K or so.  In particular it contains on the harddrive, copies of  DVD collections and OCR printed materials I get in those “big box courses” as harddrives are cheap, and DVD’s can get easily damaged or lost in the hustle of life and piles of stuff. OCR the swipe files makes them actually easy to copy and paste from.     Even better is once ripped and converted most are compatible with web browsers, I can tag, organize and even search the files and create hyperlinks to relevant courses on relevant subjects which i can’t easily do with my DVD collection collecting dust on the shelves. Not to mention most IM courses are kinda ugly, not exactly something I like having a showcase of..

20 thoughts on “How to download for offline viewing and archiving those expensive website based courses”

  1. I’d be pissed as he’ll if I paid $2k for a course and it wasn’t made available for at least 2 years! That’s one reason I no longer spend tons of money on the online courses. Perhaps that’s something you can benefit from knowing – offer a 2 year online guarantee or something like that.

    1. Hey Mike.

      Gurus routinely piss me off on multiple levels. I have a upcoming rant post on this 🙂 But I agree. I find it lazy and rude, if they are going to take a product off the market in a year and ask users to download the content, that they not spend the 1hr of an intern to create a zip of the site for the users to download, instead of wasting 1000 peoples time trying to do what I just outlined in this article.. But I do know why they do it, they are greedy and lazy. Why give people a zip when you can get 1/2 a million dollars more incentiving them to buy the next version? If they made $1million on the product (or more!) I think they have somewhat of an obligation to pay for hosting for several years, as it doesn’t cost more than a thousand or so, and is certainly cheaper than DVD copies for everyone.

      I do find that the online only courses are frequently worthwhile,OCR’ing paper and digizting DVD’s sucks so I actually like the pre-webized content as that’s eventually what I want for my Learning Library. I just don’t like some of the restrictions and bullshit surrounding getting it. I think this article is going to be increasingly relelvant, there seems to be a new trend to half year subscription sites, e.g. $2K for 6 months of access, after that they are going to relaunch it as verison 2.0. Others are on yearly rerelaese cycles. It’s a well orchestrated industry and the entire internet mafia is in cohoots with each other.

      Personally I’m very glad to be getting towards the end of my need to depend on any of these gurus for any of my training. While the net game changes daily, there is only so many core concepts and areas to know.

  2. I was reading through this and I’m trying to figure out how to use Firebug to do this. There is a video training I own that I can’t get downloaded with Orbit or anything. It uses EZS3 for the video. Any tips?

  3. so I guess you’re not apart of the internet mafia?
    lol.

    Thanks for your time. Any tips on SEO? any good sources to upping a site?

    Thanks Troy!

    Tony

    1. Hey Tony,

      According to Frank Kern to be a part of “the family” you have to at least spend $1Million on either “mansions, fast cars, weed n bitches”, I get physically ill near smoke or airheads, so I’m not sure I’d even qualify, even if I wanted to join.

      For SEO, there is a “epic” product launching this week that covers a pretty stealth SEO tactics and some killer software for SEO based traffic, that I use in my own businesses, if the launch content is good I’ll share it, so far I haven’t seen anything but the hype yet and only know one of the guys, which on the brightside happens to be one of my favorite mentors. He’s kinda half on the periphery of the mafia hood. He much prefers staying at home with wife and kids, and he’s kinda a flakey goofball. A cool goofball but still a goofball.

      *said in a godfather voice*

      I’m gonna mafefu a website, yuz canf refuze..

  4. Troy this post is worth a million! Thank you!

    Could you fill me in on what OCR means?

    I’m down in South Florida, where we use OCR to reference “Orange County Residents”, heh!

  5. Troy,

    Thanks for defining OCR. That makes much more sense now.

    Yeah, I’ve used Evernote for a couple of years now, and it keeps everything organized and synched for me. Evernote is even more usefull with its recent upgrade. I scan documents, clip screen shots, add .pdf files, photos, and just about everything else. Searching docs by tags is nice, and it comes in very handy when I can search text…. text, it finds within a photo, doc, .pdf, etc.. – So, I suppose it’s the OCR technology that’s made it possible. http://www.evernote.com/

    Anyone who’s using Mac should check out Sitesucker for downloading. It’s been great for me, and it now has an iPhone app too. I looked at your recommendations, but since I’m on a Mac, I searched a ‘bit further and ended up purchasing Sitesucker. It’s excellent! http://www.sitesucker.us/

    Troy, have you released your outsourcing course yet? I missed it if you did so. If you haven’t yet, when?

    Take care!
    JD

    1. Hey JD,

      Glad to help!

      Thanks so much for pointing out the mac solution, I have a mac but don’t use it for this type of work. Neat that it has an iphone app, but I bet it would look better an an Ipad.

      Evernote is a great tool, so wish I had that back in highschool instead of lugging around notebooks. Haven’t played with a recent version I still have a tablet PC with OneNote.

      I most use a few note taking tools these days (freemind, shadow outliner) as I’m focused more on content creation and team management.

      I actually have not released the course on outsourcing.

      Part is that I am still writing and shooting the course and part is that the team have been pulled away on a secret projects for several gurus that have taken up my attention completely :/ ..as scotty said working as fast as we can!

      Funny enough that Freemind is what I’m using in part to create the course (except the video)…and wow I didn’t realize how much I know about the subject, the mindmap is huge and gets bigger as I continue my journey!

      I’m so sorry to keep you waiting, outsourcing is something I’m passionate about and want to share so am doing what I can!

      Take care and if it’s not chained down…steal it 🙂

      Troy.

  6. I certainly agree with your sentiments. I have had experiences where I discontinued some membership site and was totally locked out from the content I had already paid for. Not a good feeling.

    I am going to put a plug in for http://www.DigitalAccessPass.com/

    Ravi Jayagopal & Veena Prasanthi have created some of the best membership software that can be used with WordPress. Although I am not using it yet, I have had numerous email exchanges with Ravi and have compared it with some of the other offerings. For example, let’s say you have a 12-week course and the client decides to stop paying after week 5. You can easily set it up so that the client gets full access to everything he has already paid for even if he decides to discontinue. If he comes back and wants to continue, he can resume from where he left off.

    Likewise, you can easily set it up for different levels, or releases, of products and give those full access to anything that they have paid for, even after they stop paying.

    Once I am ready to start a membership site, DAP is what I will be using along with WordPress.

    Now I need to get busy and use some of the techniques you outlined in this article to archive from some sites that I am also discontinuing.
    — Thanks, Roger Due

    1. Hi Roger!

      Doesn’t that totally suck to get locked out of an expensive course? especially annoying as hosting is cheap and gurus make often hundreds of thousands to millions off these courses. Glad to know that I could help a bit, also if you use a mac, JD just made a good comment on the page that has a mac solution.

      Thanks for the heads up on the membership plugin. Sounds like the way it handles it is totally the right way to go!

      WordPress is a great platform, I haven’t spent much time comparing the membership plugins..they all move so quickly! Plus as a developer I have my own goals 🙂

      Take care Roger!

      Troy.

  7. I HAVE BETTER WAY TO DO IT !
    And you will be amazed by results as I am.
    Anyway first I would like to say thank you to the author of this blog.
    My method is to use browser: Google Chrome
    I was very surprised using it because I am a member of one website where you have to pay every month to get unlocked videos each month. But what I noticed is that when using google chrome, this protection is bypassed. So you dont have to spend many months to get these vidoes all you have to do is use google chrome.
    And the way to download it is easy. Using extension for google chrome called: myVidster.
    There is no limits what you see that you can download. Amazing.
    Enjoy guys !

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