What Can Kodi be Used For? Kodi User Guide and Major Addons

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Kodi symbol

There’s a good chance that if you’re using Kodi or looking into using it for the first time that you were drawn in by the addons. While the addons are perhaps the key feature behind Kodi, and indeed the primary element to its wider appeal and success, Kodi can be used for a lot of different things. A good Kodi user guide is the perfect thing for new users.

In order to get a better understanding of Kodi, it’s best to put you into the correct mindset. Instead of thinking of Kodi like a video player, instead, think of the application like a web browser, combined with a search engine and a media player, all wrapped into one.

In truth, Kodi shares far more in common with a web browser these days than it did in its early versions, although at its heart it is still a software program designed to play various forms of multimedia. A good amount of what Kodi does is fetch material from online and display it within the application. In some respects, Kodi is a good program to use if you are using an internet service plan with limited data, as it will help cut the fat, so to speak.

Let’s explore in more depth the different things that Kodi can do.

*Note: As Kodi’s features expand with each new version, please note the published date on this article. We will try to update this article every time the XBMC Foundation updates Kodi’s long list of features and will make a notation of which version we’re utilizing when describing features.

Before We Proceed

Kodi’s feature-rich software attracts a lot of new users, especially for the streaming addons. However, on occasion, Kodi users have received copyright infringement notifications from their ISPs. This is not common, but it can happen. In order to secure your anonymity while using Kodi, we recommend using a virtual private network, or VPN.

The VPN we recommend using is IPVanish. Through our VPN testing, we have found that IPVanish offers a high-quality service while also maintaining excellent bandwidth. IPVanish focuses specifically on creating methods to keep user identity safe, and employs multiple methods to guarantee privacy.

kodi security

Kodi User Guide – Kodi Version 17.0 “Krypton” Features

On its official website, the XBMC Foundation lists all of the features available for Kodi. That list includes all of the following:

  • Music
  • Movies
  • TV Shows
  • Pictures
  • Live TV, Radio, and PVR
  • Addons
  • Skins and builds
  • UPnP
  • Web Interfaces
  • Remote Controls
  • Weather

Although addons are the most popular among these, we’ll explore how you might find value in each of these different types of features. And, given the popularity of Kodi’s addon feature, we’ll start with that one first.

Kodi Addons

Kodi addons are a software plugin designed specifically to work with Kodi. The purpose of Kodi’s addon system is to bring additional functionality to the program that isn’t already there with the base program. In general, the “bare naked” Kodi that you download can’t do much of anything beyond play music or video files you already have. This is why Kodi’s addons are so important. Many of the additional features, include live TV, rely on certain addons to make them work.

First Party v. Third Party Addons

There are two main addon categories within Kodi: official “first party” addons and “third party addons”. Any addon considered “official” is located within the XBMC Foundation’s Official Repository. According to the XBMC Foundation’s website, there were 1,252 addons within the Official Repository at the time of writing. Any addon that lands within the official Kodi repository is considered fully legal and endorsed by the XBMC Foundation.

Third party addons are those that are not officially recognized by the XBMC Foundation. There are a variety of reasons why an addon might be considered third party and not recognized. However, the primary reason relates to the legal questions surrounding the activities of many of these addons, and the manner in which some of these addons are used to infringe on copyrights. While this is not true for all third party addons, nor is it true for all content within these addons, it remains the case that the XBMC Foundation continues to make motions that distance Kodi as a whole from such addons

For example, in the most recent Kodi version update, 17.0 “Krypton”, the developers included a feature similar to that found on Android devices. In order to install unofficial addons, users have to enter into the settings and select “Unknown sources”. Without taking this action, users cannot install third party addons. This move makes it clear that any addon not included in the official repository is distinctly unofficial.

How Addons Work

Many addons work through a process called web scraping. This process pulls data from websites and saves that data in another location. Most movie and TV addons utilize web scrapers to help provide information about the show you’re attempting to watch, displaying that information in the program when you select it, but before you hit play.

Additionally, a good number of addons, movie and TV addons in particular, will use what are called resolvers. There are some addons that you can install that will act as a universal resolver and work with all addons, while other movie and TV addons will have their own built-in resolvers.

Related: Best Kodi Addons for Movies

In the case of movie and TV addons, the shows are hosted on outside websites. Typically, these websites will have various checkboxes, Captchas and the like that are required to play them. Resolvers will help you “resolve” those issues while trying to access those sites, navigating the process it takes to the link, then retrieving the file so that it can be played inside your Kodi application.

Some resolvers are better than others, and many resolvers will actually cycle through a long list of links for the same content until it finds one it can access and that works. Some sites have been set up to reject access to bots (a category resolvers fall into), making the resolvers less likely to work. This may often be the case for sites where an addon attempts to grab the link and is thus rejected.

Movies and TV

The most popular addons available for Kodi are primarily third party addons for watching TV and movies. Among the most popular addons include:

  • Exodus: a popular addon for streaming movies and TV shows on-demand
  • SALTS: a popular addon for streaming movies and TV shows on-demand
  • BBC iPlayer: an addon that provides easy access to the BBC iPlayer
  • cCloud TV: a live TV streaming addon with thousands of channels
  • ProSport: a live and on-demand addon for sports
  • Specto: an addon for on-demand video and TV streams
  • KissAnime: a popular addon for anime-related TV shows and movies
  • SportsDevil: a sports addon with on-demand and live sports
  • Sanctuary: a large addon hosting live tv and on-demand TV shows
  • Quasar: a popular torrent addon for TV and movie streams
  • Fusion: a very popular installer that streamlines the addon installation process

You will find that addons seep their way into a large number of other features available on Kodi. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself using addons for just about everything that Kodi can do. Many third-party addons come with a distinct number of features and integrations with other services, such as Trakt.tv. In many cases, you can log in to various accounts that help bring more functionality to the addon.

Featured Addon: Exodus

exodus documentaries

This popular addon tends to get a lot of attention and praise within the Kodi community. Exodus makes it easy to access thousands of movies and TV shows, all of which are extremely well-organized within the addon. Exodus has a pleasing layout and is known for having high-quality streams that are almost always working. The issue with dead links and streams that don’t load can be somewhat common with third-party addons, so using some of the more trusted addons, like Exodus, can be a plus for anyone just getting started.

Beyond Movies and TV

It’s important to remember that not all Kodi addons are designed for watching shows or listening to music. Indeed, a good many addons are designed for purposes that most Kodi users either fail to recognize exist or fail to utilize in general. That being said, many non-TV or movie addons get ignored, although they are still abundant and highly useful.

Kodi includes addons that cover all of the following categories:

  • Audio
  • Videos
  • Pictures
  • Screensavers
  • Skins
  • Weather
  • Games
  • Programs
  • Lyrics
  • Web Interface
  • Metadata
  • Subtitles
  • Services

Some of these categories are more or less obvious, although some users may be surprised to find addons available that can help enhance their current Kodi usage. For example, the Pupup Windows addon by developer LORE allows you to pull in a Twitter feed and display it on Kodi. Meanwhile, the Rom Collection Browser allows you to browse video game ROM files and launch them directly from Kodi. It even web scrapes for game information, such as cover art and developer info.

Twitter feed

In effect, Kodi’s addons are what distinguish the program from any other multimedia software program, and indeed have helped the program win multiple SourceForge awards as well as sponsorships from well-known companies such as Alienware, Nvidia, and WETEK.

Music

There are multiple ways to enjoy music using Kodi. One of the easiest and perhaps most popular ways is to simply download a music-related addon. Kodi plugins for some of the most popular music streaming services are already available, including addons for both Spotify and Pandora. Within the official Kodi repository, you’ll actually find over 80 different plugins for a variety of different radio and streaming options.

CBC radio

Uniquely, Kodi allows you to connect the media player to online file storage services like OneDrive, where you can stream any music files you have stored. Alternatively, you can download and install plugins that give you access to the online version of a large number of local, national and international streaming services, such as CBC Radio and NPR. You’ll also find addons that can stream Rdio, iHeart Radio, and TuneIn.

If you have music files on your computer, Kodi will act like a traditional media player and play those as well. You can create playlists from your files or simply play files directly. The new Krypton version of Kodi also segments the music section of the program to include a folder just for music add-ons.

Movies

Music and movies are where Kodi got its start. Indeed, as its heart, Kodi is a movie player. You can play movies one of two primary ways. First is the obvious way: use an addon. This method allows you to access live streams through Kodi that well render and play on Kodi. The other method is to use play video files directly from your computer. With either method, you’ll have the ability to manipulate the video in the expected ways, such as with menu options if the video supports it, closed captioning, altering playback and sound quality and more features.

Kodi allows you to change some of the DVD playback features that may be extremely beneficial for you. This includes setting up Kodi to run automatically when a DVD is detected, have Kodi skip the DVD intro, allow Kodi to play DVD from different geographic regions by changing the regional code settings, and altering the stereoscopic 3D depth of subtitles, among other minor features.

When viewing Kodi movies through different addons, you’ll find that Kodi also provides a large amount of information for each show. This includes posters, banners, descriptions, actors and years. Additionally, you can create playlists and see which moves you have already watched. Much of that information is pulled directly from various sites online, such as IMDb.

For popular movie addons, refer back to the Addons section above.

TV Shows

Most of the features that support movies also support TV shows. Kodi allows for smart tags integration, meaning you can get a large amount of information about different shows, including actors, show descriptions, banners, and posters. Again, these same features are shared with Movies, as Kodi pulls in a lot of that information from outside websites. Not all addons will support this, but most do.

You can only access on-demand TV shows through Kodi by using one of the many various addons that are available for Movies and TV shows. Most addons do not focus solely on TV shows, however. Popular addons such as Exodus, SALTS, Specto, Sanctuary, and KissAnime are among community favorites for this purpose.

Featured Addon: Sanctuary

Sanctuary

Sanctuary is a good example of a high-quality addon for TV shows. This addon has a lot to offer, including a section specifically for TV Shows. When you dig into this one, you’ll find that its TV show offering is rather large and sourced from a handful of different streaming sites. This gives you a good amount of content to choose from, and with Sanctuary, multiple sources to use when trying to find your favorite TV shows.

Live TV, Radio, and PVR

Although separate features, Live TV, Radio, and PVR can at times integrate in various ways, working together to create an all-around interesting and useful service. Although they are often underutilized, Kodi fully integrates with all of these services in many powerful ways.

Live TV

Live TV can be accessed in using two different methods: through a large number of available Kodi addons, or through PVR backend methods. By far the most common method that most users within the Kodi community turn to for this is through live TV addons.

There are a number of live TV addons available on Kodi, as well as a large number of addons that provide access to such live streams hosted on different websites. Among the most popular places to turn for this include:

These addons often work via what’s known as IPTV, or Internet Protocol Television. With modern technology, casting television through the internet not allows TV channels to better cast to a wider audience. Many addons pick up these channels as they are streamed through different sites.

The PVR method is a more complicated method, which is why many users tend to shy away from it. However, obtaining live TV through Kodi using a PVR backend can offer more stability in streaming and the added benefit of recording video streams for later playback.

To utilize over-the-air TV through PVR, Kodi users would need to purchase and set up a live TV satellite and a digital TV tuner or adapter. The Kodi application itself is not set up to receive “front end” signals for OTA TV, and cannot decode such signals. Instead, it requires third-party services to feed that information through “backend” channels over an internet connection, which it can then decode and display within the software.

Unsurprisingly, many third-party backend services deliver their content to Kodi through addons. Additionally, most software won’t work immediately, requiring a TV tuner/adapter for full support. On the frontend, Kodi’s GUI will display the feed in the proper format as if it were displayed on a TV, with added benefits that exist inside the Kodi software applied to the feed.

The XBMC Foundation provides a good amount of support and documentation on this process, as it tends to be fairly complicated, especially for newcomers or even the average user. Users interested in discovering the value of PVR can find more information and in-depth setup guides in the XBMC Foundation wiki:

Radio

Radio follows the same principal as live TV. With the release of 17.0 “Krypton”, the XBMC Foundation included a “Radio” section within Kodi. You will need the same equipment and software to setup radio within Kodi, as the process works similarly.

However, there are a number of addons that will fetch live radio streams directly from online websites. Addons such as iHeartRadio exist for Kodi, as do a fair number of addons for local programming.

The best way to find new radio addons is to browse the Official Repository’s “Audio” section.

Featured Addon: cCloud TV

best kodi addons

For those who might be a bit shy about trying to tackle the technical challenge of PVR, a good number of addons exist that offer a nice workaround. cCloud TV is one of the best live TV addons out there, offering users thousands of live TV channels, streaming online. You’ll find a large number of US TV stations and TV stations from almost every country or region of the world, and in many different languages.

Skins and Builds

Skins

kodi homescreen

Kodi skins are a unique way to personalize Kodi. Skins are commonly, but not always, designed by members of the Kodi community who do not work directly with the XBMC Foundation. Skins will change Kodi’s graphical interface and will often include a handful of addons specific to the theme of that skin.

Related: Best Kodi Skins – How to Change the Way Kodi Looks

Perhaps the most popular skin in Kodi’s history is the Confluence skin (featured above). Developed by the XBMC Foundation and Integrated as the default skin on November 21, 2009, with Version 9.11 “Camelot”, the Confluence skin eventually became standard within the official Kodi download file across several versions and updates. With 17.0 “Krypton”, the XBMC Foundation retired the popular Confluence, replacing it with two new variations: Estuary, which is designed for desktop and laptop operating systems, and Estouchy, designed for people using touchscreens (most commonly mobile devices). Estuary maintains the “10-foot media center experience” Kodi has been using for several years as a mainstay in its GUI.

Kodi v17 Krypton
Source: Kodi.tv

There are a large number of community-made skins available. Most will have a thematic focus, and change menu options around to suit that focus. They may often add menu options that don’t exist with the standard skin or take some away. The most popular skins currently available are:

For a larger database of skins, users can check the Official Repository. There are over a dozen skins listed there.

Builds

Kodi user guide
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Builds are a combination of skins and addons. Individual developers within the Kodi community will design specific Kodi builds around certain themes. These builds will include a unique skin that changes the look and feel of the addon, while also including a large number of pre-installed Kodi addons. There are a number of very popular Kodi builds, some of which focus specifically on popular purposes, such as movie/TV, live TV streaming or sports, in particular.

With builds, however, developers will generally need to update the build to suit new Kodi versions. If you’re trying to use a build and find that it doesn’t work, it’s a good idea to check whether there is a recently updated version of that build to work with the latest version. Otherwise, you may want to download an older version of Kodi that will work with that build.

Among the most popular builds available for Kodi are:

If you’re looking to get started with Kodi, but you’re not sure what addons work well, you might want to get started with a specific build first. This will help cut down the time searching for new addons to install and will give you a chance to experience what Kodi has to offer.

UPnP

Universal Plug and Play, or UPnP, is a set of networking protocols that allow different devices connected to the same network to easily locate each other and work together for different purposes. A good method to help visualize this is to consider the way in which computer users on the same network can allow their computers to be open and accessible to others on that network. When you have your computer set to “Discoverable”, that means anyone also on that network can see your computer and have limited access to some of your files.

UPnP through Kodi works similarly. There are a lot of devices that Kodi will recognize, and a lot of devices that will recognize Kodi. The UPnP functionality allows different devices to stream their video content directly to Kodi, or for Kodi to stream content directly to different devices connected to the same network.

For UPnP to work, both devices need to have Kodi installed. You can then access the video library on one device and beam it to the other device. This allows users to beam content from a computer that has music and video files stored directly to a mobile device with Kodi running. Many users with Kodi box devices utilize them for this purpose.

Kodi TV boxes, which are similar to an Apple TV or Fire TV, connect to your TV through an HDMI cord and that make running Kodi through a TV far easier. Most of these come with their own remote. However, these remotes often do not work well, making UPnP operated remotes a good alternative. That said, some Kodi remotes do use infrared instead of UPnP, so if you’re looking for a UPnP option, make sure to get a Kodi remote that has the technology you’re looking for.

Remotes

Typically a device utilized with Kodi boxes, many users turn to remotes and keyboards to make remote Kodi operation easier. These devices connect directly to a Kodi box via infrared or Bluetooth, at which point they can be picked up and used to operate Kodi. While some remotes are simply that — remotes — many are remote and keyboard combos that make typing into Kodi easier. However, some Kodi remotes operate as apps, at which point, they operate more like a UPnP device than anything else.

Unless you are buying a Kodi TV box, it is unlikely that you will need a remote or keyboard. However, operating Kodi on a TV box without one can be troublesome. While most TV boxes will come with a remote, quite often the remote packaged with the device will not work well or lack a keyboard. Before purchasing a remote or keyboard for your box, make sure that it works with the device’s OS and hardware. Additionally, consider whether you prefer a Bluetooth connection with the remote or infrared.

Web Interfaces

A very uncommon use for Kodi, but a potential option, Kodi can conceivably be used as a slimmed down web browser with the right addon. However, there are currently no addons available that we know of that do this. This highlights the fact that Kodi’s biggest limitation is the lack of addons that can serve different purposes.

Weather

The ability to access weather through Kodi can be accomplished using addons. Kodi’s Official Repository includes several official weather addons that will simply pull this information from official weather websites such as Weather Underground and Yahoo! Weather. Kodi was designed to use these addons in a specific way that differs from video addons, allowing users to display the information much in the same way that it might appear on a mobile device.

Once location settings are set through the installed plugin, users can access weather information by simply clicking on the “Weather” tab from the home screen.