Last month we showed you how to get started with Usenet using SABnzbd. Now we’re back to show you how to supercharge your SABnzbd experience with add-ons and customizations.

If you’re new to the whole Usenet and SABnzbd circuit, you’ll be well served to hit up our original guide to getting started with Usenet here. If you’re interested in using Usenet and SABnzbd like a TiVo to download all your favorite TV shows make sure to check out our follow up Usenet guide focused on SickBeard—a TV management app so magical you’ll have to see it to believe it.

Once you’re up to speed on SABnzbd and have it installed and the basic configuration knocked out, it’s time to start customizing it.

Generate an API Key and Configure for Outside Access

The first thing you want to do is set up SABnzbd for remote control and outside access—most add-ons and external apps won’t work without them.  Open up your SABnzbd web console and navigate to Config –> General. There you’ll find several sub-menus of interest. First look in the SABnzbd Web Server sub-menu. At the bottom of the sub-menu you’ll see the key generation interface. Click Generate New Key for both the API and NZB Keys. Cut and paste the keys into a TXT file and put it aside for the moment—several of the tricks we’ll cover here will call on one or both of them and many apps and add-ons you might find in your explorations will require them.

The second thing you want to do is check out the Web server authentication sub-menu. While no login/pass might be fine for inside your private home network if you’re going to access your SABnzbd installation from outside your home network a password is a must. SABnzbd does support HTTPS, you can toggle it on in the HTTPS Support sub-menu. You can read more about HTTPS Support in SABnzbd and how to generate a custom SSL certificate with OpenSSL here. Once you’ve finished configuring things, click the Config tab and then click Restart.

Scheduling and Limiting Your Download Speed

SABnzbd includes several tools to help you schedule and limit your download speeds in order to keep your Usenet activity from overwhelming your home network. If you’re sharing the network with roommates or family a little tweaking here will go a long way towards helping them enjoy their browsing without them accusing you of hogging all the bandwidth. It’s also a great way to take advantage of off-peak downloading if your ISP regulates such things.

The simplest way to regulate your download speed is to visiting the Tuning sub-menu located in Config –> General. There you can set a hard limit on your download speed in KB/s. It’s simple but not dynamic; whatever you set it to will be the hard cap for SABnzbd regardless of the time of day.

While you’re in the Tuning sub-menu you can also set and auto-refresh interval for the web interface (if you leave a window open watching SABnzbd this is a handy feature) and populate the Cleanup List with file extensions you want automatically removed from the downloads. We leave the Cleanup List blank but you may want to automatically get rid of files you’re not using such as .NFO and .SFV files.  You can add any extension to the Cleanup List so if you find yourself deleting files while organizing your downloads it’s quite a time save to throw them in the list.

Returning to the topic of speed limiting, the download limit in the Tuning sub-menu is quite limited. If you want a more flexible limit you can head over to Config –> Scheduling. The way the SABnzbd scheduler works is that you plug in specific events. If you want the system to pause downloading every morning at 8AM you would plug in 8 for the hour, daily for the frequency, pause for the action, and leave the arguments blank. The action menu has quite a few parameters to select from. You can speed limit, enable and disable specific Usenet servers, pause and resume, shut down SABnzbd, and more. Just remember that you need to set the time using 24 hour notation and create a start/stop point for most actions such as pause/resume, speed limit/no limit, etc. You can read more about the scheduling features here.

Although this is outside the scope of SABnzbd specifically, if you really want to get nitty gritty with your network utilization and have your router do the heavy lifting of actively shaping your traffic and bandwidth, check out our guide to using DD-WRT and QOS rules to prioritize network traffic.

Enable Categorization in Download and Watched Folders

If you’re a frequent downloader you’ll quickly find that the folder SABnzbd unpacks your downloads to becomes a gigantic mess. It can radically tidy things up to start using categories. SABnzbd supports categorization on two fronts. You can categorize items once they are in the queue and you can also set up categories within your watched NZB drop folder—using the latter automatically adds files dropped into it to a specific category. So how does this work in practice?

You can create categories by navigating to Config –> Categories. There you can create as many categories as you wish. Simply plug in a category name such as “TV” and a folder/path like “TV Shows”. Any queued items you switch to the TV category will now be dumped into the sub-directory /TV Shows/ in your SABnzbd default download folder. You can wash and repeat for applications, books, movies, or whatever other files you’re downloading. You can read more about configuring user-defined categories here.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to muck around with toggling the categories in the queue and you use a Watch Folder for loading your NZB files into SABnzbd you can use both folders and file names to toggle categories. For example you could create a folder in your SABnzbd Watch Folder with the same name as a category, such as /TV/, and any NZB files you save in there will be automatically categorized as TV shows. This trick also works with file names. If you tack a category name in double brackets like  {{tv}}sometvshow.nzb onto a show, SABnzbd will strip the category name and properly sort it for you.

Categorization is quiet handy to keep your download folder tidy. Although we used TV shows as an example, television is one of the areas where skipping the basic categorization and going with 3rd party helper application SickBeard will save you piles of time.

Browser Add-ons Streamline the SABnzbd Experience

Although SABnzbd comes with a Spartan but completely serviceable web console, browser add-ons really streamline the management process—especially if you’ve got SABnzbd installed on a remote computer. Since you’re already using a browser to interact with SABnzbd it’s not much of an adjustment to stop relying completely on the web console and start enjoying the benefits of a browser add-on.

Chrome users can take advantage of the excellent SABconnect++—seen in the screenshot above. SABconnect++ gives you instance access to your queue, speed limiting, a pause/resume toggle, and desktop notifications. In addition to providing a speedy link to SABnzbd and notifications SABconnect++ also provides a direct interface for almost a dozen NZB search engines. The direct interface allows for 1-click NZB file downloads right from the search interface of the index. For those search engines which aren’t supported you can still right click on NZB file links and Send to SABnzbd.

Firefox users will want to check nzbdStatus. It’s not as feature rich as SABconnect+ but is still quite capable. You can send NZB links directly to SABnzbd, there’s a status bar widget for one click pause/resume and hovering over the widget gives you the status of the current download.

If you’ve configured SABnzbd for outside access and properly configured your home firewall, you can use the above browser add-ons wherever you are to receive notifications and monitor your SABnzbd queue.

Mobile Apps for Smartphone-Based SABnzbd Control

If remote access to the web interface and/or browser add-ons isn’t enough micromanagement for you there are several mobile app options to choose from.

Android users have a variety of apps to choose from. For general use the top two SABnzbd management apps are SABcontrol (Free / $1.40 for the ad-free Plus version) and  SABMobile ($2.83, seen in the screenshots above). SABControl allows you to monitor your queue, pause and resume downloads, and remotely add NZB files to your SABnzbd installation. SABMobile includes the same features but also adds in SSH support for secure remote connections back to your home network and sports a built-in RSS reader, web browser, and index search  so you can easily find NZB files on the go. If you’re looking for Android apps with tighter integration with popular sites like NZB Matrix, make sure to check out SAB Sheep to easily browse NZB Matrix and even stream partially completed downloads to VLC mobile.

iOS users also have a decent spread of apps to pick from. One of the most popular SABNzbd apps for iOS is, not surprisingly, one of the most popular for Android. SABMobile ($2.99) offers the same great features we outlined above. Another popular iOS app is myNZB ($2.99). You can view your queue, pause and resume the entire queue or individual items, adjust your speed limits remotely, change categories and priorities remotely, check your warning log, access nearly a dozen NZB index sites, and manually add NZB files. If you do your mobile browsing from your iPad, make sure to check out SABCommand ($2.99). It takes full advantage of the iPad’s spacious screen to give you a nice overview of your queue and the files in it—it’s light on features compared to the other iOS offerings but looks much prettier on the big screen.

All of the above apps are straight forward to configure, just makes sure you don’t skip over the first section in this guide about setting up an API key and configuring SABnzbd for remote access.

Consider yourself a SABnzbd power user? Sound off in the comments with your favorite tweaks and apps. Don’t forget to explain why the tweak helps you out or why you picked a certain app over another one (the world of SABnzbd apps is very niche and a single killer feature can make or break whether an app works for a certain person the way they want it to).

Profile Photo for Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Senior Smart Home Editor at How-To Geek. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at How-To Geek, Review Geek, LifeSavvy, and Lifehacker. Jason served as Lifehacker's Weekend Editor before he joined How-To Geek.
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