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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Convert MKV files (and others) seamlessly with Permute

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.


This morning I’ve been prepping for a long plane flight, and I had it in mind to convert some videos for watching on my iPad on the trip. Most of my files are in MP4 format, which works seamlessly on iOS devices, but every once in a while I happen across one that’s in another common format: MKV.

MKV, or Matroska, is a container format, like MP4, AVI, and others. That means that it essentially has video, audio, and often subtitle components that could themselves be in one of several formats.

In general converting video files is a task that I can handle with Handbrake or VLC, but in my research and quick trials, I found that I ran into a common problem: the end result of the conversion was an MP4 file with video, but no audio. While I probably could have spent a while twiddling settings to figure out how to fix what was wrong, I’m also in a bit of a time crunch, so I went looking for a better answer.

That answer turned out to be the $10 Permute (which handily also offers a free trial with up to 10 conversions). I dragged the MKV into Permute, chose MP4 from the dropdown menu, hit Start, and a few minutes later had a perfectly pristine-looking MP4 file–with audio, hurray!–that I transferred over to my iPad.

There are a ton of video conversion utilities out there, many of which are of dubious origins, but Permute (which is available via the Mac App Store or on its developer’s site) is fast, easy to use, and on the up and up. It handles pictures, audio, and video, and converts to and from a variety of formats.1

Also, it doesn’t hurt that its icon is an adorable robot.2

  1. Amusingly, I used it to convert its own icon into a JPEG for this post. INCEPTION! 
  2. Or not. Yeah, you knew it was coming. 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at or reach him by email at His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]

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