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Video has become an incredibly common part of everyday life. People take videos on smartphones, upload them via YouTube, and share them on Facebook.

You’d think, then, that free video editors would be common, but it turns out the selection is limited for anyone not blessed with Mac OS X (and, as a result, access to iMovie). Here are the five top choices for Windows users.

Windows Movie Maker

Introduced originally in 2000, Windows Movie Maker’s peak popularity Make Quick & Professional Looking Videos with Windows Movie Maker (Part 1) Make Quick & Professional Looking Videos with Windows Movie Maker (Part 1) Read More  came with its release as Windows Live Movie Maker in the Windows Live Essentials software suite Windows Live Essentials For Windows 8 - What You Need To Know Windows Live Essentials For Windows 8 - What You Need To Know Microsoft is in the process of phasing out Windows Essentials, formerly known as Windows Live Essentials. Microsoft has included Modern-style replacements for many of the Essentials applications in Windows 8 – email, calendaring, contacts, messaging,... Read More . Movie Maker’s development has been slow as of late, with the latest full release still carrying the name “Movie Maker 2012”, but it’s still an excellent choice.

windowsmoviemaker

WMM’s best feature is its ease-of-use. Video editing can be a bit confusing by nature, but WMM at least doesn’t force the user to download new codecs or browse open-source libraries. It’s a complete package from the moment it’s installed, and its linear editing interface is nearly as straightforward as iMovie.

There’s also a fair selection of features. You can add titles, introduce transition effects, add audio and adjust the volume and fade of audio, both in your video clip and in the attached audio track. File support is very broad and videos can be saved in resolutions up to 1080p.

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You can download Movie Maker directly from Microsoft’s website.

Lightworks

lightworks

If you’re looking for a more serious editor, give Lightworks a look Lightworks: Lightweight Open Source Video Editing Software Lightworks: Lightweight Open Source Video Editing Software Read More . This tool has been around since 1989 (that’s 25 years) and has been used to edit many professional movies you’ve probably watched and enjoyed, like Pulp Fiction and Braveheart.

As you might expect, this professional-grade editor comes with a professional-grade learning curve. This is a non-linear editor, which means it is not based on a simple A-to-B video timeline. That makes advanced edits easier, but thoroughly confuses newbies. Add tons of effects and multi-cam editing and you’ve got one heck of a nut to crack. If you manage it, though, you’ll be able to create videos of higher quality than most other free editors.

The free version, unfortunately, comes with a few caveats, the most problematic being a lack of 1080p output. Free users can only output at 720p, which could be a major turn-off. If that doesn’t bother you, though, Lightworks is a solid choice.

Avidemux

Avidemux is a free, open source video editor also available for Linux 7 Free Open Source Video Editors For Linux 7 Free Open Source Video Editors For Linux Read More and Mac OS X. The software was originally released several years ago and has been updated consistently, with the latest coming about six months prior to this article’s publication.

avidemux

This program represents a half-step between very serious software, like Lightworks, and a basic video editor like Movie Maker. Non-linear editing is supported, subtitles can be added, and the software’s file format lets users save all the settings associated with a project, which can be re-applied to another project. Scripting is available through the GUI or directly through a command line. Virtually all major video and audio formats are supported for input and most are supported for output, though WMV and QuickTime are absent.

You can grab Avidemux from the developer’s website, which includes a link to a wiki and forums that will help you become familiar with the software.

YouTube Editor

You don’t have to download software to make basic edits to a video. YouTube has its own web-based editor that is simple but handy – if you’re intending to upload to YouTube, of course.

Any video you upload can be edited regardless of format and resolution. The editing process is linear, so it’s similar to iMovie and Windows Movie Maker, and the video and audio tracks can be edited individually.

youtubeeditor

One of the most useful features this editor offers is access to YouTube’s library of Creative Commons videos and music. You can put them right into your video without downloading them. There’s a small selection of transitions and text options, though not enough for anything close to professional editing.

The biggest downside, of course, is the fact you can only edit YouTube videos. Theoretically you could then re-download them for use elsewhere with a YouTube video ripping tool, but at that point you’d likely be better served by Movie Maker.

VSDC Free Video Editor

This appropriately titled editor is another solid choice for people who want a semi-professional option without having to pay a professional price tag. A non-linear editor, VSDC allows for advanced editing techniques. The software also supports a very broad range of video and audio effects like color correction, blur reduction and volume correction.

vsdcvideoeditor

Though still confusing for the novice, the basic interface of VSDC is a bit easier to grasp than that of Lightworks, thanks to a front-end that mimics the Microsoft ribbon interface and has a more conventional workflow.

One nice extra that may elevate VSDC above the free version of Lightworks is video output support for 1080p at 30 FPS, which is much better than its competitor’s 720p limitation. The installer is also a rather compact 26 megabytes, about three times smaller than Lightworks. On the downside, though, the installation process (which include’s CNET’s downloader) prompts the user several times to install adware – be wary of these requests!

Conclusion

These five video editors represent the best Windows users can download today. Of them Movie Maker probably has the widest appeal, but Avidemux and VSDC Free Video Editor may also please amateurs looking for something a bit more capable.

What’s your favorite free Windows video editor? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credits: video editing Via Shutterstock

  1. lKevin
    August 16, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    VSDC Video editor program especially since the fifth version of out of competition

  2. Rick
    August 16, 2016 at 9:20 am

    Since summer update, I'm a fan of VSDC Free Video Editor. I make all my presentations (often requiring trimming, merging, adding charts and videos in MP4, MOV, AVI as well as video effects) in this editor.
    BTW the program is honestly free: no hidden adware during installation or paid export.
    I recommend their 5-th version, it's a step ahead.

    • John Eddy
      September 18, 2016 at 6:50 pm

      I disagree. I tried it and cannot actually create a video without upgrading to the version you have to pay for.

    • Rick
      September 23, 2016 at 7:45 am

      You just click Continue and have you file exported.

  3. lotus
    May 6, 2016 at 8:34 am

    I choose VideoShow ,video editor completely free

  4. alsen
    April 6, 2016 at 3:50 am

    I used Gilisoft Video Editor - Easiest, Powerful, All-in-One Video Editing Software Anyone Can Use!

  5. john cena lel
    January 4, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    WMM is not a good editor.
    The youtube editor is the shittiest I know of.

    Atleast try some editors before actually making a top list.

  6. Jack Ketch
    November 30, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    Beware. Just tried installing VSDC and it tried to install opencandy spyware.

    • Eric
      December 6, 2015 at 1:24 pm

      VSDC is the best video editor I've ever had. I didn't have the adware problem though.

    • Yhaaa
      August 16, 2016 at 1:41 pm

      No malware, if download the program from official site videosoftdev.com
      It at the moment fantastic, free video editor with great functionality.

  7. Al Wal
    July 25, 2015 at 11:40 am

    Lightworks isn't free

  8. vasco dada
    February 1, 2015 at 6:35 am

    Lightworks brings so many errors that orevent it to launch. Its a waste of time downloading such a huge file, that will then after fail to install, with numerous stages of errors

  9. vasco dada
    February 1, 2015 at 6:35 am

    Lightworks brings so many errors that orevent it to launch. Its a waste of time downloading such a huge file, that will then after fail to install, with numerous stages of errors

  10. 1luckymama
    January 1, 2015 at 11:34 am

    I was thinking of giving one of these a go, either lightworks or blender seems to be the way to go.They just make it sound scary with this steep learning curve business,that's the only thing putting me off.
    I purchased corel prox3 a couple of years ago at first it was good then it kept crashing every time I went to render a movie.So then I tried the updated prox7 and the same thing,it started crashing when I would render a movie.It has been so frustrating as I have spent hours editing and making a movie then to have the whole thing not render Arhhhh.........
    prox7 has a thing called smart package ,I thought I could just save the movie and render it on another video editing site,but all the overlays and effects won't transfer etc.
    Some of these review sites will tell you that corel prox7 is a good programme,but if you look up all the people trying to get help from the programme you'll see the frustration.
    happy editing everyone,good luck.

  11. Tom W
    September 26, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    I've been using VSDC for a few weeks now, and there seems to be a lot of little bugs that get in the way when I'm trying to use it. The most puzzling is that it won't let me create a video with a custom resolution of 1600x900, I can only do 1600x896 or 1600x904.

    I installed LightWorks today, and it looks like it could be very good. I haven't had time to edit anything properly yet, so I don't know if it has all of the features that VSDC has.

    • kernmapper
      February 12, 2015 at 1:30 am

      896 and 904 are both numbers that are evenly divisible by 8 (the number of bits in a byte). This indicates a possible limitation or requirement of something in the processing technology or the digital data stream, such as a particular video format or codec.
      I'm no video expert, but multiples of 8 come up quite frequently in computing.
      An example would be a JPEG photo. Some software is capable of performing a "lossless JPEG rotation", where a JPEG image is rotated and re-saved without losing any image quality. During such a rotation, the image dimensions will be adjusted to even multiples of 8 (if necessary), possibly resulting in a slight cropping of the image (which is usually imperceptible to the eye with modern high-resolution digital camera images). This cropping occurs because the rotation algorithm subdivides the image into 8x8 pixel blocks (Minimum Coded Units), and any extra pixel rows are discarded.
      It is highly probable that certain video files are subject to these limitations as well. After all, a video is just a series of still images.

    • Scutterman
      February 12, 2015 at 8:51 am

      While that kind of makes sense, it is a restriction that doesn't appear to be in any other video editing programme. I even recall using Windows Movie Maker for adding sound to a track that I'd already edited and rendered and that seemed to handle it just fine.

      Either way, I had to move away from VSDC eventually. It would constantly crash when the it got to the end of the video, even during rendering. Half of the time it would fully render, then crash before saving to the file. I moved onto the paid Sony Movie Studio and it's allowed me to edit much faster.

  12. Pris
    June 27, 2014 at 3:10 am

    When I was a kid I used to do a lot of stuff in Movie Maker, when Windows XP was around. Then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.

    No, but seriously, I have Windows 7 on my laptop, and because I'm studying media and stuff, we have to edit videos too, (we learn final cut at college but im not a mac user at home) so I thought I would use WMM as a quick editing tool. And then I hated it.

    Where did the timeline went!?? It was so easy to use, that even when I was a child I could learn it! I could cut very precisely, and have a library etc. but with the new look, it just loads very slow, I have to upload ALL my clips on the story board instead of a library to organize in folders and cut them there and then drag them on the proyect. Don't make me even talk about editing the music.
    Just editing a very quick 2 minute video can be a pain for me.

    I then knew about Adobe Premiere but my free trial expired :(
    So all my video editing shall be at school..for now

  13. Kyle S
    June 4, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Thanks for the recommendations! Perfect timing for some upcoming projects.

  14. AJ North
    June 3, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    For a substantially more trustworthy download site for VSDC Free Video Converter -- and much more software -- than CNET's Download.com (since their acquisition by CBS, Inc.), one might look to Softpedia.com -- http://www.softpedia.com/get/Multimedia/Video/Encoders-Converter-DIVX-Related/VSDC-Free-Video-Converter.shtml .

    Not only do Softpedia not "wrap" any software they offer, but when the source providing it does, an explicit advisory is posted in red to warn the user. Also, whenever possible, Softpedia provide a clean (or "lite") version of the software (such as Piriform's CCleaner, for example).

  15. mr.G
    June 1, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    Just she'll out a few bucks and buy Adobe Premiere.

  16. Dave E
    May 30, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    AV S Video Editor is excellent, give it a whirl, its so easy to use and does a great job. Its also free if you don't mind a watermark, and the full version is great value for money.

  17. Tito
    May 30, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    What about Videopad Video Editor? It has quite a few plugins, comes with 1080p output and seems pretty easy to use.

    • UBE Chief
      March 8, 2015 at 7:36 pm

      Videopad has a very limited trial, which then forces you to pay/upgrade before you can export videos again. Very nice and easy to use, yes, but for people that cant afford to buy programs they only use every once in a while, pointless.

  18. Nash J
    May 30, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    Windows Movie Maker works for me. It was easy to use. I am thinking about Adobe premier though which cost but I think that might be an option.

    • Alessandro Zamboni
      May 30, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      Thanks Matt and Nash, I will try at first the free tools from this page, then in case I will look to some paid tools!

      See you soon,
      Alessandro

  19. Rob Halper
    May 30, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Another excellent and inexpensive editor is Adobe Premiere Elements, which you should be cable to purchase for less than$100. It's also a good starting point if you want to upgrade to the full version. A lot of Mac editors are starting to use Premiere following the demise of Final Cut 7!

    • Matt S
      May 30, 2014 at 4:27 pm

      I may upgrade to that if I ever get more serious about putting up YouTube videos...

  20. pmshah
    May 30, 2014 at 1:51 am

    So far as quality is concerned I think Avidemux is the best of the lot. Only problem with it is that it is slow, hasn't been updated in quite a while and uses mencoder rather than ffmpeg. I use ffmpeg based encoders like Handbrake or Video2Video for reducing the bit rate of very large files. These however are not very good for changing image size in which case I use Avidemux. Where I live electric power supply is not very stable and quite often I have had to restart the process from scratch. In this case I came up with my own solution. First I would take the original video file and rip it with mkvmergegui breaking it down into several parts., i.e a 6 gb file into 6 parts. Then convert each part with avidemux at the same settings. Once this is done I would then combine the 6 converted files with mkvmergegui to get a single file. Even if I have power loss during the process I would have to restart only a single 1 GB segment and not the whole 6 GB process. This has worked for me every time.

    • AJ North
      June 3, 2014 at 7:46 pm

      Greetings. According to the Softpedia site, Avidemux had a major update on 13 March 2014 (and a bug fix on the 24th) -- http://www.softpedia.com/get/Multimedia/Video/Video-Editors/AviDemux-test.shtml (changelog link also provided).

    • pmshah
      June 5, 2014 at 3:18 am

      @AJNorth

      Thank you for the update. I will most certainly try it out. Actually I don't do any editing in real sense. I just reduce the file size to manageable level for viewing on my tablet when I am making 6 hour one way train journeys twice a month. What I really liked about Avidemux is auto trimming and sharpen filters.

  21. pmshah
    May 30, 2014 at 1:37 am

    @ Sharon V

    A very simple way is to use MkvToolNix. All you do is open your file in MkvMergeGui and rip it to an mkv file if not alraedy in mkv container. Then open this mkv file in MrvExtract Gui and check mark the component/s that you want extracted and you are done. Once in a while you may come across a stubborn one that won't extract properly. You could then try your luck with MP4Box of tXmuxer.

  22. Col. Panek
    May 30, 2014 at 1:06 am

    OpenShot is a great editor, simple and fairly powerful, and it's being actively developed. KDenLive is competent. PiTiVi I've used in the past... it's OK. AviDemux has a learning curve and the options for formats are confusing, but I've used it to transcode European home movies. Cinelerra I haven't tried. All are open source, no-adware. I run them mostly on my 4 year old Ubuntu E-Machines system with 2 GB ram.

  23. Peter F
    May 29, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    Thankyou for this post. I've been using windows movie maker for years and am ready for something a bit more grown up. Lightworks is something I've seen before so I think I'll take the plunge!

  24. A&L
    May 29, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    Can any of these reverse a clip and change the speed

    • Ethan H
      June 15, 2014 at 8:24 pm

      Yeah, I use lightworks for all my (semi-professional) video editing and it has all those features. It's a little bit of a learning curve though - took me bout a month to realise it's full potential. Also, I would recommend audacity for sound editing - it's free.

  25. Rafael G
    May 29, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    And what about Blender 3D? it's Open Source and it has a video compositor built in.

  26. Alessandro Zamboni
    May 29, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    I would like a simple video editor that permits me to put a soundtrack on a video, in a loop. Which one is the best? Thanks so much and see you soon!

    • Matt S
      May 30, 2014 at 4:26 pm

      I think any of these would work...though I'm not aware of a specific loop feature, you can always just add the track to the video multiple times for the same effect.

  27. John W
    May 29, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    iMovie is not a blessing if you don't use "Apple approved" file formats. Same applies to Final Cut Pro.

    All the above are OK for one (1) family holiday video and one (1) Christmas video. That is two (2) videos a year max. Beyond that they will drive you nuts in one way or another.

    If you intend to do video even only once a month I urge you to buy something. Sony Vegas is frequently on Amazon and ebay for less that 20 UK pounds. It might save your life.

    Finally, if you're going to do a lot of video on a PC and need to keep your sanity for other purposes you must take the time to learn how to use the software. We are all professional video viewers from the age of 3. If your video is even the slightest bit not as good as broadcast TV your children will instantly be able to tell you it is crap.

    Oh - and get a very big hard drive and lot's and lot's of RAM on a 64bit system.

  28. the doors
    May 29, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Excellent, easy in use prog which enables to perform professional video editing for free. Both professional video editor and amateur can use it because the prog has a wizard assistant. A 100 % advantage is that you can work with transparent videos. Previously I used After Effects option when I worked with videos from envato website, but now I can do it with a help of VSDC - excellent news!!!

  29. Xoandre
    May 29, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    I have been using WMM since its first iteration. Certainly, it has many flaws, crashes often - causing you to lose any unsaved changes - and is slow as hell, but it works well enough.

    I would say the only major thing missing from WMM is the ability to zoom and crop. Overlaying text is limited to title cards, subtitles, or scrolling credits. However, there some legacy "effects" which are completely useless (like the Hue Cycle effect, which cycles through the rainbow of hues once and stops).

    For slideshows of photos, it is great. For editing anything longer than 5 minutes of footage at a time, it loads each clip very slowly (sometimes even slower than real-time -- being a 15 minute clip that takes 20 minutes to load into the program).

    I would suggest that you SAVE after every change you make to the project, or you will lose your changes when it crashes. And it will crash. Multiple times. And then it will refuse to load the project until you have rebooted your PC.

    However, i still use WMM. It is effective and - having tried using the other Editors listed in this article, WMM is the most intuitive and easiest to use. Most of the others have no tutorials or explanations, and knowing where or how to start is a problem if you have no pointers.

    • Matt S
      May 29, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      I've run into the slow loading issue too. It seems to be related to format. When I use .mp4s then always take forever to load in, but .avi loads almost instantly.

    • Amadeoz
      May 30, 2014 at 11:43 am

      I agree with these comments. WMM is a good editor to learn the basics. Ifyou, after a dozen short movies, want a better one, invest in one of the more advanced, semi- professional packages like Cyberlink's PowerDirector, Pinnacle Studio, magic or Vegas. Just make sure to have a comprehensive format converter handy.

  30. Sharon V
    May 29, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    I am looking for a video editor that will allow me to separate audio and video files will any of these do that

    • Matt S
      May 29, 2014 at 3:50 pm

      You can use Audacity to get the audio from the video.

    • Rumbo
      May 29, 2014 at 6:15 pm

      Sharon V
      If all you are looking for is a tool that will extract audio from video files, then you might look into AoA Audio Extractor from AoAMedia. They have a free tool that will extract audio from just about any video file. I use it a lot especially to extract audio from YouTube videos that really have no video, just audio. It's free but they also offer a paid more advanced version. Hope that helps.

  31. Ivan
    May 29, 2014 at 11:04 am

    Windows Movie Maker is pretty good.
    However - IT IS VERY UNSTABLE. It constantly crashes (I tried on different systems) which makes it a serious pain to use. What a shame...

    • Matt S
      May 29, 2014 at 3:49 pm

      I kind of agree on this. It hasn't crashed on me,, but there's always some niggling little bug. Like, on my PC, I always have to save a project, then re-open it, then export it to the final format. If I don't, it errors out saying that a file in the project is open elsewhere. And is always does that at the VERY END of the export process, which can take an hour for a large video.

  32. Fuad R
    May 29, 2014 at 9:55 am

    Thank u so much for this post :D

  33. Gg
    May 28, 2014 at 10:11 pm
  34. Tom W
    May 28, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    I was just recently thinking about looking for free video editors. I think that VSDC and Lightworks looks good, but I think I'll try VSDC first, simply for the higher output resolution.

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