Best Free Editing Software

It’s very easy to build up a custom collection of media files; take a few digital photos, shoot a movie or two on your mobile phone, download a little music, and your PC will be packed with files in no time at all.

Processing these files afterwards, though, is a little more challenging. What if some of your photos need work, your videos could benefit from a little trimming, maybe your audio files need an edit or two?

You could opt for a commercial solution, of course. But this could be expensive – the best image and video editors in particular come with a sizeable price tag – and may also be overkill for what you need.

A simpler solution might be to opt for a free media editor. There are a wide range available, from straightforward beginner-friendly tools which can handle the basics, to advanced, high-end applications which are up for almost any challenge. So which are the best? We pitched fifteen top names against each other – 5 graphics, 5 audio and video editors – in an effort to find out.

Just keep in mind that, while all our tools are free, it’s increasingly common for programs to come bundled with browser toolbars and other potentially unwanted extras.

You don’t have to install these, but sometimes you’ll have to do a little work to avoid it, so make sure you don’t simply keep clicking “Next” through an installation: read each dialog, choose the Custom installation option where it’s offered, and refuse any bundled toolbars if you’d rather do without them.

Best free graphics editing software

1. Paint.NET

Just as you’d expect from a project which (it was hoped) would one day replace the regular Windows Paint, Paint.NET focuses primarily on ease of use. And in general it succeeds very well.

The toolbar buttons are sensibly chosen, for instance, with helpful tooltips available to explain how everything works. The menus are well designed: even if you’ve never used the program before, you won’t be searching long for a particular function. And overall it’s easy to open an image, carry out some basic edit, repair or retouching task, and save it in the format you need.

Still, demanding graphics users may be left wanting more.

The program’s file format support is mostly essentials-only, for instance (although it can read and write DirectDraw Surface/ DDS files, too).

Vector drawing and paint tools are a little on the basic side.

The selection of effects (and their configurability) is limited by comparison with some of the competition.

And although Paint.NET has a very lengthy list of plugins available to extend its abilities, the program uses a standard of its own: you can’t simply drop in your own Photoshop plugins and expect them to work.

Of course if you only need a basic feature set then none of this matters (if anything, not having too much extra junk cluttering the menus and toolbars makes the program easier to use). So while Paint.NET may not be the ideal editing choice for experienced users, if you’re a beginner – or just in a hurry – then the program will get most basic jobs done with the minimum of hassle or fuss.

We liked

Ease of use, clean interface, lots of plugins available, busy online community ready to help if you need advice

We disliked

Drawing tools are very basic, no Photoshop plugin support, limited number of effects, short on configurability, no local help


2. PixBuilder Studio

At first glance, PixBuilder Studio seems to be a fairly basic editor, along the lines of Paint.NET. There’s a similar toolbar, up-front layer and history panels, the same sort of natural interface for basic operations: it’s all very easy to use. But take a closer look and you’ll soon spot more advanced features, dotted around the package.

There’s support for importing more file types, for instance, including icons (ICO) and Photoshop PSD formats (although the program can’t write either).

PixBuilder is strong on selection options, too. You can choose areas of your image by rectangles, polygons, magnetic polygons, single rows and columns, a colour range and more.

The program has more features than you’d expect in a number of areas. So when painting, for example, you don’t just get to choose from a selection of prebuilt brushes, but you can also edit these in some fairly subtle ways (diameter, hardness, angle, roundness, spacing).

And if you’d like to use PixBuilder Studio on an underpowered system then you’ll appreciate the memory manager, which enables you to restrict how much RAM the program will consume.

You only get a very few effects built in as standard, though. There’s no red-eye remover here, no noise removal, no distortion effects and so on. But by way of compensation, you do get support for Photoshop 8BF filters, so if you’re willing to invest the time and effort to get set up then you’ll be able to install just as many effects as you need.

The fact that you need to carry out this preparation means PixBuilder Studio won’t be for everyone. If you just want to fix up a few party photos to remove a little red-eye, say, it’ll be easier to install Paint.NET and get the job done right away.

But if you’re looking for a tool which goes just a little beyond the basics, with good layer and selection tools, PDF import and 8BF support, then PixBuilder Studio could be the ideal choice.

We liked

Straightforward interface, PSD and ICO import, good layer and selection controls, memory manager, Photoshop 8BF filter support

We disliked

Short of built-in effects, can’t write PSD/ ICO files, requires some preparation before you can use 8BF filters


3. PhotoScape 3.6

PhotoScape takes an unusual approach to the editing interface, with a thumbnail browser, an area for a picture preview, and a compact tabbed pane containing surprisingly few buttons. Your first impressions will be that there’s no way it can compete with the competition, then – but start clicking a few of those buttons and you might just be surprised.

You may only see one of the program’s photo frames up front, for instance, but there’s actually around 170 available for use.

It’s easy to add lines, polygons, ellipses, squares, stars, and many other objects – including speech bubbles, complete with captions – to a photo.

And while seeing a single listbox with the word “filter” probably won’t leave you expecting very much, give it a click and it actually turns out to be packed with functions. And not just obvious choices, like Blur, Emboss or Noise. You also multiple film effects, some powerful vignetting tools, and an attractive lens flare. As well as multiple distortion tools, smart tools to correct red-eye, remove moles and more, and eleven ways to turn your image into a piece of art (“Oil Painting”, “Pastel”, “Pen”, “Pencil”, “Cartoon” and more).

The unusual form of presentation may mean some will never take to PhotoScape. And it’s no doubt there are some crucial omissions to the program. There’s no layer support, for instance, and you can’t select areas of a photo to work on in the usual way. (Although the program does partly address this by providing tools, like Red Eye Correction or Mole Removal, where you must first select the relevant part of the photo before they’ll work.)

Still, there is plenty of more basic image editing power here. And PhotoScape extends this even further with a host of associated programs, including a screen capture tool, a module to convert RAW files to JPG, batch rename and editing tools, printing utilities, even an option to create animated GIFs from multiple photos. So its interface may be quirky, but if you can live without layers then there’s a lot to like here.

We liked

Plenty of effects, a good selection of photo frames, lots of bonus features,

We disliked

Quirky interface, no layers, limited selection options, some effects deliver below average results, no local help, very little brush control



It started life as a student project way back in 1995, but GIMP – The GNU Image Manipulation Program – is now a powerful image editor which is available on Linux, Windows and the Mac.

Old age hasn’t lead to a more finely-tuned interface, though, unfortunately, and the program’s images, dialogs and toolbars all open in separate panes. Which can be a little confusing. It seems the complaints have finally hit home, though, and the interface will be unified into a single window in an upcoming release.

Fortunately there are plenty of compensations for any interface confusion, though, and the first appears as soon as you hit File > Open. As well as the common image formats, GIMP can read a host of others, including Photoshop PSDs, Windows icons (ICO), PS and EPS files, even PDFs and AutoDesk FLIC animations.

Once your image is available, then it can be processed by stacks of essential features. And these show huge attention to detail. So you don’t get just one “blur” filter, for instance, but rather 6, and each of these is further configurable in a host of valuable ways. There are some excellent distortion filters, too, and a top-quality “oil painting” option.

The Colours menu is another strong point, with its ability to tweak hue, lightness and saturation, brightness, contrast, levels, and more. Again, you get a rich set of tools to do whatever you want, without any of it being particularly difficult. That is, if you don’t want to tweak your image manually then a click or two and GIMP will handle everything on your behalf.

And elsewhere there are a host of painting options, a good range of selection tools, plenty of layer control, and just far more power than you any right to expect from a free tool.

If you only need something very basic, just to resize a few clips or apply simple image corrections, then it’s probably not worth the effort of installing GIMP. The program isn’t particularly complicated, but it does have a lot of features, and you’re likely to spend quite some time learning how everything works.

If you’re looking for real image editing power, though, and you’re willing to spend time getting over the initial learning curve, then the GIMP just might be all you’ll ever need.

We liked

Wide file format support, lots of powerful filters and editing options, highly configurable, customisable keyboard shortcuts,

We disliked

Quirky interface, some filters don’t have preview options, local help not installed by default


5. Photo Pos Pro

Photo Pos Pro got off to a bad start by attempting to install a browser toolbar during setup. That’s acceptable if it’s done up-front, but the program makes it less than obvious – you must choose the “custom installation” option to clearly see what’s happening.

With that done, though, Photo Pos Pro launches to reveal a fairly clear and conventional interface. The toolbar buttons are a little small and there’s a vast array of menu options to explore, but most users should still feel at home right away.

You get all the usual basic manipulations, for instance: flips, rotations, resizes and more. You can tweak image colours, brightness and contrast manually, or get the program to do the hard work for you. There’s a good set of effects, and plenty of selection tools and layer options for when you need to get a little more advanced (although this can get a little complicated at times).

The program also includes some relatively unusual features. So there’s a very capable thumbnail browser, for instance. The HTML Export wizard allows you to save a tweaked image as a customised web page. And Photo Pos Pro doesn’t just have a few canned batch processing options to, say, rename images or convert between formats: you get a full script editor which supports applying any sequence of 29 commands to the images of your choice: resize, rotations, brightness and contrast tweaks, colour changes, whatever you want.

And these more surprising aspects of the program keep popping up, everywhere you look. Like an HTML Image Map creator, for instance. The ability to open some animations and movies to grab a particular frame, at least in theory (it didn’t always work for us). And the library of objects which Photo Pos Pro can use to customise an image: the buttons and banners, the decorative clipart, the frames, picture boxes, the text with special effects applied, and more.

You don’t get quite the painting, selection or layer control which you’ll see with GIMP, however, and so if you’re looking for the powerful basics then that remains our favourite. Photo Pos Pro has plenty to like about it, though – the script editor alone could save you hours of work – and so if you’ll make use of its wider feature range then it could be the ideal choice for all your photo work.

We liked

Thumbnail browser, web features, batch processing/ script editor, loads of features, local help file

We disliked

Tries to store browser toolbar during installation


What is the best free graphics editing software?

If you’re mostly interested in carrying out simple operations – resize this, crop that, add a text caption maybe – then Paint.NET could be ideal. It’s clean, easy to use, handles the basics well, and supports layers for more advanced work if you ever need that.

If you need a little more power then there’s something to like about each of our test tools. So PixBuilder Studio may be useful if you need PSD import, and 8BF filter support; Photo Pos Pro is a good choice for batch processing, carrying out the same operations on a set of photos; and PhotoScape comes packed with extra functions and annotation options, including a raft of photo frames.

For all-round editing power, though, the winner has to be GIMP. The multi-windowed interface can be confusing, but you’ll get over that in time, and then details like the program’s file format support, its lengthy feature list and configurability all help to ensure you’ll get the best possible image editing results.


Best free audio editing software

1. Audacity 1.3.14

Audacity began life long ago as a personal project of Dominic Mazzoni, in his student days. Mazzoni has long since graduated and now works at Google, but Audacity lives on, only now it’s so popular that he gets development assistance from all around the world.

The program scores highly on the editing basics. It can import a wide range of file formats, for instance (once extended with external tools like LAME and FFmpeg, anyway). Unwanted areas and be selected with the mouse, then trimmed in a click or two, and if that’s all you need then the results can be exported as MP3, FLAC, WMA, AAC, AIFF and many other formats (again, with a little help from FFmpeg and others).

If you need something more complex, though, you’ll appreciate the 37 built-in effects: there are options to change pitch and speed, fade audio in and out, clean up a recording, improve the bass, and much more. (You’ll need to be familiar with audio jargon to understand all your potential options, though – there is a manual, but don’t expect its explanations to help very much.)

Audacity is also useful for recording audio from a microphone, line in or any of your other soundcard sources, though. And if you’ve the hardware, then it can even manage the recording of 16 channels at once.

The program is unusually extensible, too, in that if it doesn’t provide the features you need, then you may be able to add them via LADSPA or VST plugins.

And while the interface doesn’t make any concessions to audio beginners, it’s not particularly difficult to use. If you’ve ever used another Windows-based audio editor then you’ll be opening, playing and carrying out basic editing operations within a few minutes of trying it out. And although mastering the more advanced tools may take considerably longer, the program makes it easy to progress at your own pace, making it an interesting choice for both experts and beginners who’d like to learn more.

We liked

Straightforward interface, good file format support, lots of effects, strong recording abilities, can be extended via LADSPA/ VST plugins

We disliked

Many features require extra components to be installed, program manual isn’t too beginner-friendly


2. Expstudio Audio Editor Free 4.31

Expstudio Audio Editor Free is actually the free version of a commercial product, and as such it does have a restriction: it can only save files in WAV or MP2 formats. Which means you’ll need a converter to hand (or, perhaps, one of the free editors here) before you can use it.

Is it worth the hassle? The program does support opening an excellent range of formats: MP2/ MP3, CDA, WAV, VOX, RAW, OGG, WMA, G.72x, AIFF, even the soundtracks from MPG or AVI videos. And this just works, no need to integrate with other products as with Audacity.

Expstudio Audio Editor Free includes easy-to-use zoom controls which make it straightforward to zoom in on your audio waveform, too. And editing works much the same as in most other tools: choose the area you need with the mouse, then cut or delete it, or apply one of the other menu options.

The core effects selection is capable, if not quite up to the standards of Audacity, but Expstudio Audio Editor Free does provide an additional “Special FX” menu with a couple of useful options: Cassette Noise Reduce and Voice Breath Reduce. And a few novelties, if you’re interested, such as converting male voices to female and vice versa, as well as giving recordings the voice of a chipmunk.

And while the interface inevitably includes plenty of audio jargon, the program does at least provide a searchable local Help file which makes some small effort to explain what’s going on. It’s often not enough, but the document is still better than you’ll get with some of the competition, and so could be useful if you’re an audio beginner.

Is any of this good enough to put up with the WAV/ MP2 export restriction? Maybe, just about, if you need to work with an unusual format or will make use of the noise restriction special effects. Otherwise Expstudio Audio Editor Free isn’t significantly different from the rest of the competition here, and you’ll be better off choosing one of those.

We liked

Supports opening a wide range of file formats, easy zoom and editing controls, useful noise reduction special effects, documentation is occasionally helpful

We disliked

Free version only saves WAV/ MP2 files, some of the competition have more effects


3. Music Editor Free 2012

Music Editor Free 2012 is one of those programs which stands out from the crowd just as soon as it’s launched.

The authors don’t assume that everyone understands audio editing, for instance – beginner-level tutorials take the time to explain the basics.

The attractive ribbon-based interface proved a pleasant change after we’d spent so long dealing with programs which hadn’t seen a significant facelift in years.

Navigating around a wavefile is easy, thanks to an easy-to-use bookmarking system. And the program just feels more straightforward to use, that it works more or less as we’d expect. So you can select a part of the waveform, right-click and carry out some useful operation right away.

This simplicity doesn’t mean Music Editor Free 2012 is short on features, though. It comes with all the usual effects, sensibly categorised so they’re relatively easy to find. And multiple noise reduction tools are on offer to help clean up a recording (Noise Reduction, Cassette Noise Reduction, Voice Breath Noise Reduction).

The program also provides a capable set of recording functions.

And, surprisingly, it’s even able to rip and burn audio CDs.

Music Editor Free 2012 may not appeal to everyone. The program can’t be expanded through plug-ins, for instance, so advanced users may still prefer something like Audacity. But if you’re an audio editing beginner then this is an ideal tool to learn the basics, and it has more than enough power to handle just about any task you’ll give it.

We liked

Attractive interface, straightforward waveform navigation, beginner-friendly help file & tutorials, lots of effects, rips/ burns CDs

We disliked

No plugin support


4. WavePad Free

WavePad Free is the giveaway version of a commercial product, and so missing a few features – but there’s still plenty here to help the program stand out.

If you need to import some oddball file formats, for instance, there’s a good chance WavePad Free can help. The program can handle MP2/ MP3/ MPGA, WAV, OGG, WMA, RA/ RM, GSM, VOC, VOX, RAW, MID, DCT, AMR, MPC, APE, SPX and WV formats, amongst others, as well as being able to extract the soundtrack from many common video formats.

A convenient bookmarking system and a good range of zoom controls makes it easy to navigate around your audio waveform.

Editing works more or less as you’d expect. A reasonable selection of effects are well-organised to help you quickly track down what you need (the Clean section includes multiple noise and pop-reduction tools, automatic gain, the high-pass filter and more), and some of these are particularly configurable: there are some great equaliser tools, for instance.

Authors NCH Software have made more effort than usual to explain the basics, too, with a marginally above average help file and a few video tutorials.

And there are also occasional features which you won’t find anywhere else. In particular, clicking Sound Library gives easy access to hundreds of sounds and music samples, which can be freely downloaded in a click or two and then used to enhance your recording.

When you factor in the program’s support for VST plugins, too, then this really is one powerful editing setup, with plenty to offer everyone from the novice to the expert user.

We liked

Opens lots of file formats, easy navigation, decent selection of effects, VST plugin support, free library of downloadable sound samples

We disliked

Cut-down version so some functions don’t work unless you upgrade


5. Wavosaur

Some of the audio editors here are complex creations, requiring many different files and components to be installed before they’ll work correctly. Wavosaur? That’s a little different. This tiny program consists of a single 560KB executable, and as it’s portable you can launch it from a USB flash drive on any convenient PC, running Windows 98 or later.

It’s no surprise that the Wavosaur interface is a little basic when compared to some of the competition, then, with lots of tiny icons scattered around its toolbars. Still, the basic editing procedures are more or less the same as they are elsewhere (select a part of the waveform with the mouse, then carry out some operation on it), and the program has far more power than you might expect for something of its compact size.

You get all the usual commands to zoom in and out, zoom to a selection, and so on, for example. And a convenient Marker toolbar works much like the bookmarks in other programs, so you can set markers at key points, and jump from one to the other with a click.

There are a surprising number of ways to view your source audio: a 2D and 3D spectrum analysis, a sonogram, even input and output oscilloscopes for tracking live sound. (These are always displayed in a separate window, though – the editing window uses a conventional waveform only.)

The effects on offer are relatively basic: you can fade samples in or out, tweak their volume, apply a few filters, and so on. More advanced effects are restricted to a single example, the vocal remover, which can sometimes deliver good results but for the most part really doesn’t. However, if this is an issue then Wavosaur’s VST support will allow you to add further plugins, at least in theory (it can be a complicated process).

Wavosaur is a little too much like hard work to use it for advanced editing tasks, then. But if you’re looking for a compact tool which you can run almost anywhere then it could be a sensible choice, and it’s certainly powerful enough to sort out the usual audio editing basics for you.

We liked

Tiny, portable, provides lots of views on your audio source, easy waveform navigation, VST support

We disliked

Relatively limited file format support, slightly cluttered interface, vocal remover works only occasionally, few effects, VST setup can be cumbersome

What is the best free audio editing software?

If you’re new to the world of audio editing, not quite sure how the technology works, then you’ll probably benefit from starting with a program like WavePad Free or (particularly) Music Editor Free 2012. Both programs are very capable of handling the editing basics, while clear interfaces and helpful tutorials will quickly get you to up-to-speed with more complex tasks, too.

You’re already familiar with most editing tasks? Then, if you simply want to carry out some basic job, Wavosaur may be enough. It’s tiny, doesn’t even require installation – just unzip it, and go – yet still somehow manages to cram in more features and functionality than many competitors.

Our pick of the editors for experienced users, though, has to be Audacity. It’s not flashy, and doesn’t fall over itself to appeal to the editing novice. But the program’s not that difficult to use, includes an excellent feature set, and can easily be expanded via plugins to add even more capabilities, if you need them: it’s a powerful and reliable tool.


Best free video editing software

1. VirtualDub 1.9.11

Just like Audacity and GIMP, VirtualDub started life long ago as a student project. It’s a relatively simple editor and remains that way today, but its straightforward, no-nonsense interface gained the program a lot of fans and if your needs are fairly basic then it may still provide everything you need.

Your first issue may be file format, though; VirtualDub is optimised for editing AVI files, though it can handle MPEG-1 streams and a few other oddities (including animated GIFs). If you’re working with MOV or MP4 files then you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Once you have your movie open, however, a host of keyboard shortcuts makes it very easy to navigate around. You can step backwards and forwards by a frame, 50 frames, a keyframe, a drop frame, a scene and more. And it’s easy to trim off footage which you don’t need.

Need more power? The program provides around 60 video and audio filters to handle all kinds of tasks, anything from sharpening or resizing a movie, to resampling its soundtrack or even giving a video your own custom watermarked logo. The presentation is lacking – there’s none of the animations you might see in a high-end commercial editor, everything here all looks very plain – but the core features are surprisingly powerful.

What’s more, as VirtualDub’s been around for such a long time it’s now also built up a useful collection of add-ons, including filters to add pans and rotations, tweak colour and white balance, remove noise, smooth, crop and just generally get more out of your movies.

And while, again, the presentation is basic, VirtualDub’s core is well engineered and generally delivers top-quality results: just be prepared to spend some time learning the fundamentals before you feel at home (this isn’t a program for total beginners).

We liked

Simple interface, keyboard shortcuts speed up navigation, some useful effects, filters deliver high quality results

We disliked

Limited file format support, very basic presentation, not particularly beginner-friendly


2. Free Video Dub 2.0.3

If you’re looking for a really simple video editor, then they don’t get much simpler than this. Free Video Dub has no effects, no filters, no transitions, no complexities at all, because it concentrates on just one task: trimming unwanted footage from your movie.

The program does benefit from a lengthy list of supported file formats, though. Not only does it open all the basics – AVI, MPEG, WMV, MP4 – but it can also handle videos that other tools often miss: WebM, MKV, MOV, FLV, RealVideo files, and a host of HD formats (TS, MTS, M2T, M2TS, MOD, TOD, VRO).

Once your movie is open then you can navigate it manually, or use the built-in scene detection feature to work your way through its contents.

Trimming is a simple matter of finding the left or right edge of the section you’d like to remove. This only takes a click with the mouse, but if you prefer keyboard shortcuts then they’re on offer, too.

And when you’ve finished, a click on the Save button will save your modified video. It won’t be re-encoded, either, so there’s no loss in quality and the entire process is completed at very high speed.

Free Video Dub is distinctly short on features, then. But still, it does perform one very useful editing function, and it does it very well, so if you’re looking for an easy way to just trim a video clip or two down to size then this could be the perfect choice.

We liked

Supports loads of file formats, built-in scene detection, edits without reencoding your source video, fast, very easy to use

We disliked

Interface is a little plain, trims footage only – can’t do anything else at all


3. Avidemux

Avidemux is an interesting video editor which immediately stands out from the crowd, thanks to its above-average interface. All the core settings you need are immediately obvious, useful keyboard shortcuts help you to navigate around your clip, and there are plenty of configuration options to ensure the program works just the way you’d like.

Basic trimming is easy, then, but the program also benefits from a good selection of filters. There are tools to resize, crop or rotate a clip, adjust colours, reduce noise, sharpen or smooth your footage, handle various deinterlacing tasks, and even embed a range of subtitles (VobSub, DVB-T, ASS/SSA, srt/ sub). They’re sensibly categorised, so it’s relatively easy to find the options you need, and speedy previews attempt to give you an idea of their effect (although in our experience this doesn’t always work well).

And Avidemux also tries to simplify the process of defining your required output format, by providing a few presets: iPhone, iPod 5.5g, DVD, Zune, Sony PlayStation Portable, and so on. So if you’ve opened a movie which you’d like to prepare for the iPhone, say, then choosing that preset will automatically select the appropriate codec and bitrate, as well as adding any necessary filters (sharpen, resize, “Add black borders” and similar).

The program isn’t just about ease of use, though. Tap the Video “Configure” button, for instance, and you’ll have access to all kinds of advanced settings (if you feel it’s important to select the appropriate B-frame Bias, I-Frame Threshold or GOP Size for your project then this is just the tool to let you do it). And Avidemux has many powerful scripting and automation options.

If there are issues here, it’s with reliability, just occasionally: the program doesn’t always behave as you might expect. When things go well, though, Avidemux is both powerful and easy to use, and if you need to go beyond the basics then it’s definitely worth a closer look.

We liked

Appealing interface, plenty of well-organised filters, decent subtitling support, useful presets for common output tasks, generally easy to use, some very advanced configuration options

We disliked

Occasionally buggy, doesn’t always behave as you might expect


4. Windows Live Movie Maker

It would have been easy for Microsoft to produce a very basic movie editor for their Live Essentials collection, something which could carry out a few basic tasks, but very little else. Fortunately they resisted that temptation, and the free Windows Live Movie Maker turned out to be one of the more capable and accessible free video editors around.

The program provides support for a huge range of import formats, for instance: all the usual desktop choices, HD formats, mobile standards like 3GP, images, music and more.

There are stacks of animations and effects: wipes, sweeps, curls, shatters, pans, zooms and more. A straightforward interface means they’re easy to browse, and you can apply the option of your choice with a click.

Still too much like hard work? Simply move your mouse over an AutoMovie Theme and Movie Maker will automatically add captions, transition and other effects to the current movie, then preview the results. You really can achieve a great deal here in seconds.

But there’s also plenty of manual options, for those who need them. You can trim your footage, of course, or manually customise a subtitle in a host of different ways (font, font size, styling, alignment, the time the text is on screen, the effect to use, and more).

And once you’ve finished, there are presets to save your video in various common formats, as well as the option to upload it directly to Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and more.

Okay, it’s true, Movie Maker doesn’t offer some of the advanced features you’ll get elsewhere, such as VirtualDub’s more powerful filters, or Avidemux’s fine control over the video creation process. And so those programs may still come in handy occasionally. For most people, though, Movie Maker offers all the trimming options, filters and format conversions they’re ever likely to need: if you plan to download only one video editor, make sure it’s this one.

We liked

Wide file format support, lots of animations and effects, clean interface, easy to use, AutoMovie Themes add captions and transitions automatically, lots of useful export options

We disliked

Doesn’t offer quite the same fine control over its output as some of the competition


5. SolveigMM AVI Trimmer + MKV

As you’ll guess from its name, SolveigMM AVI Trimmer + MKV is a fairly basic tool: it trims AVI and MKV files only, but delivers fast and lossless video editing, so if you’re looking to remove a few frames from a compatible format then it could be ideal.

The program provides a straightforward interface. Open a video, and it appears in a window; choose the start and ending points for a clip, click the Plus sign, and your selection is added to the list of fragments. Repeat the process as many times as you like, then click Save to export the results as an AVI file.

There are also one or two extra features. AVI Trimmer + MKV includes a scene detection tool which works with DV-AVI files, and MKV videos with chapters, for instance. And, usefully, it’s able to invert your fragments, so if you want to throw away your fragments then choosing the Invert option will enable you to save everything else, instead.

But, of course, there’s nothing else. No filters, no effects, no options to convert your video format – no other editing extras at all.

If you only need to trim compatible videos then this need not be a problem. AVI Trimmer + MKV is a likeable tool, easy to use, ideal for quick, lossless editing operations.

Free Video Dub can work with a far wider range of formats, though, and has some useful additional features, so that would be our preferred trimming tool for most situations.

We liked

Straightforward interface, easy to use, lossless video editing, fast

We disliked

Only supports AVI/ MKV movies, scene detection only works with specific formats


What is the best free video editing software?

If you’re just looking to trim some unwanted footage from a video then there’s no need to install a full-scale editor; a tool like Free Video Dub provides a quick and easy way to remove your chosen frames without the hassle of encoding everything else.

And if you’re an experienced editor then there’s still a place for VirtualDub first, perhaps Avidemux second; both offer some excellent filters, and provide fine manual control over your finished movie, so helping to ensure you get precisely the results you require.

For most people, though, the winner here is extremely obvious: it’s Windows Live Movie Maker. The program may not have the extensibility and configurability offered by VirtualDub’s filters, but it’s still packed with powerful features, yet supremely easy to use, and even editing novices will be using it to produce quality work within minutes.


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