The best free video editing software allows you to produce slick, professional looking videos for social media, YouTube, and even film and TV, at zero cost. We've tested out the most popular tools on the market, and below we reveal our top choices.
But what do we mean by 'best', exactly? Well, that largely depends what you want to edit. For example, the first entry on our list, DaVinci Resolve, is the best free video editing software for professional work. That's because its packed with sophisticated features such as colour grading and smart video stabilisation, which makes it suitable for high-end content, including full-blown TV and movies.
That also, however, makes it pretty complex to use. So it's not the best choice for amateurs, hobbyists or semi-pro video editors (such as graphic designers or marketing folk who do a bit of video editing as part of their work). For those purposes, you'll want tools with interfaces that are easier to use, so check out other entries on our list. Plus of course, you'll want software that works on your chosen device; for that reason, we've included tools for Windows, Linux, Mac, iOS and Android below. If you are new to editing, also try our video editing for beginners guide.
Finally, be aware that free software always comes with some limitations. For example, your video may be imprinted with watermarks and the range of export formats may be limited. If you want to avoid such restrictions, one alternative is to take out a free trial for full, paid-for software. If so, check out the three quick links below, or our guide to the best paid-for video editing software.
To compile this article, we've drawn on our personal experience with a range of video editing software, on Windows and Mac computers, as well as the best video editing apps for Android, iOS and Chromebooks.
Along with using this software in our day-to-day jobs, and getting feedback from fellow creatives on how useful they find them, we've also formally reviewed the majority of tools on this list. This has involved several hours of editing our own projects, to check how the different software compares in terms of ease of use, speed and reponsiveness, the power of adjustment, blending and transition features, and video and audio effects.
We've included links to these full reviews below. And to find out more about our reviewing process, read our article on how we test software.
Quick links: best video editing software with free trials
Want to learn the ropes and see if video editing is for you? Then the best way for you to get free video editing software is through a free trial. This will give you access to fully featured software at zero cost, albeit for a limited time.
1. Premiere Pro: the best video editing software overall (opens in new tab)
Adobe's video editing software works on both Windows and Mac and is the industry-standard, offering professional class features. This free trial offer allows you to try Premiere Pro for free for seven days.
2. Final Cut Pro: the best video editing software for Mac (opens in new tab)
Available for macOS only, Final Cut Pro X is industry-standard software that has a great reputation within the TV and movie professions. It's made by Apple, who offer a generous 90-day free trial so you can test it out.
3. Premiere Elements: the best video editing software for beginners (opens in new tab)
If you're new to video editing, Adobe Premiere Elements is the best video editing software to start with. A simplified version of Premiere Pro, it's easy to learn. It's also cheaper and currently has a 30-day free trial.
The best free video editing software
The best free video editing software for professionals right now is DaVinci Resolve. Note that this is not to be confused with DaVinci Resolve Studio, which is a paid version of the same program.
DaVinci Resolve is made by Blackmagic Design, which also makes a popular family of video cameras, so you know it’s designed for filmmakers. Despite being free, this is a feature-packed powerhouse and really gives paid tools a run for their money in terms of versatility and usefulness.
In our review, we found its colour grading options to be second to none, giving us the ability to fully control the look of our videos. We also loved its smart video stabilisation tool, for when you’ve got a shaky shot, and the built-in audio mixing, VFX and title-card-building modes also functioned brilliantly. All that meant that we didn’t need to ‘do an Adobe’ by jumping around loads of programs to get our perfect video; we could do it all within the one interface.
That said, while that interface is quite straightforward to use for anyone with editing experience, it would be quite a challenge for beginners to learn. If that's you, we'd suggest instead looking at entries three to 10 on our list. To learn more, see our full DaVinci Resolve review.
- Colour correction
- Audio tools
- Smart video stabilisation
- Dual timeline
- Dedicated trim interface
- Picture-in-picture effects
- Facial recognition
Another good choice for professional video editors is Hitfilm (previously Hitfilm Express), which, before the recent update, we would have described as the Swiss Army knife of free video editing software. But things have changed somewhat and this software has fallen down our list from number two.
The rebrand to Hitfilm includes the introduction of two subscription tiers that, as you'd expect, mean the free version isn't quite all-singing, all dancing, and no-longer a genuine alternative to other paid-for tools. A huge amount of the effects are now watermarked if you are on the free version, across transitions, animation, colour grading and more. This isn't unusual, of course, but it does mean pros won't view this software as the viable option it once was, and Da Vinci Resolve is the only real free option for professional videographers.
If you're willing to pay, you can get rid of the watermarks. The Pro version unlocks everything at $15.99/£15.99 a month, and the Creator version unlocks fewer features at $9.99/£9.99 a month.
The interface has changed, and is no longer reminiscent of Adobe's Premiere Pro, but is darker and more imposing. It is still easy to navigate but feels a bit clunkier. However, there is a brilliant set of features built in to help you learn, including around 40 videos to teach you the basics. See our previous Hitfilm Express review for an idea of how the software runs, but be aware that the free version isn't quite the same now.
Standout features (note: many of these are now watermarked)
- 400+ visual effects & presets
- 2D and 3D effects compositing
- MP4 H.264 export
- Motion tracking
- Colour tools
- Animate two shots together
- Adaptive trimmer
Most free video editing software is created, ultimately, to tempt you into buying a paid version. The exception is open-source software. Here, you're getting the full product for free, and there's a volunteer army of developers constantly working to improve it, at no cost to you.
One of the best examples is OpenShot. When we reviewed it, we found its minimalist drag-and-drop layer-based interface very easy to use, making it our top choice for beginners overall. We especially loved how you can stack an unlimited number of layers in your video, be they soundtracks, overlapping videos, or custom images. We appreciated the handy range of customisable title-card templates, too.
All the usual options to adjust and enhance your video, including crop, trim, rotate, and resize, worked well for us in practice. We also had success in adjusting elements like brightness, contrast, colour grading, and gamma. And as OpenShot is open-source, there are none of the frustrating ads, watermarks, or promotions for paid upgrades that you find in most free video editing software.
We did run into a few issues during the course of our review, though. We experienced some lag, and the features didn’t always work the way they should. Or when they did, they took a long time to apply, making the editing process frustrating. These things are common with open software of all kinds, but they are worth noting.
Ultimately, though, for free video editing software, Openshot is a great choice for beginners wish to avoid watermarks and ads. See our full OpenShot review for more.
- Unlimited layers
- Drag and drop UI
- Customisable title-card templates
- Keyframe animation tools
- Effects and transitions
If you're a beginner using an ageing, low-powered Windows PC, VSDC is the perfect choice. That's because it's specifically designed for people whose computers don't have all the newest internals and specs, so you won't find it crashing and freezing all the time. Note, though, there's no Mac version.
When we reviewed VSDC, we appreciated the flexible import and export options and found it particularly good for adding text, lines, charts and other special effects to a presentation. We were surprised to see that the free version has almost all the features of the Pro version, and there are no watermarks added.
VSDC is, in short, a great desktop tool for beginners. OpenShot (above) is another good choice in this respect, and has more features, but we found VSDC to be less laggy, and it still covers the basics well.
VSDC allows you, for instance, to apply Instagram-style filters, special effects like colour correction and blurring, and a mask tool for applying effects to part of a video. There’s also a video stabiliser that can help remove camera shake from footage taken with GoPros or drones, you can even tailor the output for particular devices, and there’s a built-in DVD burner too. Read our VSDC review to learn more.
- Colour correction tools
- Mask tools
- Built-in DVD burner
- Chart tool
- HEVC/H.265 support
Working across Mac, Windows and Linux, the open source program Shotcut is another top choice for beginners. It supports a huge range of formats, offers a great array of filters and special effects and can handle up to 4K. It also has support for AV1 decoding and encoding.
When we reviewed Shotcut, we found the interface easy to use and we loved how it can be customised if desired (it has dockable and undockable panels). We also found the timeline surprisingly sophisticated for a free tool.
It wasn't all plain sailing, though. We found the process of adding transitions is a little unusual, and it was frustrating that you can only add filters to one clip at a time. However, for free video editing software, it's impressive, and being open source means there are no ads or watermarks. For more, see our Shotcut review.
- Uses FFmpeg
- Export in wide range of formats
- Timeline editing
- Audio filters
- Support for AV1 coding
If you're using a Windows PC, you'd be daft not to try Windows Video Editor, as it's built into the system. It used to be called Windows Movie Maker, but was rebuilt from the ground up for Windows 10, and renamed. And if you're looking for a quick way to make simple edits, it might be all you need.
We've used Windows Video Editor for the odd quick job in the past, but to be honest that's all we'd ever use it for. It doesn’t have a lot of features; it's really more of a photo editor with video editing capabilities. That said, in our experience it does a decent job of basic tasks like trimming, cropping, speed adjustments and adding text or audio. It also has a 3D Effects section, which you can use to soup up your video with pre-designed animations.
For novices looking who enjoy working in Windows, it's certainly very easy to use. And so we'd recommend it most to people looking to put together slideshows of holiday photos, or quick presentations using assets already on the computer.
- Already installed on PCs
- Custom animations
- Simplified UI
- Add music, titles & credits
- 3D effects
If you're a novice looking for something easy to get started with, you won't find anything much easier than iMovie. And if you have a Mac, you already have iMovie installed on it! You can also download it for free onto iPads and iPhones. (If you only have Android, though, skip to number 10 on our list).
iMovie is low on features, making it unsuitable for all but the most basic tasks. But that does make the interface clean, uncluttered and simple to get started with, making it a great choice for newbies.
In our review, we found iMovie to be quick, easy and fun to use, making it perfect for simple projects. We particularly admired the shake and noise reduction tools, which do a good job of stabilizing your footage and dampening background noise.
We also found it to be more versatile than we'd imagined. For example, you can record footage on one device, edit it on another, and pull in assets from a different one. That, plus the fact that you can export at 4K at up to 60fps, helps to makes it stand out from other basic video editors.
While this tool felt a little abandoned for a time, Apple has been updating iMovie of late, adding support for features found on newer i-devices. It's also worth mentioning that if you have a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar, iMovie comes with fully functioning Touch Bar support. For more information, read our full iMovie review.
- Already installed on Mac
- Effects and filters
- Cloud storage
- Built-in music tracks
- Speed controls
Not to be confused with the Creative Cloud suite (which includes Premiere Pro, After Effects and other pro video editing tools), Creative Cloud Express is a free app for people who lack software design skills. It's available as a web app, an iOS app and an Android app. Until recently it was known as Adobe Spark, and its main aim is to make it easy to create both static and video content for social media.
In that light, it provides you with a simple way to edit videos. As well as simply trimming your clips, you can add music, text and images, and resize everything for different social media destinations.
When we reviewed Creative Cloud Express, we found the interface very simple to use, and we were impressed by the quality of the templates. That said, its video editing capabilities are certainly the most limited on this list; in all honesty, it's more like a glorified slideshow maker than a 'proper' video editing app.
That said, if you want to get a social media video live as quickly as possible, and aren't too concerned about the overall quality, it does make things nice and quick. For more, see our Creative Cloud Express review.
- Easy to use
- Video templates
- Add text and images
VideoPad is a free video editor with a simple interface suitable for novices, but it also offers plenty of features for advanced users. It's essentially a limited version of the paid versions, which offer extra features, and unlimited exports. You can only use it for non-commercial work, and it limits the number of projects you can export.
Most notable of all is the level of control VideoPad gives over audio, which makes it a great choice for movie sequences that rely on audio effects. It supports an unlimited number of audio tracks and provides an entire library of sound effects to play with.
VideoPad also allows 3D video editing, a rare feature among free video editing tools. It also has great options for social sharing, with a library of social media-friendly effects and transitions and the option to post videos to platforms like Facebook or YouTube without leaving the software.
- Easy to use
- 3D editing
- Unlimited audio tracks
- Split-screen editing
- Social sharing tools
- Effects and transitions library
- Stablisation tool
We'll be honest: there's not a lot of free video editing software for Chromebooks. But Kinemaster, which is also available on Android and iOS, is a fairly decent exception. As long as you're fine with watermarked videos, that is. (To remove these, you'll need to subscribe to the premium version.)
In our review we found its interface to be very intuitive, and so it should be relatively easy for beginners to use, especially for simple tasks like applying Instagram filters and using sliders to adjust brightness, contrast and saturation. And we especially appreciate the recent addition of a background remover tool.
At the same time, this tool would also be useful for more experienced video editors wishing to make tweaks on the fly on their phones, tablets or Chromebooks. It won't replace full desktop software by any means, but it's a handy complement to it. And it's certainly more feature rich than most mobile-focused editing app, with colour grading, chroma key, audio mixing and beat sync all on the menu. See our Kinemaster review for more information.
- Instant preview
- Smart effects
- Cloud backup for projects
- Blending options
- Reverse tool
Lightworks Free used to be the best free video editing software out there, operating as a great, affordable option to the premium Lightworks Create and Pro tiers. However, in 2022, it's not quite so competitive.
The free tier offers lots of the same editing experience as its paid-for siblings, but with a huge catch: the export options are incredibly limited. You can only export videos in 720p for example, and higher-res exports, as well as the ability to use popular file formats like AVI, WAV and MOV, are all locked to higher tiers.
It's still got a place on this list though. Because if you don't need 1080p or higher exports, yet still want a professional-level editing experience, Lightworks might be good for you. It also has a few features that aren't available in all free video editing software, like multi-track editing and easy project collaboration features.
When we reviewed Lightworks, we found it a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the features were very intuitive and time-saving. For example, when you preview a clip in the source monitor, rather than having to manually set input and output points, the last watched section is automatically selected.
But in other ways, we found it a bit clunky. For example, it doesn't display waveforms for audio clips, which slows down finding the part of a track you want to use. Also, in our tests – on a Macbook Pro running macOS 10.15 – Lightworks' performance was poor compared to other software like Da Vinci Resolve and Hitfilm Express.
Another thing we found quite annoying is that the free licence actually expires every seven days. Yes, it can be renewed by simply signing back into the application with your username and password, but it's an extra step, and reiterates that the company is really keen on you upgrading to the paid option. Read our Lightworks review to learn more.
- Multicam editing
- Customizable UI
- Collaboration tools
- Motion controls
How to choose a video editor
There are a number of factors to take into account when choosing free video editing software. The first is what you want to use it for.
If it's for non-commercial projects – such as editing your personal holiday footage, or working on a student project – then any of the software on our list will be fine. If you need it for commercial work, though, then some free tools such as VideoPad don't allow this at all, while others such as Kinemaster will add watermarks, making them unsuitable for such purposes.
Another factor is your level of experience. If you're an old hand at video editing, particularly if you work as a professional, you'll want a range of sophisticated features to draw on; in which case, DaVinci Resolve and Hitfilm Express are our top picks. If you're more of a beginner, amateur or hobbyist, though, these packages may well be too confusing and difficult to use. In which case, we'd recommend looking at numbers 3-10 on our list, which have much simpler, more user-friendly interfaces.
Be aware, too, that free software often comes with restrictions. For example, there may be limits to the number, format or resolution of files you can export. Customer support may or may not be available via phone or email. And the software may only support Windows, Mac or Linux rather than all three platforms.
What is the best free video editing software?
In our view, the best free video editing software for professionals is DaVinci Resolve from Blackmagic. Whilst it began as a colour correction tool, it's grown over time to cover everything for basic trimming to visual effects, motion graphics, audio post-production and more. In short, DaVinci Resolve gives you a full video editing suite at your fingertips, for zero cost.
That said, it is quite complex, and not suitable for a beginner. So for something simpler to get started with, we recommend Openshot. Its drag-and-drop, layer-based interface is super-easy to use, and because it's open source, there are no ads or watermarks, and you can use it even for commercial projects.
What video editing software do professionals use?
In 2022, the overwhelming majority of professionals working in video editing use either Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro. The former is produced by Adobe and is available for both Windows and Mac; the latter comes from Apple, and is Mac-only. Other than that, each has its pros and cons, and you can take a deep dive into the differences in our article Premiere Pro vs Final Cut Pro.
What free video editing software do YouTubers use?
In 2022, there are more than 51 million YouTube channels on the platform, all covering a huge range of ages, nationalities and levels of professionalism. So it's tricky to generalise about what software is normally used by YouTubers to edit their videos, as most people don't publically share this information.
In terms of overall popularity, iMovie is believed to the most widespread free editing software used by YouTubers, quite simply because it comes pre-installed on Apple devices, and does most of the basic things you need.
That said, the best known YouTubers tend to invest in paid-for software to give their footage the most professional look. For example, PewDiePie, Zack from Jerry Rig Everything, Theo Jo, Linus Tech Tips, Jake Paul and Devinsupertramp use Premiere Pro, and iJustine, Marques Brownlee, Austin Evans, Dude Perfect and Jonathan Morrison favour Final Cut Pro.
If you're new to video editing, we'd personally recommend Openshot for editing your YouTube clips, as in our experience its interface is nice and easy to pick up, plus it works on Windows, Mac and Linux. If you're a video editing veteran, however, our top choice is DaVinci Resolve, which is packed with sophisticated pro features, despite being free.