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The best software for editing videos for YouTube

Man sitting at desk using best software for editing videos for YouTube
(Image credit: Ryan Snaadt via Unsplash)

The best software for editing videos for YouTube includes a range of programs and tools that are all designed to make a budding YouTuber's life that little bit easier. Whether you're a 4K-crunching pro or just starting out with your webcam, these are the tools that will help you cut together your YouTube videos.

We've included all the leading video editing programs in this guide, but we're aware that not everyone has a lot of money to spend on software. So while we've got paid subscription services like Adobe Premiere Pro, and programs with a one-off cost like Final Cut Pro, we've also made sure to include a range of free options, for those whose budget is absolutely nothing. This means there's something for everyone, from professional YouTubers to casual, occasional vloggers. 

Perfect for editing clips, adding titles, incorporating graphics and laying on music, these programs will help you give your YouTube content that high-quality sheen. We've started out with the paid-for options, and then moved on to the free alternatives. Our team of reviewers have also given all the programs on this list a thorough test, and we've used their findings to inform our comments in this guide.

If you don't need tools specifically for YouTube, don't miss our round ups of the best video editing software and best video editing apps for all platforms. Finally, make sure you also bookmark our guides to the best camera for YouTube and the best headphones for video editing.

Best software for editing videos for YouTube: our top 3

01. Premiere Elements: best for beginners
Newbies to video editing should start with Premiere Elements, a simplified version of Premiere Pro that still lets you create very professional results. You can get the free trial right now and see for yourself.

02. Final Cut Pro X: the best subscription-free software
Looking for Mac software for editing videos for YouTube? Then you need the industry favourite, Final Cut Pro from Apple. There's no subscription, and a generous 90-day free trial so you can try it out first.

03. Premiere Pro: the best video editing software overall
Perfect for working video editors, Premiere Pro is the best software for editing videos for YouTube overall. This industry standard tool works on both PC and Mac; try it out first with a 30-day free trial.

The best software for editing videos for YouTube: Paid-for tools

Best software for editing on YouTube

(Image credit: Adobe)
The best software for editing videos for YouTube pros

Specifications

Platform: Windows and Mac
Payment model: Subscription
Free trial: 30 days
Best for: Professional results

Reasons to buy

+
Industry standard
+
Used by top YouTubers

Reasons to avoid

-
Requires subscription
-
Overkill for newbies

If you watch a lot of videos on YouTube, a significant chunk of them will have been edited on Adobe Premiere Pro. It's the best software for editing videos, a cross-platform tool that's packed with features and offers loads of handy collaboration tools. It's used pretty much everywhere, from solo creators working at home, to the top of the TV and movie industries. Famous YouTubers that use Premiere Pro include PewDiePie, Zack from Jerry Rig Everything, Theo Jo, Linus Tech Tips, Jake Paul, Devinsupertramp, and a lot of others. 

With automatic audio and video syncing, the option to pull in motion graphics from After Effects and a lot more. Recent updates have added in additional codec support, as well a useful Quick Export tool that can be customised to your preferred settings. If you work as part of a team, there's also a virtual screening room for collaborative editing. 

Premiere Pro is so fully feature that it can sometimes be a little intimidating. If you're completely new to video editing, there are a few simpler tools on our list that might be worth considering instead – though if you'd rather just get stuck in, our guide to Premiere Pro tutorials ma be of help. 

Premiere Pro, like the majority of Adobe offerings now, is no longer available as a standalone purchase, and needs to be bought as part of a Creative Cloud subscription. The good part of this is that you get all the latest updates the instant they're available, while the less good part is that you can end up spending a lot of money on it over a lifetime. If you want to see the pricing options, check out our article how to download Premiere Pro.

Software for editing videos for YouTube: Final Cut Pro

(Image credit: Apple)
The best software for editing videos for YouTube on Mac

Specifications

Platform: Mac
Payment model: One-off purchase
Free trial: 90 days
Best for: Sophisticated features

Reasons to buy

+
Professional tool
+
Used by top YouTubers

Reasons to avoid

-
Mac only
-
Overkill for newbies

If you don't want to lock yourself into an Adobe subscription for the rest of your life (understandable), then Final Cut Pro is a fantastic option. At least, if you have a Mac – it's Mac-only software, so Windows users will have to look elsewhere.

It's another option that is very popular among YouTubers – iJustine, Marques Brownlee, Austin Evans, Dude Perfect and Jonathan Morrison are all examples of channels that use Final Cut Pro when creating their videos. It synergises very smoothly with the rest of the Apple ecosystem, allowing you to import music and images easily from your iTunes and Photos libraries. It has a one-off cost, but there is a rather generous 90-day free trial, meaning you can have a play with it before committing.

FInal Cut Pro offers support for 4K, 360-degree video and HDR, as well as providing multichannel audio tools, noise reduction and advanced colour grading. Its Magnetic Timeline system is very intuitive, making it easy to find various scenes and shots and move them around. Plus, even though it's not subscription software, updates tend to be free, so you can be sure you're always using the most advanced version. 

As long as you're using a Mac, Final Cut Pro is a very credible choice for YouTube video editing, allowing you to give your content that high-class sheen that will help it stand out from the pack. 

If you're stuck between our first two options, see our comparison article Premiere Pro vs Final Cut Pro.

Software for editing videos for YouTube: Premiere Elements

(Image credit: Adobe)
The best software for editing videos for YouTube for newbies

Specifications

Platform: Windows and Mac
Payment model: One-off purchase
Free trial: 30 days
Best for: Learning to edit videos

Reasons to buy

+
Good for beginners
+
Cheap 
+
Simple interface

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the most powerful

If you’re just starting out editing video, you’ll want something simpler than the first two tools on our list. Adobe’s Premiere Elements is a stripped-down version of Premiere Pro, so you get all the standard tools you need for video editing, in a simpler interface, and at a one-off price rather than a subscription. (For more details, see our comparison article Adobe Premiere Pro vs Adobe Premiere Elements.)

Beginners will appreciate the easy-to-follow interface, clear navigation, video creation wizard, step-by-step tutorials and choice of three editing modes. For those with a little more experience, Elements comes with some a number of clever and useful features, such as face detection, audio effects and soundtracks, noise reduction, automatic feature detection and guided edits. 

The latest version, Premiere Elements 2022, includes new Guided Edits for adding animated overlays and adjusting shadows and highlights. It's also got a newly redesigned interface, GIF playback in the Organizer, plus a file size slider to make it easier to compress your videos.

Best software for editing on YouTube

(Image credit: Pinnacle)
The best cheap software for editing videos for YouTube

Specifications

Platform: Windows
Payment model: One-off purchase
Free trial: No free trial, but 30-day money back guarantee
Best for: Keeping costs low

Reasons to buy

+
Cheap
+
Easy to use
+
Advanced features at pricier tiers

Reasons to avoid

-
Windows only

Pinnacle Studio from Corel is another good choice for beginners editing YouTube videos. This reliable professional video editing software is not as powerful as some of the other titles on this list, but its nicely organised and user-friendly interface makes it good for first-timers. 

Once you’ve spent a bit of time with it you can graduate to the more advanced features at the higher price tier, including keyframing controls, dynamic video masking and 360 VR editing. Plus the latest version released this August (Pinnacle Studio 25) added smart object tracking, new blend modes, enhanced video masking and improved performance overall.

In short, if you’re new to video editing, aren’t already tied in to either Adobe’s or Apple’s ecosystems, and are low on cash, Pinnacle Studio is well worth investigating. 

Best software for editing on YouTube

(Image credit: PowerDirector)
Affordable video software that makes it easy to create slideshows

Specifications

Platform: Windows, Mac
Payment model: Subscription
Free trial: 30 days
Best for: Quick and easy video creation

Reasons to buy

+
Low cost
+
Magic Movie Wizard
+
Some advanced features

Reasons to avoid

-
Windows only

Another popular video editing program that's worth considering for your YouTube videos is CyberLink Power Director 365. This mid-market software is available for a very affordable subscription, despite including some advanced features such as multi-cam editing, motion tracking and 360-degree editing. 

If you need to create a video very quickly, there's a mini programme, slightly hidden inside the Easy Editor, called the Magic Movie Wizard, which uses clever tech to automatically combine your photos and clips in a matter of minutes. When it comes to 'proper' video editing, there's a fairly flat learning curve, plus lots of tutorials to help you build your skills. 

There are also a partnership with Shutterstock and iStock by Getty Images that make it easy to use stock assets in your video, similar to how Premiere Pro plays with Adobe Stock. Note, though, that this tool is Windows only, and requires a subscription that’s similar to Adobe’s, albeit significantly cheaper.

 Be aware that CyberLink PowerDirector 365 should not be confused with Corel VideoStudio Ultimate: you can understand the differences between them in this comparison article.

Best software for editing on YouTube

(Image credit: Adobe)
The best software for editing YouTube videos on mobile

Specifications

Platform: Android, iOS
Payment model: Subscription
Free trial?: No, but free starter plan available
Best for: Mobile video editing

Reasons to buy

+
Designed with YouTubers in mind
+
Cross-platform
+
Free version with Creative Cloud

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as powerful as Premiere Pro

Premiere Rush is an Adobe app that’s been specifically created for YouTubers and social media video creators. And so if you create a lot of video on your phone, or spend a lot of time editing videos on the go, it should save you a lot of time and effort, either by itself or as a partner app to Premiere Pro (number 1 on our list). 

Premiere Rush lets you use many of the most useful features of Premiere Pro on mobile, such as auto ducking, which helps you balance out sound levels between voice and music. It's super-easy to incorporate assets from Adobe Stock, such as motion graphic templates, to get that slick look and feel to your videos. And the app shares your work with the cloud, so you can pick it up and continue editing whatever the device you’re on, being it mobile or desktop, iOS or Android. 

Premiere Rush 2.0 was released in November 2021. This latest version offers unlimited exports on desktop, availability in additional languages, and thousands of extra royalty-free sound effects and loops you can use in your videos. 

The free plan is available to anyone with a Creative Cloud membership and includes 2GB cloud storage, unlimited free exports on mobile, and up to three exports on desktop. Beyond that, you'll need to upgrade to a paid plan.

The best free software for editing videos for YouTube

Screenshot of DaVinci Resolve editing software showing editing timeline

(Image credit: Blackmagic Design)
A powerful tool used by pro editors, and the basic version is free

Specifications

Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux
Payment model: Basic version free; Studio version costs $295/£270
Best for: Doing a bit of everything

Reasons to buy

+
Empty List

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

Though it started out as colour grading software, DaVinci Resolves from Blackmagic has grown in scope, and now it's one of the best comprehensive free editing programs out there. It's a little complex to get to grips with, but if you're willing to put some time in, you'll find you've got a solid tool for doing basically everything. From simple cutting to colour correction, visual effects, motion graphics, audio post-production and more, DaVinci Resolve puts a powerful edit suite at your fingertips. And did we mention it's free?

It doesn't have to be; the Resolve Studio version is available for a price. Fortunately, YouTube editors almost certainly don't need to bother, as the differences are clustered around the high end of the user spectrum. For instance, the maximum resolution the free version of DaVinci Resolve can output is 4K UHD, while the Studio version can go up to 32K at 120fps. This isn't even possible on YouTube. The only annoyance might be for filmmakers, as a ceiling of 4K UHD means no cinema-style DCI 4K.

Software for editing videos for YouTube: ShotcutBest software for editing on YouTube

(Image credit: Shotcut)
The best open source software for editing videos for YouTube

Specifications

Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux
Payment model: Free and open source
Best for: Learning video editing for free

Reasons to buy

+
Supports range of formats
+
Cross-platform
+
Supportive community

Reasons to avoid

-
Unattractive interface

Shotcut is so simple to use, it would make a great starter app for any YouTuber who’s completely new to video editing. You’ll find a good selection of video and audio editing tools, and support for wide range of formats, including 4K. 

Note that Shotcut is not just free, it’s open source. As with most open source software, that comes with both plusses and minuses. On the negative side, the interface is not as polished as those in most commercial tools. On the positive side, the interface is customisable using pre-made panels, so you can adapt it to how you work. There’s also a thriving community surrounding it, a ton of tutorials, and it's available for Linux, as well as iOS and Windows. 

Best software for editing on YouTube

(Image credit: Lightworks)
The best free software for editing videos for YouTube

Specifications

Platform: Windows, OS X, Linux
Payment model: Freemium
Best for: Professional results at zero cost

Reasons to buy

+
Pro tool
+
Feature-rich
+
Works on Linux

Reasons to avoid

-
Learning curve

If you work on Windows and don’t mind a bit of a learning curve, it's worth giving Lightworks a try. This pro-level video editing software is commonly used in Hollywood, on big-budget movies from Moulin Rouge to The King’s Speech. Yet the free version is barely any less powerful and feature-rich than the paid one. We particularly appreciate the very fine control often by the superior timeline feature, not to mention being able to export straight to YouTube and Vimeo. 

The main downside of the free version is that you can only export at 720p, so if HD or 4K video is important to your YouTube brand, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Also, it’s only free for non-commercial projects, so it’s not an option if you’re already making money from your YouTube channel. (That said, if you’re already making money, then it’s probably time to pay for software anyway). 

Software for editing videos for YouTube: iMovieBest software for editing on YouTube

(Image credit: Apple)
Free Apple software for editing videos for YouTube

Specifications

Platform: macOS, iPadOS, iOS
Payment model: Free with Apple devices
Best for: Apple-based novices

Reasons to buy

+
Pre-loaded on Macs
+
Easy to learn
+
Simple interface

Reasons to avoid

-
No Windows version

If you own a Mac, iPad or iPhone, you already have iMovie, which comes pre-loaded, so it's well worth giving a try for editing your YouTube videos. Broadly aimed at general consumer use, for putting together holiday videos and the like, it couldn't be further away from a pro-level tool like Final Cut Pro X. But by that token, it's very simple to pick up and use, so it's a good option for someone just starting on their YouTube video editing journey. 

The latest version also has a few nifty features, including pre-set themes, the excellent storyboard-based tools for Trailers and Movies, and support for 4K editing. There's also support for the MacBook's Touch Bar and the iPad's mouse and touch pad. Plus iMovie on iOS got a big update in September 2021, most notably adding the ability to import and edit video captured in Cinematic mode on iPhone 13 on Macs running Monterey. 

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Tom May is an award-winning journalist and editor specialising in design, photography and technology. Author of the Amazon #1 bestseller Great TED Talks: Creativity, published by Pavilion Books, Tom was previously editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. Today, he is a regular contributor to Creative Bloq and its sister sites Digital Camera World, T3.com and Tech Radar. He also writes for Creative Boom and works on content marketing projects. 

With contributions from