How to Pick the Best Video Editing Software
Sometimes you want to channel Scorsese, and other times you just need to edit a quick birthday video. Finding the best video editing software takes examining your budget, skill level, and the time you are willing to invest to become adept using it.
For some projects, you’ll want the best free video editing software, while others demand Blender, Adobe, or video tools geared specifically for YouTube or Facebook. Whatever your skill set is behind the camera, use our guide to find the top video editing software on the web.
Best video editing software for beginners
Do you just need to snap together something fast, with music and a few fades or cuts? You don’t need a huge time investment or to spend a lot doing video on your phone or for bits on Facebook and Twitter. You’ll cut, paste, and slo-mo to your heart’s content with these best low-cost and free video editing software options.
Many of these programs start out with budget-boosting beginner versions, then let you grow into them as your skills improve.
1. HitFilm Express - best free video editing software
For the best of both worlds, HitFilm Express offers a mind-blowingly robust beginner platform for free, then lets you scale up to a full-featured paid version as needed. This is an all-around solid choice if you “just need to slap something together,” but you don’t want to be hamstrung later if your skills go Kubrick-level.
This forever-free video editing software gets sky-high reviews from hundreds of professional reviewers and users alike. It’s stable, professional-grade, and offers 410+ effects, unlimited tracks and transitions, a built-in voice recorder, and full 2D and 3D compositing.
- Training mode for beginners
- Personalizable interface
- Threaded rendering for fast work
- Masking and matting
- Professional video formats
- Animation tools
2. Adobe Premiere Elements - best paid video editing software for Windows beginners
Adobe Premiere has been the gold standard for video editors for decades. The Adobe Premiere Elements version is its light offering for beginners. It’s easy to learn, simple to use, and manages to pack in most of the special effects and tricks of the full-featured version.
You’ll pay less than $100 for this powerful piece of video editing software for Windows and Mac, but it’s a one-time buyout payment and not a subscription. Its new AI capability with Adobe Sensei technology learns your workflows to zap repetition, and lets you apply effects to selected portions of your videos, see them work in real-time, and clean up graininess or other issues with your masterpieces.
- Motion titles
- Automatically remix music to perfectly match movie length
- Automatic editing that you can adjust to fit your tastes
- Quick-edit mode for super-fast edits
- Extract great photos easily
- Learning mode
- Dozens of fun, high-tech features
3. CyberLink PowerDirector 365 - best YouTube video editing software
If you want great video editing software with a low-cost subscription that updates to get better as you learn, check out CyberLink PowerDirector 365. Why pay a subscription when you could buy other options outright? Because the development team behind PowerDirector is always working on new, fun, and useful features.
It’s easy to use, gets stratospheric review scores, and comes packed with tools like dynamic keyframes, easy animation, motion tracking, and Hollywood-style green screen editing.
- Easy to use
- Image correction
- 4K preview
- Instant color matching
- Customizable motion graphic titles
4. Corel VideoStudio Pro - good video editing software for beginners
If you don’t like the free, beginner, and Adobe video editing software options above, Corel VideoStudio Pro is a strong runner-up. Its ratings from users and professional reviewers aren’t quite as high as our other picks, but it’s loaded with features, including 4K and 360-degree video editing, custom split screens, and image stabilization. It costs about the same as Adobe Premiere Elements and has a quick and easy learning curve. Its one drawback is a sometimes-buggy interface.
- Fast rendering
- Multicam editing
- Easy stop-motion animation tool
- Instant video and color corrections
- Included sound effects and royalty-free music
- Easy audio and voiceover editing
5. Filmora9 - top video editing software for amateurs
If you’re a beginner and you plan to stay that way, but you still want great, full-featured video editing software you can use today, look no further than Wondershare Filmora9. This is built for the first-time video editor who wants an easy, out-of-the-box solution that compares to professional tools.
Filmora9 sells at the same price point as the other beginner tools on our list. And even though it’s not as comprehensive as our other picks, it has plenty of power for your needs if you don’t plan to go pro. It also comes with motion tracking, automation to cut out repetition, color-match, green screen, and tons of other goodies.
- Split screen
- Creative transitions and motion elements
- Color grading
- Social media import/export
- Image stabilization
- Screen recording
Best video editing software for professionals
Already know your way around a keyframe? Want to unleash your inner Alfonso Cuarón? You need robust, full-featured video editing software on the order of Adobe Premiere Pro. Serious filmmakers require a comprehensive platform that can handle 8K video, integrate with other tools, and update frequently as media formats and techniques change and grow. Check out the best video editing software below for serious pros or those who will be soon.
1. Adobe Premiere Pro - best pro video editing software
Serious professionals have trusted Adobe Premiere Pro for over 20 years. This software takes the guesswork out of making great video content. It lets beginners make simple videos fast, and it gives pros an ever-evolving playground of new tools to discover.
It’s got a clear, flexible, and fast interface with unlimited multicam angles and support for 360 VR content. You can pick it up for around $20 per month, or get it bundled with Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, and the 20+ apps of the powerful Adobe Creative Cloud for around $50 per month.
- Motion graphics templates
- VR editing
- Work on multiple projects at once
- Easy collaboration
- Simple workflow automation
- Hardware-accelerated encoding
- Automatically reformat videos for different screens
2. HitFilm Pro - top video editing software for serious creators
Both users and professional reviewers find a lot to geek out about in HitFilm Pro and give this powerful video editing software tool an aggregated 92% rating. It’s not quite as comprehensive as Adobe Premiere Pro, but it offers a shocking amount of functionality for a single (low) buyout price. Its free version is feature-rich and fun to learn on, too, so if you’re a one-day pro who wants to get in hassle-free, this is your huckleberry.
- Combined timelines for easy workflow
- 8K support
- Real-time preview
- Personalizable editing
- Fast visual effects and features search
- Speedy, threaded rendering
3. Corel VideoStudio Ultimate - top video editing software for professionals
There’s not much of a reason to look beyond Adobe Premiere and HitFilm Pro when it comes to powering your next video project. However, Corel VideoStudio Ultimate takes the already-sound tools of the company’s “Pro” version and doubles-down with powerful features, premium video effects packs, and other add-ons. You’ll get up to 2,000 pro-level filters and effects, plus a multicam editing module that lets you work with 6 clips at a time vs the 4 video files in the Pro version.
- Video mask creator
- Full-color grading
- 3D titling editor
- Advanced image stabilization
4. KineMaster - best mobile video editor for pros
If you’re a pro on the go, you’ll love KineMaster mobile video editing software. When you can’t lug your Premiere workstation with you, KineMaster’s iPhone, Android, and Chromebook versions will stun you with their powerful features, 4K support, layers, blending, and chroma key tools. This is a fantastic editor for all stripes of mobile platforms.
- 8 blending modes for artistic effects
- Reverse tool for easy in-camera transitions
- Simple compositing
- Up to 60 fps
- Easy social media sharing interface
5. VSDC - pro video editing software for presentations
Sometimes you just need a good, simple video for presentations, and that’s where VSDC shines. To be fair, this is an excellent piece of software for any video editor, but if you’re a pro, you’re better off choosing the aforementioned Adobe Premiere or HitFilm Pro. Where VSDC wins is in its low price point and streamlined workflow. This tool makes it super-simple to add charts and annotations to your video clips, so conferences and collaboration are clear and visual.
- Free updates add features regularly
- Image stabilization
- Masking and blending
- Suite of video and audio effects
6. DaVinci Resolve 17 - best free video editor for pros
For free, stunningly feature-rich video editing for professional filmmakers, DaVinci Resolve 17 can’t be beat. Even the pro version is a buyout $299, making it the least expensive pro-level tool on our list. A favorite of Hollywood pros, this Emmy-winning tool cuts, edits, color-corrects, and adds effects on par with the best software on the market.
- Pro-grade audio editor
- Wide-format support
- GPU/CPU accelerated effects
- AI-powered face recognition, object detection, and smart reframing
Note: This guide ranks the top video editing software for Windows. Mac and Linux users will benefit from more research. If you’re an Apple devotee, your best options are iMovie for the casual user and Final Cut Pro for the more serious pro, though many Apple fans spring for Adobe Premiere.
The best video editing software for you depends on your workflow. HitFilm Express is an excellent free-forever video editor, while Adobe Premiere Pro is the tool of choice for those who make their living from the silver screen. The other options on our list above cover free, amateur, and presentation video editing tools for home and business use.
About the author: Tom Gerencer is a contributing writer for HP Tech Takes. Tom is an ASJA journalist, career expert at Zety.com, and a regular contributor to Boys' Life and Scouting magazines. His work is featured in Costco Connection, FastCompany, and many more.