When you want to make a strong impression, nothing works quite like moving images with sound. That's why digital video continues to grow in importance online, whether on news sites, Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube. Couple that trend with the ever-increasing availability of devices capable of high-resolution video recording—smartphones, GoPros, DSLRs and mirrorless cameras—and the case for powerful video editing software becomes clear. The best video editing software works for professionals and nonprofessionals alike and keeps up with newer formats such as HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding), HDR, and VR. It also must work with 4K video, since current smartphones and cameras are now capable of producing 4K content and even higher resolutions.
Increasingly, features trickle down from professional-level software to the consumer category. Multicam editing, motion tracking, and advanced color grading have all made the leap. This trend is a boon to hobbyist movie editors and vloggers, because the software designed for them simplifies procedures that are complex in the pro-level software. Another plus if you're a nonprofessional is that you often get features that, in the pro world, are relegated to separate apps, like motion graphics and color grading.
Here we share your best options for video editing software. Read on after the product summaries to find our guide to choosing the best video editing software for your needs.
CyberLink PowerDirector 365
Best for Tons of Tools and Ease of Use
Why We Picked It
CyberLink has long been an industry leader in speed and support for new video formats and effects, and it's long been a PCMag Editors' Choice winner among video editors. Despite its massive feature set, the program interface is clear and not as intimidating as fully pro-level software. It lets you do everything from the simplest clip trimming and joining to VR to multicam to keyframed effects. You can get it either by one-time purchase or subscription.
Who It's For
PowerDirector is suited to serious video enthusiasts and YouTubers who want to do the most with their clips without needing a degree in film. Even professionals may find that it has everything they need.
- Fast project rendering
- Clear, usable interface
- Loads of effects and AI tools
- Multicam and motion tracking
- Screen recording
- Number of options can be overwhelming at times
Adobe Premiere Pro
Best for Professional Video Editing
Why We Picked It
Premiere Pro is an industry standard among professional video editing applications, coming from the leader in creative design software, Adobe. Premiere offers all the effects, color tools, and collaboration and output options any pro could want. It runs on both macOS and Windows, so you're not restricted to one desktop platform or the other, unlike some other software. Premiere Pro is only available by subscription, so the cost is low upfront, but it adds up in the long run.
Who It's For
As its name suggests, Premiere Pro is for professional video editors. That said, plenty of serious amateurs use and enjoy it. It's especially strong for those who need to collaborate with others and teams who use Adobe's Creative Cloud suite of applications.
- Clear, flexible interface
- Many organizational tools
- Responsive speed
- Rich ecosystem of video production apps
- Excellent stabilization tool
- Unlimited multicam angles
- Intimidating interface for nonprofessionals
- Some techniques require additional applications, such as After Effects or Media Encoder
- No sound effect samples included
Apple Final Cut Pro
Best for Professional Editing on Macs
Why We Picked It
Final Cut Pro has a rethought, modern interface with a "trackless" timeline. An editor who works in this interface for a while will come to enjoy its flexibility, and to realize that it offers just as deep a set of tools and capabilities as any app with a more traditional interface. Unlike Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro only works on Apple computers, the choice of many video editors in any case.
Who It's For
As evidenced by the number of top Hollywood movies and shows made in Final Cut Pro, the software is a good fit for professionals, but its usability makes it a fine choice for amateur enthusiasts as well, particularly those wanting to move up from Apple iMovie.
- Magnetic, trackless timeline
- Superior organization tools, including libraries, ratings, tagging, and auto analysis for faces and scenes
- Support for 360-degree footage and wide color spaces
- Multicam support
- Fast performance
- Nontraditional timeline editing may turn off longtime video producers
- Import and export experiences trail those in Premiere Pro
|Apple.com||$299.99||See It (Opens in a new window)|
Best for Easy Editing on Macs
Why We Picked It
Simplicity joins a generous set of video editing tools in Apple's entry-level app. We love the new Storyboards features that helps people craft compelling digital movies, rather than leaving them to their own devices. You also get somewhat advanced tools like chroma-keying, picture-in-picture, and audio filters. Moving up to Final Cut Pro from iMovie makes for a smooth transition, too.
Who It's For
iMovie targets nonprofessionals like people who want to put together a video of that family vacation or Junior's soccer match. But its Storyboard feature makes it a great starting point for those interested in filmmaking. Of course, it's only for users of Apple hardware, as with most things Apple.
- Beautifully simple interface
- Color matching for consistent movie looks
- Classy themes
- Great chroma-keying tool
- Lots of audio tools
- Excellent movie templates
- In the name of simplicity, some useful controls are missing
- Does not support tagging
- Lacks multicam or motion tracking capabilities
- Limited to two video tracks
- No 360-degree video editing
Corel VideoStudio Ultimate
Best for Stop Motion and Motion Tracking
Why We Picked It
Corel first got our attention with its awesome stop-motion tool, and then reinforced that impression by being the first in this group with powerful motion tracking tools. It continues to add useful new tools while delivering fast performance and ease of use.
Who It's For
VideoStudio is aimed squarely at the amateur videographer, YouTuber, and TikToker. VideoStudio is also a value play, with a reasonable one-time license price.
- Loads of snazzy effects
- Extremely fast rendering
- Support for 360-degree VR, 4K Ultra HD, and 3D media
- Multipoint motion tracking
- Color grading
- Cool stop-motion tool
- Audio editing capabilities comparatively weaker than video
- Weak support for high-DPI monitors
- Too many easy-edit tools
|Corel||$99.99||See It (Opens in a new window)|
Best for Powerful Free Version and Pro-Level Tools
Why We Picked It
Davinci Resolve is a top-end professional video editing program that, while not the easiest to use, has a full-capability free version, making it appealing to amateurs as well as pros. The node-based editing workflow offers the ultimate in effects control, and the software is replete with keyframing, color grading, and audio tools. It renders video projects with category-leading speed (as long as you select hardware GPU encoding), and the company also makes cameras, consoles, and other hardware that tie in smoothly with the software.
Who It's For
Resolve targets professional video editors and has been used in may top-of-the-line Hollywood productions, including Avatar, Dune, and Snakes on a Plane. But that's not to say a determined amateur can't take advantage of its generous free version and go as deep (or as shallow) into its toolset as they like.
- Plenty of editing tools for precise control
- Clear, well-designed interface
- Includes motion graphics and audio editing
- Fast render performance
- Requires a lot of system resources
- Complex software takes time to learn
Movavi Video Editor Plus
Best for Fast, Fun Video Editing
Why We Picked It
Movavi is hardly a household name in video editing software, but it features a truly pleasing interface housing all the tools hobbyist video editors and YouTubers are likely to want. Good-looking effects and transitions are included as are a selection of soundtrack music. Exporting is among the fastest, and you can directly upload to YouTube or Vimeo. It's also reasonably priced, with both one-time and subscription options. Versions are available for both macOS and Windows.
Who It's For
Those just getting into video editing will appreciate Movavi's clear interface and appealing set of tools for both video and audio (which was beefed up in a recent version update). Everyone will appreciate its fast rendering and built-in uploading. It's also good for those who don't want to spend a lot of money on video editing software.
- Easy-to-understand user interface
- Transitions with sound
- Motion tracking and picture-in-picture tools
- Chroma-key capability
- Quick movie-creation tool
- Lacks advanced trim modes and clip pre-trimming
- Rendering on the slow side
- Not compatible with Apple Silicon M1
|Movavi||$59.95||See It (Opens in a new window)|
Pinnacle Studio Ultimate
Best for Color Grading and Keyframe Editing
Why We Picked It
Pinnacle is a solid and longtime player in the video editing field. It packs a healthy helping of near-pro-level capabilities into a fairly intuitive interface. Pinnacle has mask motion tracking, titling, and great audio tools, among other features. For speed, this snappy video editing software is among the best. You don't need to pay a subscription, either, though it's not the lowest-priced option.
Who It's For
Pinnacle Studio is video editing software for people who want more advanced tools than the company's consumer-friendly app Corel VideoStudio. If you need mulitcam, keyframing, and the like, it's a good choice for you. Those who don't want to pay a subscription will appreciate its one-time pricing.
- Clear interface
- Fast rendering
- Tons of effects
- Multicam editing
- Powerful title editor
- Detailed masking tools
- Limited motion tracking
- Uneven 360-degree VR implementation
|Amazon||$89.99||See It (Opens in a new window)|
|Pinnacle Systems||$99.95||See It (Opens in a new window)|
Best for Editing on a Budget
Why We Picked It
Filmora is a reasonably priced and easy-to-use video editing app that continues to receive new features. It has nifty features and capabilities, such as color matching, audio-syncing for limited multicam, motion tracking, and speech to text. It's also a fine performer when it comes to export speed. Versions are available for both macOS and Windows.
Who It's For
Filmora is for amateurs who want to keep getting new effect ideas for their videos but don't want to dig into the weeds of a Premiere Pro or DaVinci Resolve. It's available as either an annual subscription or a reasonably priced perpetual license.
- Blazing-fast render speed
- Pleasant interface
- Lots of effects and overlays
- Some tools are less effective than those of competitors
- Weak video stabilizer feature
- No multicam editing or VR capabilities
- No DVD menu or chapter authoring
Adobe Premiere Elements
Best for Digital Scrapbooking
Why We Picked It
Premiere Elements makes it easy to achieve a lot of the effects that would be complex in Premiere Pro. The consumer level program contains many of the editing tools of a pro-level application, but it cloaks these in easy-to-use features and Guided Edits. If you want to have some fun with your video without stressing your brain with concepts like timecodes and keyframes, Premiere Elements is a good choice.
Who It's For
Adobe characterizes the audience for Premiere Pro as "memory keepers"—those members of the family who want to preserve fun outings and events, spiff them up, and share them with friends and family. It's also for people who don't want to pay the subscription required by most of Adobe's other software, while getting a good selection of the features. The software is available for both macOS and Windows.
- Clear, simple interface
- Guided Edits ease basic and advanced projects
- Ample video effects
- Solid text tools
- Cross-platform support
- Slow output rendering speed
- No 360-degree VR or 3D editing
- No multicam support
- No screen recording capability
- No DVD or Blu-ray burning
|Adobe||$99.99||See It (Opens in a new window)|
Multicam, Motion Tracking, and Yet More Motion
Advanced abilities continue to make their way into accessible, affordable, and consumer-friendly video editing software as each new generation of software is released. Multicam editing, which lets you switch among camera angles of the same scene shot with multiple video cameras, used to be a feature relegated to pro-level software. Now this and many other advanced effects are available in enthusiast-level programs.
Another impressive effect that's available in some consumer-level video editing software is motion tracking, which lets you attach an object or effect to something moving in your video. You might use it to place a blur over the face of someone you don't want revealed in your video or to display a text box next to a moving object. You mark the object you want to track, specify the effect or text, and the app takes care of the rest, following the marked object.
Motion tracking used to be the sole province of special-effects software such as Adobe After Effects. Corel VideoStudio was the first of the consumer products to include motion tracking, and it still leads the pack in the depth and usability of its motion-tracking tool (even including multipoint tracking) though several others now include the capability.
Does the Software Support 4K Video? How About 8K?
Support for 4K video source content has become fairly standard in video editing software, and pro software already supports up to 8K, which isn't practical unless you're running a full-size movie theater. That said, even some smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (which I recently upgraded to) now can shoot in 8K.
The support for 4K and higher formats varies among the consumer products. For example, some but not all the applications can import Sony XAVC and XAVC-S formats, which are used by Sony's popular DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, camcorders, and professional video cameras. The same holds true for the H.265 High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) standard. Most of the applications here now can import and export HEVC, but there are still a few holdouts.
If you plan on working with 4K or higher video content, make sure you choose a video editing application that's fast at rendering output files (see Gathering Speed section below).
Support for newer formats, such as the open-source AV1 and the even more efficient H.266 (VVC—Versatile Video Coding) is very limited at this point, with only DaVinci Resolve supporting AV1 at this point, and none of the apps included here supporting H.266. Happily, several of the applications support importing Google's relatively new WebM format.
How to Edit Video on a PC
None of the extras matter if an app can't do the most basic editing tasks. At this point, all the software included here does a good job of letting you join, trim, and split video clips. Most also provide extensive tutorials, help, and guided editing tools. You can make use of special effects such as animated transitions, picture-in-picture (PiP), chroma-key (aka green screen), and filters that enhance colors or apply creative effects and distortions. With most products, you can add a multitude of timeline tracks that accommodate video clips, effects, audio, and text overlays.
Some video editing applications include seamless transition tools. Picture a scene showing people at a beach, and suddenly the sky zooms in and you're in Rome or Paris, but it looks like you're in the same place because the transition glued the two scenes together using the sky. There are plenty of other examples of seamless transitions; this magnificent video(Opens in a new window) shows a good selection of them and is partly responsible for starting the trend.
Can You Edit Video on a Smartphone?
You can create and edit videos on mobile devices almost as easily as you can watch them. Many of the desktop applications included in this roundup also offer mobile video editing apps. Adobe offers a separate app called Premiere Rush, which you can use to edit video on your phone and then continue editing it on the desktop Premiere app. Apple's iMovie interacts similarly with Final Cut Pro. TikTok itself offers the excellent, free CapCut. And with more than 100 million downloads on the Google Play app store, the powerful CyberLink PowerDirector's separate mobile app has made a name for itself on mobiles as well as the desktop. Many of these apps let you shoot video with the phone and start editing right away on the same device.
What Are Color Grading and LUTs?
One capability that has arrived in consumer-level video editing software is color grading. Color wheels, curves, and histograms give editors control over the intensity of every shade. Related to this is support for LUTs (lookup tables), also known as CLUTs (color lookup tables). This staple of pro-level software lets you quickly change the look of a video to give it a specific mood. For example, think of the dark blue look of thriller movies like The Revenant. You can download LUTs for free from several sites or use those included with video software to give your video a specific look. One well-known LUT type is the kind that can make a daytime scene look like it was shot at night, known in movie-making as day for night(Opens in a new window).
Where Is the Action?
Many video editing apps now include tools that cater to users of action cameras such as the GoPro Hero9 Black. For example, several offer automated freeze-frame along with speedup, slowdown, and reverse time effects. CyberLink PowerDirector's Action Camera Center pulls together freeze-frame with stabilization, slo-mo, and fish-eye correction, and throws in color correction for underwater footage. Magix Movie Edit Pro Premium includes the third-party NewBlue ActionCam Package of effects.
Titles That Zing
I've been seeing a lot of attention paid to creating title effects in these video editing applications. Apple Final Cut Pro has added 3D title creation, which is pretty spiffy, letting you extrude 2D titles and rotate them on three axes. Corel VideoStudio also includes 3D Titling, though not as powerful as Apple's. PowerDirector's Title Designer offers transparency, gradient color, border, blur level, and reflection in titles; Magix has impressive title templates, complete with animations.
Premiere Elements offers a nifty title effect in which your video fills the text characters, and Corel followed suit with a similar tool in VideoStudio. Look for an application that lets you edit titles in WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) mode, so you can type, format, and time it right over the video preview.
Captions for dialog are another type of text you may want to overlay on your video. Corel VideoStudio and Adobe Premiere Pro recently added features that automatically create captions from spoken dialog in the timeline.
Speed Matters in Video Editing
Video editing is one of the most computing-intensive activities, so you'll want the best laptop or desktop you can afford if you're serious about cutting your own movies. Most applications help speed up the editing process by creating a proxy file of lower resolution so that normal editing and previewing aren't slowed down by huge full-resolution files.
Particularly intensive is the process of rendering the finished product into a standard video file that will be playable on the target device of choice, whether it's an HDTV, laptop, or smartphone. Most of the software can take advantage of your computer's graphics processor to speed it up. Be sure to check the performance section in each review linked here to see how speedy or slow the application is. In rendering speed testing, CyberLink PowerDirector and Pinnacle Studio have been PCMag's perennial champions, but in the latest test runs Corel VideoStudio took the crown.
Other measures of performance include startup time and simple stability. Again, video editing is a taxing activity for any computer, involving many components. In the past, video editing programs took longer than most other apps to start up, and unexpected shutdowns were unfortunately common, even in top apps from top developers such as Adobe and Apple. The stability situation has greatly improved, but the complexity of the process, which increases as more powerful effects are added, means crashes will likely never be fully eliminated, and they often raise their ugly heads after a feature update.
Is There Any Free Video Editing Software?
If you don't want to invest a lot of money and effort into your video editing exploits, you have some free options. Our top pick for free video editing is DaVinci Resolve (listed above). The free download is popular among YouTubers and gamers because it gives them a large subset of the program's features without the pro-level capabilities they don’t need. In fact, it’s the most powerful free video editing option you can find. The free version is surprisingly robust, offering standard editing and cutting, effects, motion graphics, color correction, and audio editing.
There are other free apps that didn't make our list of the best, though they are still quite good. If you use a Mac, the excellent iMovie comes with it. For PC users, Windows' Photos app lets you join, trim, and even add background music, 3D animated effects, and titles to video. (The app is the same on Windows 10 and Windows 11.) Microsoft now includes a new app called Clipchamp to Windows 11's set of included apps. It's a Progressive Web App with a multitrack timeline and is most suited to social media marketing.
There are also some free video apps on the Microsoft Store, Windows' app store. These include Animotica, Movie Maker, and Video Editor Studio. Some of them are quite basic, but most include with clip joining, transitions, and effects, in a very touch-friendly interface. One free video editing app that's not in the app store has recently come to my attention: MiniTool MovieMaker(Opens in a new window). I have not yet tested it, but it looks promising. I prefer apps that come from the Microsoft Store, since I know they've been vetted for security and function, they run in sandboxes that can't mess with your system software, and they're easy to install and update.
Free video editing software often comes with legal and technical limitations, however. Some widely used codecs require licensing fees on the part of the software maker, meaning they can't offer free software that can handle these standard file formats. That said, the impressive open-source Shotcut(Opens in a new window) does a lot of the same things that the paid applications in this roundup do, including things like chroma-keying and picture-in-picture. Shotcut is completely open-source and free, as is Kdenlive. Lightworks is also free but has paid options that remove a 720p output resolution limit. Note also that Shotcut, Lightworks, and Kdenlive all run on Linux as well as Windows and Mac.
Do You Need 360-Degree VR Support?
Several of the products here (Adobe Premiere Elements is a notable exception) still support 3D video editing if that's your thing, though this has been replaced by 360-degree VR footage like that shot by the GoPro Max as a home-theater fad. To be honest, 360-degree is starting to fade in popularity, aside from some content you'll see on Facebook. As is often the case, our Editors' Choice, CyberLink PowerDirector was the first product in this group to offer support for this kind of videFFo media.
Other programs have jumped on board with 360 VR support, including Adobe Premiere, Apple Final Cut Pro, and Magix Movie Edit Pro. Support varies, with some apps including 360-compatible titles, stabilization, and motion tracking. PowerDirector is notable for including those last two. Final Cut offers a useful tool that removes the camera and tripod from the image, which can be an issue with 360-degree footage.
We still live in the days of talkies, so you want to be able to edit the audio in your digital moves as well as the images. Most of the products included here offer canned background music, and many, such as Pinnacle Studio, can even tailor the soundtrack to the exact length of your movie.
Most of these programs can separate audio and video tracks, and most can clean up background noise and add environmental audio effects such as concert hall reverb. A couple of the products have an auto-ducking feature, which lowers background music during dialog—a definite pro-level plus.
What About Apple Video Editing Software?
Though macOS users don't have the sheer number of software choices available for PCs, Apple fans interested in editing video are well served. At the entry level, the surprisingly capable and enjoyable-to-use iMovie comes free with every Mac sold since at least 2011. iMovie only offers two video tracks, but does a good job with chroma-keying, and its Trailers feature makes easy work of producing slick, Hollywood-style productions.
In the midrange is Adobe Premiere Elements, which is cross-platform between Windows and macOS, and offers a lot more features and lots of help with creating effects. Recently joining that program in Apple world is a macOS version of my Editors' Choice enthusiast level video editing application, CyberLink PowerDirector. Though it doesn't offer quite as many tools as you get in its Windows version, what it does include is impressive, and its rendering performance beats all the other Mac products mentioned here in my render-speed tests.
Professionals and prosumers have powerful, though pricey options in Davinci Resolve, Final Cut Pro, and Premiere Pro. Final Cut is a deceptively simple application that resembles iMovie in its interface and ease of use, but it offers massively deep capabilities, and many third-party apps integrate with it for even more power. Final Cut also makes excellent use of the Touch Bar on some MacBook Pro models. Premiere Pro uses a more-traditional timeline and enjoys a large ecosystem of companion apps and plug-ins. It also excels in collaboration features and plays well with ancillary Adobe software such as After Effects and Photoshop.
Read more about these apps in our roundup of the best video editing software for Macs(Opens in a new window).
What's Not Here
There are more video editing software applications than we can fit into this roundup of the best options, which includes only software rated 3.5 stars and higher. That means you won't find ACDSee Luxea, Nero Video, Vegas Movie Studio or VSDC Video Editor Pro. It's not that these are bad products, but just that we didn't feel they should be included among the best video editing applications. Some have even made improvements to previously convoluted interfaces and slow performance.
Longtime professional video editors will note the absence of Avid Media Composer and some other professional-level video software, which are simply too unwieldy for PCMag's primarily consumer audience. There are a couple of more interesting applications—AVS Video Editor, and NCH VideoPad among them—that we simply haven't tested yet, along with several purely web-based editors.
The Finish Line
The video editing application you choose depends on your budget, the equipment you're using, and how serious you are. Fortunately, you're spoiled for choice with the products available. Peruse our in-depth reviews of enthusiast-level video editing software linked below to see which is the right one for you.
One final note about the features table here: To provide some differentiation among the products, check marks represent above-the-call-of-duty features, rather than truly essential ones. So, just because Nero Video and Wondershare Filmora don't have many checks, it doesn't mean they're not good choices. In fact, both offer decent basic video editing on a budget.