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Best Overall: Shotcut
"A robust non-linear video editor with enough tools to satisfy most levels of video editing skill."
Runner-Up, Best Overall: OpenShot
"Makes video editing easy for beginners and experts alike."
Best for Mac: Blender Video Sequence Editor at Microsoft
"You can use it for 3D modeling, sculpting, painting, animation, and much more."
Best for Linux: Kdenlive
"An excellent and popular Linux video editing solution and a top open-source editor in general."
Runner-Up, Best for Linux: Flowblade at Github
"Succeeds in creating a snappier loading and operating experience than a lot of other editing software."
Best for Windows: Avidemux at Sourceforge
"Designed for making fairly simple changes and spitting out a modified file."
Best for Basic Editing: VidCutter at Github
"Excels at doing just what its name suggests: cutting video."
Best for Real-Time Editing: LiVES at Lives-Video
"Incorporates a number of real-time editing features that let a VJ mix and control video clips to go along with audio."
Best for VFX: Natron at Github
"Provides a powerful open-source way to take on another important aspect of video production."
Courtesy of Shotcut
It might not look overly impressive at a first glance, but Shotcut is actually a robust non-linear video editor with enough tools to satisfy most levels of video editing skill. The free cross-platform program—available on Windows, Mac, and Linux—opens up to a clean, minimal interface, ideal for new or casual editors who want to keep things simple. But once you start adding more modules depending on the functions you want to use, Shotcut starts to show its depth. Each panel can be un-docked, moved around, and re-docked or left floating, giving you nice control over how to arrange your workspace across one or more monitors.
Shotcut can work with a wide range of video and image formats, including 4K-resolution content. You won’t see an “Import” button, though; the software boasts “native timeline editing” with no import required. But you can still open and preview files in Shotcut just like in other editors, create a “playlist” of the media you’re using for the project, and drag clips into your timeline. The timeline has a full range of editing capabilities, including adding tracks, splitting and trimming clips, and shortcut keys for these functions. There is also a strong selection of video/audio transitions and stackable filters, from stabilization to chroma key (green-screen effects).
The advanced features have some learning curve to them, but the Shotcut YouTube channel offers a collection of video tutorials to help. There’s also an online course available for purchase that has been reviewed and officially approved by Shotcut’s lead developer.
Courtesy of OpenShot
OpenShot’s simple, user-friendly interface shows some extra polish you don’t always see in a free open-source video editor. Combined with the built-in tutorial when you first launch the software and the full user guide available on the website, OpenShot makes video editing easy for beginners and experts alike. You can drag and drop media into the program to import them, and drag and drop to work with the clips on the timeline. You can add an unlimited number of tracks, and rather than each track being a dedicated “video track” or “audio track” like most editors, you can put any type of media into any track. As long as you can keep things straight, the added flexibility can be helpful.
The selection of included tools and effects aren’t groundbreaking, but you’ll find plenty to work with, including transitions with real-time previews and keyframe-based animation. One feature you don’t see in many other free products is 3D animated titles, which OpenShot can handle if you’ve also installed the open-source 3D-graphics software Blender (which itself happens to have video-editing capabilities, too).
OpenShot is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux as a free download, though donations and Patreon subscriptions are accepted through the website to support development.
Courtesy of Blender
Blender is unique in that video editing is only a fraction of what it can do. The free open-source software, available for Mac, Windows, and Linux, is actually an entire suite of professional-grade 3D-creation tools. You can use it for 3D modeling, sculpting, painting, animation, and much more. It includes powerful tools for visual compositing and even 3D game development.
Integrated within all of that is the Blender Video Sequence Editor (VSE), which can be a bit hard to get to and figure out at first, given that the interface is designed to handle much more than just video editing. Fortunately, there are many support resources available, from free tutorials to paid training from the Blender Institute and a Blender Cloud subscription. Once you know your way around, you’ll find the VSE to be a full-featured non-linear editor, with a multi-track timeline, cutting and trimming tools, keyboard shortcuts, and plenty of advanced options. Then, of course, you can always add in 3D graphics and animation if that’s something you’re into—or if the software inspires you to give it a shot.
Courtesy of Kdenlive
Even though an older version can be downloaded for Mac and a beta version is available for Windows, Kdenlive, like much open-source software, was made to run on Linux operating systems. Built on the MLT media framework, it’s an excellent and popular Linux video editing solution and a top open-source editor in general. The interface is straightforward and easy-to-use, looking most familiar to people who have used iMovie. It’s also customizable to what you need or are used to.
Kdenlive’s timeline is fully functional, supporting unlimited video/audio tracks, visible audio waveforms, preview rendering, and “JKL” playback shortcuts. It comes with a strong set of transitions, effects, and filters, and it’s simple to drag them onto clips, modify their settings, and see a live preview. When you’re ready to export your finished video, you can choose from a large number of mainstream file types and presets.
Courtesy of Flowblade
Flowblade doesn’t offer versions for Mac or Windows at the time of writing—it focuses on providing a fast, stable video editing experience for Linux. By avoiding too many extra features that could slow it down and complicate the process for home users, it succeeds in creating a snappier loading and operating experience than a lot of other editing software. This also helps gives it added stability, cutting back on crashes that tend to hit other open-source products more frequently.
Flowblade’s modern-looking interface should feel familiar and intuitive to many, with timeline tool buttons that fit on a single row. Within this slightly pared-down toolbar are more than enough move and trim tools for the job, though its “insert editing” model that automatically pushes all clips together to the left may take some getting used to if you’re coming from other programs. It also benefits from the many effects available to Linux video editors, from transitions and image filters to custom titles and keyframe-based audio editing.
Courtesy of Avidemux
Avidemux, available as a free and quick download for Windows, Mac, and Linux, doesn’t try to be a full timeline-based video editor. Instead, it’s designed for making fairly simple changes and spitting out a modified file. You can import your source video and mark portions to cut out by selecting start and end frames. You can apply filters, with some aesthetic options like color effects and borders, and others that enhance the clip by sharpening the image or reducing noise. You can also add additional clips to the end of your current one, but that sort of work may be best for a full non-linear editor.
You might find Avidemux most useful when you don’t need to make any edits to the video at all; as part of its exporting step, Avidemux can encode video and audio to an impressive range of file types, with a robust amount of detailed options for the output. If you have a lot of clips to encode, you can queue them up to process one by one.
Courtesy of VidCutter
If you’re only looking to do quick, simple editing, free open-source software is a smart place to turn. VidCutter excels at doing just what its name suggests: cutting video. The cross-platform program can import and export most common formats, such as AVI, MOV, MP4, MPEG, and others. Its interface (which has light and dark theme options) includes only a few elements: a preview area displays your imported media, and a single-track timeline at the bottom can show thumbnails if you toggle on the option. Mark start and end points on the timeline and your selection will be added to the clip index on the side. You can add multiple clips this way and drag and drop to re-order them on the index. Saving the video will export your clips to a file in that order, and the new file will match the video format of the source.
Courtesy of LiVES
LiVES (available as a free download for Linux with a version for Windows in the works for later in the year) is a non-linear video editor with bonus applications geared toward a specific type of user: the video jockey, or VJ. Alongside its standard editing functions, LiVES incorporates a number of real-time editing features that let a VJ mix and control video clips to go along with audio—all on the fly at a live performance. One part of the interface is the clip editor, where you can apply effects like fades, swirls, and colors to the media you’ve imported. You can then place and arrange the clips on the other part of the interface, the multi-track timeline, to render immediately or save for later.
Of course, being able to manipulate and control your clips quickly is crucial for live VJing, so LiVES lets you create a custom key map to call up effects or to transition between clips at the press of a button. You can also “scratch” backwards and forwards with the video, much like a DJ would do on a record. Even if you’re not planning to book a VJ gig anytime soon, the power to bring video and audio together in real time can open up possibilities for gatherings or live presentations.
Courtesy of Natron
While Natron isn’t a non-linear video editor meant for cutting and assembling video clips like the other products on this list, it does provide a powerful open-source way to take on another important aspect of video production. It’s a cross-platform visual effects (VFX) and motion graphics compositing program, used to put together different elements in post-production to create the “movie magic” within a particular shot or scene.
Effects in Natron are built using a series of “nodes.” You specify and tweak details of the effects on a node and apply them to a video clip, connecting and stacking multiple layers and branches of nodes as needed. This allows for functions like moving and resizing 2D/3D elements, chroma keying to replace backgrounds, and motion tracking to follow points on a video. It also supports a wide range of open-source and commercial VFX plugins to add more tools based on your needs. Once your shot is finished, you can switch over to another video editing or sequencing software (like any of the open-source ones in this article) to place it into a longer full video with audio and other scenes.