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Five Low-Cost Windows Video Editing Programs

Check our rundown of five sub-$100 video editing programs that we have used and found to work competently on most decent hardware running Windows XP, Vista or 7.


Sooner or later you will need to record video of a conference presentation or training session. And since Windows is the world's most popular personal computer operating system, the computer you will want to use to capture and edit your video will probably run Windows.

This article is not a full review of every available video editing program for Windows. It's a brief rundown of five sub-$100 video editing programs we have used and found to work competently on most decent hardware running Windows XP, Vista or Seven, with the caveat that they will all crash more often and run slower on Vista than on Windows 7 or XP.

MyMovie-Windows Live Movie Maker


If you have happy memories of Windows MovieMaker in pre-Seven versions of Windows, you may be shocked to find that this utility is missing from Windows Seven. Instead, you are supposed to download its replacement, called MyMovie-Windows Live Movie Maker. Which, sad to say, sucks. If you are using XP or Vista, do not download this turkey. Stick with Windows MovieMaker. The latest version is 2.6, and you can download it free from Microsoft.com. You may get some notice saying this version may not work with Windows Seven. Ignore it. MovieMaker 2.6 runs just fine on Windows Seven.

Now about MovieMaker itself: Think of it as the NotePad of video editors. If you only expect to make one or two videos, ever, and to do only the simplest possible edits (i.e. cut off the ends of a couple of clips, stick them together into a longer video, and maybe add a simple title or two) MovieMaker is all you need. It will grab and work with video in almost every popular camcorder format.

If you have an old version of MovieMaker, it may not work with new high definition video formats such as MPEG 4/H.264, but downloading version 2.6 only takes a minute or two.

If MovieMaker crashes, which it will sooner or later, it will autosave your work at the crash point. And it will save your finished movie as a .wmv file. You can use other programs, including annoying-but-versatile (and free) SUPERto transmogrify it into other formats if you want.

VideoSpin and Studio by Pinnacle

VideoSpin is supposedly free, but if you need to take in or output videos in MPG4 or MPG2 formats, which you almost certainly will, you will need to pony up some cash. So you might as well download a trial version of Pinnacle Studio, and if you like it, buy a $49.99 copy of Pinnacle Studio HD.

Consider this a personal thing, but I find the constant Pinnacle barrage of upsell attempts irritating. Yes, I'm sure my video would look much better if I upgraded to a fancier Pinnacle or Avid product or bought an additional content pack or set of transitions, but right now I have a job to do, okay?

Pinnacle sells millions of copies every year, so many people obviously like it. One thing it has, even in sort-of free VideoSpin and $49.99 Pinnacle Studio HD, is a great titling utility, up there with the ones in $1000-plus Avid, Adobe, and Apple (Final Cut) professional video editing suites. And the latest version (14 at this writing) does not crash nearly as often as earlier versions we've tried. So Pinnacle is certainly worth a spin -- or a VideoSpin, anyway.

MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 17

There are two versions currently available: Pro 17 for $59.99 and Pro 17 Plus for $99.99. Pro has a lot of the features you'll find in $1000-plus video edit suites, and Plus has all kinds of special effects you may only use once in a blue moon, but are nice to have around.

The main problem with MAGIX is that it's a European company with German and Russian programmers who tend to make things look and feel more industrial than is typical in American consumer-grade software. And usability? Let's just say usability isn't a major MAGIX selling point, even though the UI is a lot better in v.17 than it was in single-digit versions.

MAGIX is big on fully-functional, freely downloadable trial versions, so it costs nothing (besides a little time) to give their video editors a test. You may fall in love with MAGIX -- many do -- or at least keep a copy around for some of the special effects MAGIX offers as part of Movie Edit Pro that can cost hundreds of dollars as plugins for other video edit programs.

And there's another MAGIX program you might want to look at if this article is making your eyes glaze over: MAGIX Video easy HD. $39.99. Easy? Totally. As easy as others claim to be, but aren't. Don't expect Spielberg-level output from a program that claims, among other features, "Automatic video editing wizard, Clearly laid-out user interface with large buttons," and a "Beginner's manual with step-by-step instructions." Chances are, though, you will turn out a better "first" video, with less work, using this program than with almost any other video editing software.

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