Three Great Alternatives to Windows Movie Maker

Windows Movie Maker is no more. These free programs are great replacements.

Microsoft recently put an end to one of its favorite free software bundles, Windows Essentials. It included a variety of different programs such as a blog writing program, the now defunct MSN Messenger, Windows Live Mail, and Movie Maker. The latter was a particularly beloved program, because it made it easy to do basic edits for a video. With Movie Maker you could add an introductory screen, credits, a soundtrack, cut out certain portions of the video, add visual filters, and then easily share those videos on various platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, and Flickr.

It was a fun way to spice up a family movie or school project. It's not a stretch to say there weren't many programs like it.

If you still love the program, you can find downloads of Movie Maker from non-Microsoft web sites, but it's not advisable to install them since it's always better to download a program from its creator.

If you still have Movie Maker you can continue to use it. But if the program ever ceases to work properly, or you get a new PC (and don’t know how to transfer the program) you’ll no longer have access to it.

For those who continue to use Movie Maker keep in mind that since it's no longer supported it won't be updated. If some kind of vulnerability is discovered in the program—such as this one—your PC could be at risk.

At some point, you’ll have no other choice but to seek out alternatives. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-to-one replacement for Movie Maker. Some programs, for example, offer easy sharing but don’t have the same filters or the ability to add credits or introductory frames with pre-set text. Others have comparable easy editing features and filters, but lack the sharing capabilities.

I've had a look at a number of video editing suites to find programs that are at least a close approximation of what Movie Maker provided. Here’s a look at the three programs I’ve found that are the best bet for anyone looking to replace the capabilities of Movie Maker including the most important feature of all: it’s free.

1
VideoPad Video Editor

VideoPad
VideoPad by NCH Software.

This is easily the top choice for replacing Movie Maker--at least in my book. It doesn't look like Movie Maker, but NCH Software's VideoPad Video Editor makes it very easy to edit your home video and include a music track to go along with it. It's also got some of the sharing features similar to what Movie Maker offered, just updated for our current online lives.

At the top of the VideoPad interface, you have basic editing commands such as adding text, undoing and redoing changes, and adding blank clips. There's even a screen recording feature if you want to do screencasts.

VideoPad also offers audio and video effects such as rotating, shake, motion blur, pan and zoom, and more. There are audio effects such as distortions, amplify, fade in, and so on. It also has transitions to fade in and out using all kinds of different patterns.

Like any other program you'll have to learn the quirks of VideoPad to understand how it works and how to mix elements together. 

Nevertheless, with a little patience and willingness to consult the online user's guide you can get up and running in a few minutes. If you're ever stuck on how to use a certain feature, NCH has some helpful video tutorials You can access them by clicking on the question mark icon in the upper right corner of the program and selecting Video Tutorials.

Once your project is finished, VideoPad has some nice sharing options under the Export menu item such as sending your video up to YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, Dropbox, and Google Drive.

VideoPad has a variety of tiered paid options. It also doesn't proudly advertise its free option as there is a paid version for home users. Nevertheless, at this writing you could just download VideoPad and use it for free, as long as you're using it for non-commercial use.

2
VSDC Video Editor

VSDC Video Editor
VSDC Video Editor.

A similarly friendly-looking video editor. The free edition of VSDC Video Editor starts off with a bunch of options such as a blank project, creating a slideshow, importing content, capturing video, or capturing a screen. There's also a big screen asking you to upgrade to the paid version every time you open the program--just close that or click Continue to ignore.

For anyone editing video, the easiest way to get going is select Import content, and choose the video you want to edit from your hard drive. Once you're up and running, you'll see that VSDC is more complex than Movie Maker, but if you hover over any button it will tell you what its name is.

Most of the features you need for your project are under the Editor tab. This includes various filters, video effects, audio effects, add music, trim videos, and add text or subtitles. One thing that's really nice about VSDC is that it's easy to shift the point at which your music track starts. So if you want it to start a few seconds after the video is running, you just have to click and drag the bar representing the audio file.

Once you've got your project set-up the way you like it, head over to the Export project tab where you can easily export it using a specific video format, as well as modify the resolution for specific screen sizes such as the PC, iPhone, Web, DVD, and so on.

VSDC lacks the in-app uploads for various web services so you'll have to do that the old fashioned way: through each website's manual upload system.

3
Shotcut

Shotcut
Shotcut.

Anyone looking for something slightly more complex than Movie Maker, but still easy to use and understand should look at Shotcut. This free, open source program has a basic interface across the top of the window with various features including a Timeline view and filters such as fade in and out for audio and video. Like other video editing programs you can set beginning and end points right on the time counter in the main working window.

This program definitely isn't as easy to use or understand as Movie Maker. Nevertheless, with a little bit of time you can figure things out. If you want to add a filter, for example, you'd click Filters and then in the sidebar that shows up hit the plus button. This provides a large menu of different filters divided up into three categories: favorites, video, and audio. All of these automated filters can be added on the fly with your changes reflected right away.

Like other programs we've discussed, Shotcut lacks any easy upload features to popular web services, but it does let you export your video into a ton of different formats from regular MP4 files to still images in JPG or PNG formats.

4
Final Thoughts

Windows Movie Maker
Windows Movie Maker.

All three of these programs offer something different in terms of features and interface, but all of them are solid replacements for Movie Maker. Microsoft's simple video editor was a great piece of software, but with support ceasing, at some point we'll all have to move on to something else.

There will probably never be a perfect replacement unless Microsoft releases the Movie Maker code for open source projects, or developers try to re-create it. In the absence of that, these three programs provide a starting point for former Movie Maker users to branch out and try something new.