Free software is one that works. You download it. You do stuff. That is it. You might have to register using a e-mail address. Nothing more should be required.
You should not have to purchase a software key or codec license. Seems obvious, but there vendors who perform bait and switch activities for profit. This would be one of the ways folks get suckered into a package.
Free does not mean you get everything you want. There could be a reduction of features. It could be prior version of a current commercial product. You could be limited on export options. Free doesn't necessarily mean easy.
Subtracting Windows Live Movie Maker and iMovie from the list and you have the following options.
Blender is a free 2D/3D modeling program. However, inside of Blender is a video editing module. You definitely want to view the tutorials at Blender VSE for assistance before you dive in. Blender ain’t easy and you will spend time trying to learn it but it is free.
EditShare Lightworks Free is not really a consumer level software, this program has powerful professional level tools but there is a free version with some limitations on export. There is a learning curve but once you get a handle on it you have access to an industry standard program.
There are limitations on export but you can export HD and SD video to the MOV format. There is a Windows and the Linux version is currently in Beta testing mode.
OpenShot Video Editor for Linux users is a functional alternative to the other Linux packages in the wild.
Serif MoviePlus Starter Edition is a basic version of their main software currently MoviePlus X6. If you are looking for an easier transition from Windows Live Movie Maker this could be the one. Limitations are that it cannot accept MP4 or AVCHD video. This could be a big limitation if that is your camcorder or recording devices video format. Windows OS only.
Online Web Applications
YouTube Video Editor – Upload your video, set it to private and you have access to a basic video editor. Here is the rub, it generally takes longer to upload than to download. Be aware that if you use that ads can appear in your video if you use certain features from the editing program. Check out the Editor Help article for more info.
VideoToolbox seems like the deal, you can edit, extract, convert and do a bunch of stuff. There are video tutorials but no FAQ page. I would say that if you are an intermediate computer users with good bandwidth this could be okay. I'd set up a free e-mail for this type of site, something about it has me on alert but I can't put my finger on it just yet.
WeVideo is a very user friendly editing service. There is a free version that does impose limits on the video resolution and how often you can export a file. There is a easy to use editor that provides music and other goodies. I beg of you to read the terms of service; this wouldn’t be appropriate if you think you want to use your video for commercial use.
Not Yet Ready for Prime Time
VideoLan Movie Creator – I keep checking the site but it isn’t in Beta at this time.
Novacut for Linux and possibly for Mac users is being constructed but no functional software at this time.
So after filtering out the gunk, deadwood and vaporware this is what is left. Again, you are responsible for making sure your computer can handle the software, that you have the time to learn and be willing to be your own tech support.
If I find safe and functional options I'll add them to the list. For now, this is a wrap.
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