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Best Video Software for Windows and Mac

Download.com hooks you up with the best video software for Windows and Mac

Apps in this Guide

When you want to play, edit, or convert a video file that's located on your laptop or desktop PC, Windows 10 and macOS have solid official software that works well enough most of the time. However,more

When you want to play, edit, or convert a video file that's located on your laptop or desktop PC, Windows 10 and macOS have solid official software that works well enough most of the time. However, you can find free options that cover a wider variety of file types and offer more settings to fine-tune your results. Let's show you the main things that you should look for when shopping for video software.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I look for in a video file converter?
Non-free converters tend to be better: Premium video converters tend to have support for more mobile devices, are easier to navigate and more stable, get updated more often, have more documentation and more reliable ways to contact them, and they contain more features to adapt to a variety of situations. Wise Video Converter is one example for Windows, and Xilisoft Video Converter Ultimate is an example for Macs. Xilisoft even includes a basic video editor, which makes its higher price tag easier to digest. Avoid monthly subscriptions: Annual subscriptions or a one-time fee are usually much more cost-effective in the long run. If you're on the fence, the paid versions offer a free trial to help you decide.
What should I look for in a video editor?
You get what you pay for: Like video converters, there is a sliding scale of quality depending on how much you are willing to fork over. The best all-around value tends to be Adobe Premiere Elements. The company's Elements line of products gives you access to Premiere (Windows, Mac) and Photoshop at a fraction of their usual cost, with the tradeoff being the removal of a few pro functions. For example, Photoshop's print publication color tools have historically been unavailable in the Elements version. If you don't have a professional need, then Elements is arguably your better bet. This line of Adobe products is also not tied to their subscription-based offerings, so you pay a one-time fee, and you're on your way. And like the video converters, you can try before you buy. For macOS users, iMovie is also worth a look. This editor created by Apple costs $15, making it a compelling alternative if your needs fall between a free app and Premiere (or Final Cut Pro, for that matter). Popularity means more product assistance: Video editors like Premiere are common and have been around for a long time, so if you want a tutorial or tech support, it's usually only a Google search away. YouTube is packed with tutorials for Adobe products that can turn a beginner into an intermediate user in a matter of days.
What should I look for in a video player?
Stick to the familiar: VLC Media Player, Media Player Classic Home Cinema, Windows Media Player, and QuickTime are recognized names for a reason. They just work, and they're trustworthy (as in, they're not monetizing or even recording user data). For macOS users, QuickTime also has respectable basic support for content creation and sharing. (If Windows is defaulting to its own media player and you want to use something else that you've just installed, hold down the Shift key, right-click on the file, choose Open With, and select your new video player from the menu.) Don't pay unless your needs require it: Video playing software is much less resource-intensive to create and maintain than a converter or editor, so Microsoft and Apple can give away their own high-quality players, and the VideoLAN Organization (the makers of VLC) can exist as a non-profit and still survive. If there's a price tag attached to the video player that you're interested in, make sure that you haven't been redirected to a different product or to a bundle.

Recommended Video Software for Windows and Mac

Media Player Classic Home Cinema

Media Player Classic Home Cinema

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Like VLC, Media Player Classic Home Cinema is a free, open-source app. In some cases, it may play a file that VLC cannot, or play it more smoothly. People who play a lot of locally stored media usually have both apps installed, to cover as many bases as possible. Like VLC, Media Player Classic Home Cinema can't play feature-film Blu-ray discs.

Adobe Premiere

Adobe Premiere

With good video editing software, there's minimal processing time when you add video and audio clips that you want to put together. It has a preview window that quickly lets you check your progress without bogging down your computer. What you see in the preview is more or less the same as what you see in the final video file. When it comes time to convert your project into a file, the editor can take full advantage of your computer's potential processing speed to render the end product quickly and without errors. Ideally, the rendering function has presets for quality and file size that are optimized for things like uploading to YouTube or Facebook, and the ability to create your own presets. And you want an editor that's updated a few times a year to fix bugs and add new features.

Adobe Premiere Elements ticks all of these boxes, and for a reasonable price. If you have more money to burn, Premiere Pro, Avid, and Sony Vegas Pro are also good, but you may require training to get the most out of their more advanced features.

VLC Media Player

VLC Media Player

VLC is one of the most popular video players around -- and for good reason: It's not just high-quality, it's also completely free. There are no ads, and you don't need to give the company an email address. You just download and install it, then play your video file. It relies on donations to fund development. However, VLC won't play feature-film Blu-ray discs by default, due to legal issues.