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Movie Maker Online review

Movie Maker Online is a free video editor with a few nice bonus features, but it also comes with some challenges

A desktop computer on a desk with the monitor showing a screenshot from Movie Maker Online, the free video editing software
(Image: © Theano Nikitas/Tom's Guide)

Our Verdict

Despite its shortcomings, Movie Maker Online is one of the best free, browser-based video editor around. If you can live with the compromises (and the ads), it's a useful tool for quick and simple editing jobs.

For

  • Completely free
  • Free photos, music and sound effects
  • Built-in help
  • Video and slideshow functions

Against

  • Confusing and clunky interface
  • Learning curve
  • Ads

Tom's Guide Verdict

Despite its shortcomings, Movie Maker Online is one of the best free, browser-based video editor around. If you can live with the compromises (and the ads), it's a useful tool for quick and simple editing jobs.

Pros

  • + Completely free
  • + Free photos, music and sound effects
  • + Built-in help
  • + Video and slideshow functions

Cons

  • - Confusing and clunky interface
  • - Learning curve
  • - Ads

Movie Maker Online is a totally free, browser-based video editor that represents a cost-effective option for consumers who want to create videos and slideshows without having to download large software files to their computers. 

For an online video editor, this site offers a good range of useful and creative features that will appeal to hobbyists. But come prepared with a lot of patience to navigate around ads and a confusing interface. 

The good news is that you can access the software from any device with a browser and an internet connection — all of which is enough for it to make it into our list of the best free video editing software.

Read on for our full Movie Maker Online review and find out what we like and don't like about it.

Movie Maker Online review: Plans and pricing

Movie Maker Online is totally free to use and is supported by advertisements. However, you can upgrade to a paid, ad-free subscription with fewer upload file size restrictions (currently 2GB) that averages about $1 a day.

Movie Maker Online review: Interface

Just because something’s free doesn’t mean that it comes without a price. For Movie Maker Online, that price is an unusual interface that requires a different — and sometimes frustrating — approach than most video editors.

This browser-based software is sprinkled with ads so you’ll need to disable any ad blockers in order to use the application fully, or upgrade to the ad-free version. While we understand that the people who developed and maintain the software need to make money, it sometimes takes a keen eye to differentiate between an ad and other components that are an integral part of the software. 

Oddly, the video and audio timelines are positioned vertically. Visualizing video frames and the audio track from top to bottom rather than the traditional horizontal (left to right) is a little disconcerting. And having the video and audio timelines separated by other columns makes it more difficult to sync the two. 

(Image credit: Theano Nikitas/Tom's Guide)

Getting started, however, is very easy — thanks to clearly labeled clickable boxes to upload files, add photos and music, and create text. Simple enough. You can also drag and drop files if you prefer. 

There are links for related help tips as well as step-by-step and video tutorials for various functions. And you’ll likely need the help since, unlike most software applications, there are no real toolbars or clearly marked tools. 

Instead, to access many functions, you click on one of the windows and a small set of options pop up. There are also a few features below the main video editor. It may take time, even with tutorials, to get the hang of working with this software, though.

(Image credit: Theano Nikitas/Tom's Guide)

Once you’ve put together a video, just click on Make Video and wait until it’s rendered. You can then view the movie online and download it. Don’t wait too long to save the file, though; the link will only be available “for a few hours.” 

You can use the site anonymously or you can register with a user name and password. The latter will keep your data intact when you leave the site. 

But even working anonymously, as I did, if you don’t close your browser window (or power down your computer), your work to date remains online — at least for a while. The site notes that your data will be deleted in about 24 hours, possibly sooner — depending on demand for servers — so it’s best to watch the time. (Be sure to read the Terms of Service & Privacy Policy; click on Anon in the upper-right corner of the page.)

(Image credit: Theano Nikitas/Tom's Guide)

Movie Maker Online review: Features

Movie Maker Online has a fairly versatile feature set for its class. While it can’t go head-to-head with the features of the best video editing software, you’d be hard-pressed to find many other free, browser-based video editors with as many options. 

As expected, Movie Maker Online offers the basic tools to import, trim and combine video clips. Solid color or still photos can be used for backgrounds and text can be added as well.

(Image credit: Theano Nikitas/Tom's Guide)

While you can add your own assets, Movie Maker Online has partnered with a trio of companies that offer royalty-free music, photos and sound effects at no cost for non-commercial usage. 

You’ll have to register with Jamendo Music to access their free downloads (or pay for commercial usage) but it’s worth the effort for some cool music. I was also impressed with the quality and quantity of the still images, and the sound effects are fun to have. 

Since there’s only a single audio timeline, you may need to lower the volume on your original video track if you’re importing a separate audio source.

(Image credit: Theano Nikitas/Tom's Guide)

An assortment of special effects  are available to add a creative touch. In addition to converting video to black and white or sepia, there are other, more funky visual effects such as blurring or distorting the video. 

Some of the effects may be a little extreme for more serious endeavors, but there are more than enough options to create an artistic video if you’d like. 

(Image credit: Theano Nikitas/Tom's Guide)

Keep in mind that finished videos are limited to 10 minutes, with a maximum of 100 files, so you won’t be creating any epic features with this software. 

Movie Maker Online offers a number of selectable resolution choices when you’re ready to render your video. The maximum output is 1920 x 1080 (HD) but there’s a convenient drop-down list with suggested settings for YouTube, Instagram and TikTok, as well as custom and auto options.

(Image credit: Theano Nikitas/Tom's Guide)

Movie Maker Online review: Performance

One of the benefits of browser-based software such as Movie Maker Online is that you don’t need a high-powered computer to edit video on it, since the site’s server handles most of the heavy load.

Browser-based also means that you can run the software on any device that has an internet connection, so I decided to test the program on an older, slower laptop: an early 2015, 13-inch MacBook Air with 8GB RAM running macOS Catalina (10.15.3) and Safari 13.0.5. 

I had no problems using the site with this configuration. I also tried creating a video on my iPhone 11 with OS 13.3, directly accessing clips from my Photo Library, but the screen felt too cramped and it was difficult to navigate by touch.

The key to a smooth experience, though, is the speed and stability of your connection combined with, we assume, how many other people are processing videos on the site’s servers. My upload speed varied between around 5 and 11 Mbps during testing, so upload times for 100-150MB clips varied from a minute or two to even longer. Upload time, of course, will depend on the size of your files and your internet speed, and I often found myself wishing for a faster connection.

Browsing through the site’s step-by-step help tips and playing tutorials was speedy, but some tasks took longer than expected, such as previewing special effects. Rendering a completed video, albeit a short one, was surprisingly fast.

Movie Maker Online review: Verdict

Movie Maker Online is really a mixed bag. Because it’s browser based, the program is easily accessible. The software also has all the basic components needed to produce a video that will please most consumers. And its 10-minute maximum duration should be more than sufficient for those seeking a free, online video editor. Having easy access to free music, photos and sound effects is certainly a bonus.

But — and this is a major caveat — the user interface can be a major stumbling block, especially for newcomers to video editing. Even though working around the ads that appear on the site is manageable and the site’s help and tutorials are easily accessed, the interface can be challenging. 

It doesn’t resemble standard video editors (even the timelines are vertical instead of horizontal) and you often have to open another window to complete a task such as editing text. 

(Image credit: Theano Nikitas/Tom's Guide)

If you really want a browser-based video editor, Movie Maker Online may well meet your needs. And it costs nothing but a little time to try it out before making any final decisions. 

But if you don’t mind downloading software to your hard drive, there are better free options available, such as Lightworks (LWKS) and HitFilm Express — so be sure to explore other programs as well. 

Theano Nikitas is a freelance journalist and photographer. She's been writing about photography for more than 20 years, contributing countless reviews of cameras, lenses, accessories and software packages to Tom's Guide. Her work has also appeared in dozens of other magazines and websites, including CNET, DPreview, PopPhoto, Professional Photographer and Shutterbug.