You might think that the built-in Photos app on Windows 10 is just for photos, but despite its name, the Photos app has a handy built-in video editor. We first took a look at this video editor only over two years ago, giving it a 4/5 rating thanks to its ease of use and free price tag. Two years later, the Photos app has some new features, but nothing I'd consider groundbreaking. Are these changes enough to make a noticeable difference? We take a look at our 2020 re-review of the Photos app as a video editor.
The Photos app is free and built into Windows 10. If you'd like to know how to use the Photos app as a video editor, make sure to check out our new guide.
FreeBottom line: Windows 10's built-in Photos app has a handy video editor that works smoothly with touch or a mouse and keyboard. It's not going to replace Premiere Pro, but it's a nice video editor to use.
- Supports touch and mouse and keyboard
- Works well with OneDrive content
- Easy to use
- Gained ability to backup and duplicate projects
- Lacks fine-tune controls
- Lacks a timeline
- Mostly stagnant in terms of features
- Lost ability to sync metadata across devices
The core functionality of the Photos app's video is the same as it ever was. You can import content from your PC, your collection of content from OneDrive, and the web. You can start a new project and create a video from scratch or use the app's automatic video feature to make a video out of a collection of images and videos. If you make a video automatically, you can then tweak it using the same features as a video you made from scratch.
The video editor lays clips out separately, allowing you to trim and split them to fit your video. You can also add effects like text, 3-D effects from the web, and filters. These tools are fine, but I wish Microsoft expanded the library of features for the video editor. You still can't add transitions, and editing audio to sync with video is a hassle.
Creating videos and editing them is easy to do with either touch or a mouse and keyboard. This is handy for 2-in-1 devices like the Surface Pro. Many video editors cater to mouse and keyboard setups, so a touch-friendly option is a nice change. You lose the fine-tune controls of an app designed for advanced video creation, but that's okay. The Photos app isn't meant to compete with professional editing apps. Instead, it's for the average person who wants to snip together some clips of their vacation or make a video montage of their kids.
I wanted to test out the video editor with a meaningful project that I think the Photos app's video editor is built for. The above highlight reel doesn't include advanced graphics or anything that would require a professional editor. Instead, I used the Photos app to trim 60 clips, pick the best ones, and reorder them to fit the custom music. I could easily see myself using the Photos app to make simple highlights like this in the future. I could take things further with some text and other effects, but I didn't go that route for the final version of this video.
I think for projects like the one above, this is a handy video editor. I happened to make this video with a mouse and keyboard, but it easily could have been done on a touch screen.
When the overhauled video editor came to the Photos app a couple of years ago, it was an impressive editor, at least for a free add-on. But Microsoft hasn't done much with it since. In fact, it's actually lost some features in two years. Earlier this year, the app lost the ability to sync metadata across devices. To Microsoft's credit, the app can now backup and duplicate projects, which is an excellent addition. The app can also use hardware acceleration when exporting a video. But overall, I feel like the app is standing still.
In the software world, an app staying mostly the same for two years is generally a bad thing. There are exceptions, such as an app that "just works" and doesn't need to be touched, but the Photos app's video editor doesn't fall into this category.
A few specific changes and a continued effort to improve the app would do this video editor some good. I'd love to see transitions, improved audio control, and a regular stream of new features from Microsoft. I don't expect this video editor ever to replace a professional or paid application, but adding meaningful functionality at a reasonable pace would go a long way.
The Photos app is a nice editor, especially since it's free. While I wish Microsoft would add some more features, it's a straightforward editor that works well with touch or mouse and keyboard. I think it's an excellent tool for people who don't want to have to learn how to use a professional video editor just to make simple videos.
My main disappointment in Photos in this re-review is that it's mostly the same as before. While some apps are close to perfect and don't need much in terms of updates, the Photos app's video editor could really benefit from some simple additions and improvements. In my mind, if you're mostly staying still, the rest of the software world is moving forward, and you're going to fall behind. As a result, the Photos app's video editor loses half a star compared to last time.
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Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at firstname.lastname@example.org.