Lightworks and Lightworks Pro 11.5 review: video NLE for Windows and Linux

Lightworks and Lightworks Pro 11.5 review: video NLE for Windows and Linux

Summary: With this full release of 11.5 for Linux and Windows, and with an alpha version of 11.1 demonstrated running on OS X in April 2013, EditShare is finally starting to make good on its promise to deliver Lightworks as a cross-platform, professional-level, video editor.

TOPICS: Software, Reviews
  • Editors' rating:
  • User rating:


  • Free or subscription versions (sub includes large range of codecs and a titles utility)
  • Supports video editing at a professional level
  • Cross-platform on Windows and Linux, with OS X promised
  • Resolution independent
  • User interface designed and tested by professional editors


  • No FireWire capture support for Linux yet
  • Minimal effects available for audio

Three years ago, EditShare promised to make the Lightworks video NLE (Non-Linear Editing) system cross-platform on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. With the full release of 11.5 for Linux and Windows and an alpha version of 11.1 having been demonstrated running on OS X in April 2013, EditShare is finally starting to make good on this promise.

The Lightworks 11.5 editing desktop running on Ubuntu 13.10. (Image: ZDNet/Terry Relph-Knight)

With version 11.5, Lightworks and Lightworks Pro running on Linux gains parity with the Windows version, so Lightworks looks and behaves the same on both platforms.

When launched, the Lightworks workspace takes over the entire desktop and opens the Project Browser, where a new project can be started simply by entering a project name and choice of frame rate from 24fps to 60fps. Frame rate is even optional, and the choice defaults to Auto. Otherwise an existing project can be opened by clicking on the list presented.

At the bottom left of the Project Browser a System Settings button provides access to a menu where various options for User Interface, Hardware, Licensing and Information can be selected.

When launched, Lightworks displays the project browser in the centre of the screen. System settings are accessed through the button at bottom left. (Image: ZDNet/Terry Relph-Knight)
Once a project is opened, this cross-tabbed dialogue allows for further management of Project settings. (Image: ZDNet/Terry Relph-Knight)

A small box and arrow icon at the top left of an opened project allows you to flip back to the Project Browser to move between projects.

The Lightworks toolbar is shown here with labels added to indicate each icon's purpose. In use, a mouse-over text message serves the same function. This toolbar is, by default, pinned to the left edge of the workspace. (Image: ZDNet/Terry Relph-Knight)


Navigation and control

There are no centralised menus or upper menu bar in Lightworks. The toolbar handles general workflow functions, with each function represented by an icon. Icons (with mouse-over labels) are also used elsewhere in each window for window-related functions.

Text control dialogues unfold as all these icons are clicked. Only four buttons (Unjoin, Effects, Render and Advanced), which appear at the bottom right of edit timeline windows, actually have text labels.

When a project is opened, all the main windows of the UI appear by default, appropriately scaled and placed. However, they all float and can be shrunk, closed or pinned in place. Closing any window — and the edit window in particular — can be a bit disconcerting because there appears to be no way to restore it.

Because Lightworks stores every action associated with a project in a database, there is no Save function. When Lightworks is launched, it's restored in exactly the state it was when it was closed down.

This also means that there are Undo and Redo buttons on most windows and any item, such as an edit timeline, can be found and restored using the Search function from the toolbar. Edits are sequentially named and numbered by default, but these can be renamed if required.

Capture, imports, exports and save to tape

Lightworks has a capture function, accessed via the toolbar's Record icon, although for the moment there is no FireWire support for Linux 64-bit. It's hard to say how much longer tape capture will be needed, as cameras are rapidly moving to memory card storage.

Capture setup via the Record and device control dialogues. (Image: ZDNet/Terry Relph-Knight)

Once raw footage has been captured or ingested (ingested is the new buzzword for copying video files from camera storage to hard disk), clips can be imported into a new project by clicking the Import icon to open the Import window and selecting the required files there.

The import selection window gives access to directories and files. Format options can be selected by clicking the down arrow for each file in the Format column. (Image: ZDNet/Terry Relph-Knight)
The project Imports window containing the imported clips. (Image: ZDNet/Terry Relph-Knight)

Clips from the project Imports window can be opened in a Viewer by double clicking. From the Viewer, in and out points can be set, an edit timeline opened and the trimmed clip dropped into it, using the control icons at the bottom of the viewer window.

The Add Effects dialogue is opened using the timeline Effects button. Titles (only available in Pro) are treated as an effect and are also added from this dialogue. (Image: ZDNet/Terry Relph-Knight)

Once a completed edit is assembled in a timeline, with titles created, all ins and outs set and effects applied, it can be exported or saved to tape by clicking the Export or Play to tape buttons in the toolbar.

Clicking the export button on the Lightworks toolbar opens the Export dialogue. The output format can be selected here. (Image: ZDNet/Terry Relph-Knight)


Lightworks/Lightworks Pro 11.5 for Linux is available for download (396.6MB install size), following user registration and/or login, as a .deb binary install file; the Windows version is also available. Language support in addition to English is available for Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, Italian, Indonesian, German, French, Bengali, Czech, Turkish, Polish, Thai, Japanese, and Chinese.

A one-year Lightworks Pro licence costs £48 (inc. VAT). Lightworks was originally designed for use with an optional customised keyboard and a control console, both of which are available from EditShare.

Further reading


There are currently no specifications for this product.


Price GBP 40

Topics: Software, Reviews

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  • Pro version only available as subscription


    IMPORTANT POINT: Lightworks Pro is only available as a yearly subscription. It's a low price, and represents a great bargain for a professional video editor. Having said that, software subscriptions are EVIL and need to be resisted. As benign, or even beneficial, as subscriptions may seem now, I'm absolutely convinced that a world where subscriptions are the norm will not be a better place for users.

    We've seen this movie before. Power corrupts. Vendors with power over their customers tend to abuse that power. Perpetual licenses provide an incentive for vendors to continue improving their product, because the only way to get more money from their installed based is to convince them that an upgrade is worthwhile. Take that incentive away and innovation tends to stagnate.
    • Doh!


      I evaluated Lightworks Pro in late 2013. At the time, there was no way to buy a perpetual license. It appears that they're recently added that option. It was my mistake not to double-check.

      I absolutely stand by what I said about the concept of software subscriptions. Subscriptions are a long-term threat to users, even if benign or beneficial in the short term. The issue is not whether any one vendor charges reasonable prices or provides continual improvement -- the issue is what the overall software market will be like if subscriptions become the norm.
  • 'Buy Outright' option available


    [Caveat: I'm involved in the project.]

    What johndoe says might be true of vendors offering mature products, but doesn't apply well in this case. Lightworks has existed for around 20 years, but has only been recently taken on by EditShare. The software is playing catch up to the dominant players in the field - principally Avid. Those involved in beta testing can tell you, Lightworks is evolving extremely quickly. Subscribing is a way to stay on top of that development. In 5 years time you'll have had five years worth of rapid evolution for a few hundred dollars. Unless they shift the pricing significantly (which certainly could be seen as 'an abuse of power'), I don't think it's right to thumb the 'customer exploitation' card. Development requires funding. Also, they now offer a 'Buy Outright' option.

    Here's another scenario:
    If no one invests in a project - it dies. Competition in the market dies. Who wins?
  • A couple of things about the download links and installing


    If you follow the download links above in my article, right now at least, you reach a Download page with tabs to select the various versions, tools and docs. If you follow the link for Linux it will open with the Linux tab selected, but actually displays the tabbed page for Windows. You just need to toggle backwards and forwards through the tabs to striaighten things out. I'm sure EditShare will short that out soon. And I mentioned the .deb package for Linux but frogot to mention there is an .rpm too.
    If you had a beta version installed then double clicking on the .deb file in Ubuntu will open the Software Centre which will then tell you you have a more recent version (the beta) installed and won't go any further. You have to close then open the SC to remove the beta first then install the full release.
  • About the same price as Final Cut Pro X

    When EditShare took on this project, FCP7 was $999. Now FCPX is $299 with another $100 for Motion and Compressor. FCPX has also had many dot releases and substantial functionality added since it debuted to general disdain.

    I just started using FCPX and am very impressed with the workflow improvement over FCP7. Given the slight price difference I'm afraid the Lightworks Mac version won't get much traction. But I applaud the effort.
    R Harris
  • Impressed, indeed!


    I've been using the Linux Beta version - paid for a full Windows version just to support Editshare, not because I run Windows much - and I am very impressed with the performance, options and in particular the vast array of features and workflow enhancements I've had the privilege of testing.
    This is a mature, sophisticated product. The workflow will appeal to those who work in studios perhaps a bit more than the amateur film-maker, but it's quite workable for that group too.
    A few things still need refining and a [vERy] few features still lack, but I've gone ahead and paid the subscription for the Linux Pro version pretty much the day it came out, I'm that impressed with the product!.