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

  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent


  • 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

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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

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