HandBrake allows users to easily convert video files into a wide variety of different formats.
- Compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux
- Offers video conversion for most available formats
- Built-in presets for a number of popular devices
- Completely free to use with no premium features hidden behind a paywall
- Incredibly deep and rich customization options
- Interface is ugly and intimidating for new users
- Steep learning curve and little direction for discovering the deeper features available
When HandBrake was first developed in 2003, it had a pretty simple mission statement: to simplify the process of ripping a DVD to a computer hard drive. In the intervening years, a lot has changed. DVDs have largely become irrelevant as the standard user's collections move towards purely digital formats, but HandBrake assuredly has not become irrelevant. In large part, that's because this transcoder package has managed to keep pace with the huge variety of video formats now in circulation, but it's retained its intuitive and easy to manage user interface throughout the process. HandBrake converts video files to the MP4 format by default, and that's probably the feature the everyday consumer will get the most use out of. MP4s are regarded as one of the most lightweight video formats around, and conversion can often reduce the file to less than half of its original size. HandBrake's formatting is both fast and simple. You can pull up and convert a file in less than half a dozen clicks, and the conversion is finished in a surprisingly short amount of time. And since converted MP4s generally retain the resolution of their source videos well, it's a great choice for people looking to upload their videos online, make more space for their TV and movie collection on their hard drive, or archive their collection of family videos. You can get a great deal of practical use out of HandBrake with just these default settings, but dig deeper into the program and you'll find a vast and nearly overwhelming selection of options. HandBrake allows conversion from and to practically any video type in use. Plunging into the conversion settings will present you with a vast and open buffet of customization options. These include the ability to change frame rates and bit rates, create encoded videos specially tuned for online consumption, and even retain traditional DVD settings like chapter numbers. These settings number in the dozens. You'll even find some basic video editing options like the ability to crop a video, strip out the noise, or change the image to gray scale. Subtitles can also be adjusted at the whims of the users. That means experts enamored with every fine aspect of a video's editing will find plenty to play with, but anyone with more casual experience might be hopelessly lost in the weeds. In instances like this, HandBrake offers a four minute preview of your video encoding so you can get a representative understanding of what you can expect from the changes you've made. Unlike many other video conversion apps, HandBrake is open source. With so many hands on deck, HandBrake offers a diverse but sometimes unwieldy selection of features. That doesn't mean that it's inaccessible for new users, but those with limited experience should expect to set aside some time before diving into the deeper level functions offered.