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Windows Movie Maker

Working Window - Overview


When you first open Windows Movie Maker (WMM) you're looking at the GUI (Graphical User Interface)... the main working window with it's various tabs and features. In this page I'll give you a general overview before jumping too deeply into the settings and other things.

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Classic versions of Movie Maker provided two main steps, first off you had to bring your source material (video clips, music, pictures) into 'Collections' and from there into the storyboard or timeline view of your 'Project'. Between projects the collections stayed there, ready to use again in future projects.

WMM dropped the collections entirely, leaving it up to you to use Photo Gallery or other apps. For me the other app to manage my library of video clips is Sony's PMC software that came with my HD camcorder.

The section of the main working window is also gone... not really, just moved to the right without a toggle between storyboard and timeline views. For those who like to see a linear timeline, there isn't one.

The interface is different that what you might be used to or expect. You need to learn it.

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Main Working Window

The menu is a newer 'ribbon' type one, much smarter than older static types. It changes things as you work, nudging you to take appropriate steps. See that many things on the menu are grayed out and not functional when you first open the app, while other things are bold and ready to go.

A good example is the 2nd section in from the left, the 'Add' section with 7 little icons in it. The one at the upper left is to add pictures and video clips. The one below it is to add music but it's greyed out and non-functional. You can't add music until you have at least one visual clip in the project (picture or video clip).

Main Working Window


Main Menu

Let's go through the sections of the main menu from left to right. To have all the items functional, I'll add a video clip to start a project.

A couple opening tips...


Drop Down

It's important to understand the drop down at the very left of the menu.

The first four items in the list are about project files. Classic versions of Movie Maker used encrypted .MSWMM files for projects. WMM uses text-based .WLMP files. You can open the project files made or touched by Vista's MM6 but not those from other classic versions.

If you want to open a project in a future editing session be sure to save your project and back it up. WMM won't do it for you.

Project files don't have your source material, not even a copy of it.... just pointers to the files themselves and the folders they are in.

The next two items in the drop down are to publish or save your movie.

Publishing is to automatically have an installed add-on wizard provide quality options and sent the saved movie to an online host such as facebook or YouTube.

The Save movie choice is the one to use when you're producing the movie to your hard drive so you can take it wherever you want, including to a DVD.

Import from device doesn't really do it. Clicking it opens a little box that summarizes what will happen and the task will be passed over to Windows Photo Gallery, an app which works hand-in-hand with WMM. Be careful when you click on it.... it shows my 16 GB thumb drive as a device and if there's a single picture on it I want to add to a project, it'll add all the multimedia files on the drive to Photo Gallery. Use a file manager to get the single picture you want.

Options opens a window that includes webcam settings (if you have a Windows 7 system with a webcam), a place to uncheck the feature of automatically adding captions which come along with pictures or video clips in Photo Gallery... I and many users don't want the captions to be auto-included in the movies.

About Movie Maker opens the same window as Options, which includes the version number of WMM.

Exit offers you a chance to save your project and then closes WMM.


The 'Clipboard' tools... cut, copy and paste are fairly standard windows features but have to be programmed into an app and some programmers forget to do it. One of my first tests when using a new app is to see if it handles cutting, copying and pasting. Many, even those from Microsoft, don't.

When it comes to using these, I tend to use the keyboard commands "Control-X" to cut, "Control-C" to copy, and "Control-V" to paste, or copy items from the window of one app into the WMM working window by dragging them with the mouse. I don't use the icons in this section.

Main Working Window

You can copy/paste selected items within a project, from other places to a project, or from one project to another. One way I use the tools is to format the style of a text clip and copy it to other places in the project so I don't have to redo the font selection, size, transparancy, etc.


The next section provides the 'Add' tools... video clips, music, webcam video clips, frame snapshots, and titles/captions/credits.

Main Working Window

It's important to understand that a WMM project doesn't allow empty space between visual clips. You can select a point and add a new item into it, or your can select a visual item and remove it... in both cases the project will automatically adjust to make room for or remove the blank space.

One thing I routinely do is drag and drop source files using other file management apps such as Total Commander. Drag them into the working window of the WMM project and they'll be added to the end.


Next are 'AutoMovie' themes. There are 7 themes with more to roll out as time goes by...

Main Working Window

The themes are Default, Contemporary, Cinematic, Fade, Pan and Zoom, Black and White, and Sepia. With a project open, linger over each of themes to get a preview of what it does (be careful not to select one when you're not yet ready to apply it to the open project).


This section says 'Editing'... with just a few choices. You can rotate the selected still pix or video clips.

Main Working Window

Rotate a clip twice left or right to turn your upside down picture or video over.


You can 'Share' your movie by selecting an installed wizard to publish to an online host... or save it to your computer to go down other paths such as to websites that don't have a WMM wizard, or to make a DVD.

Main Working Window

I publish lots of videos to facebook using the wizard, and upload many to vimeo without one, saving to my hard drive and using the vimeo website interface. The wizard is handy, but if it doesn't work for you, use the manual method.


This final one shows the User currently logged into Windows. Hit the dropdown and log out if you want to change users..

Main Working Window


That's the Home tab.... the other tabs provide different options.