34 Free Productivity Tools That Will Help You Eliminate Expensive Software

It is exciting to be bringing you many fantastic guest bloggers for this series.  Today’s guest post is from Kelly Tenkely, the host of http://ilearntechnology.com.  She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience.  Here she will introduce 34 – yes, 34 – great tools that are available FREE on the internet.  And they can all be used in your teaching.  Don’t get too overwhelmed.  Try a couple and let us know what you think! ~EMP

Software can be an expensive burden for schools to carry year after year.  This expense can result in a decreased use of technology because schools can’t purchase the tools that make the technology worthwhile.  Lack of budget doesn’t have to stop you in your tracks.  There are thousands of free technology resources and online tools that will keep your students learning even without a large software budget.  Below are a few of my favorite free online productivity tools that offer excellent alternatives to their expensive software counterparts.

General Productivity Tools:

1. Dropbox- http://dropbox.com Dropbox is a special folder that syncs across multiple computers and mobile devices.  Dropbox lets you instantly share files between computers and offers storage that students can access from school or home.

2. Evernote- http://evernote.com Evernote captures notes and ideas and makes the available over multiple platforms including any computer and nearly every mobile device.  Searching ideas and notes is easy, students can search by title, tag, or hand written text.

3. KeepVid- http://keepvid.com KeepVid lets you download videos directly from YouTube, Google, Metacafe, Putfile and more.  It is as simple as copy and paste.  Download educational videos for your students to watch offline.

4. TubeChop-  http://tubechop.com TubeChop lets you select a portion from a YouTube video to share.

5. Crocodoc- http://crocodoc.com Crocodoc lets you upload PDFs, Word documents, and PowerPoint presentations and lets you view and mark them up online.  Documents can be shared with others who can highlight and add notes collaboratively.

PowerPoint Alternatives:

6. Prezi- http://prezi.com create beautiful non-linear presentations with relations, detail zoom, and time adjustment.  This is a striking alternative to PowerPoint.

7. Google Docs- http://docs.google.com Presentations  an online presentation tool.

8. 280 Slides-http://280slides.com an online creative presentation tool that can be shared easily online.

9. Zoho Show- http://show.zoho.com Comprehensive presentation creation online.

10. Ahead- http://ahead.com a web application that lets you layout, share, and present rich media content.

11. Slide Rocket- http://sliderocket.com a web based presentation tool that can be integrated with Google Apps.

12. PreZentit- http://prezentit.com a linear presentation program where you can create and share presentations.

13. Slideshare- http://slideshare.net an online tool that lets you share slides created offline.

14. Animoto- http://animoto.com create online presentations with images, video clips, music, and text.

15. VoiceThread- http://voicethread.com create online collaborative presentations with video, audio, images, and embedded messages from the creator and viewers.

16. Clip Generator- http://clipgenerator.com create music videos from images and text online.

Microsoft Word Alternatives:

17. Google Docs- http://docs.google.com this online word processor allows students to create and edit documents online while collaborating in real time with other students or teachers.

18. Zoho Writer- http://writer.zoho.com an online word processor that lets students create and edit documents directly in their web browser and share them in the cloud so that they can be shared with anyone.  Zoho can allow multiple users to work on a document simultaneously.

19. Primary Pad- http://primarypad.com a free web-based word processor designed specifically for primary students that allow students and teachers to work together in real-time.

20. Sync.in- http://sync.in an online word processor that allows students and teachers to collaborate in real-time.  Multiple students can edit the same document simultaneously and the changes are reflected in real time.

21. Collabedit-http://collabedit.com a real time text editor that has an integrated chat function.

Inspiration (mind mapping) alternatives:

22. Mindomo- http://minomo.com online mind mapping.

23. MindMeister- http://mindmeister.com web based mind mapping with real time collaboration for brainstorming.

24. Cacoo- http://cacoo.com an online drawing tool that lets you create diagrams and mind maps.

Adobe Creative Suite alternatives:

25. Aviary- http://aviary.com a suite of online creativity tools.  Photo-editing, logos, web templates, filters, color palettes, screen capture, music creator.  This is a great alternative to Adobe’s expensive Photoshop and Illustrator.

26. Picnik- http://picknik.com Easy to use online photo editing tools.  Includes effects, fonts, shapes, and frames.

27. SUMO Paint- http://sumopaint.com a web 2.0 online application that offers an alternative to Adobe’s Photoshop.

28. Thumba- http://thumba.net edit images online with simple adjustments and a number of effects.

29. Cloud Canvas- http://cloud-canvas.com create digital art from any web browser, doesn’t require any plugins.

Audio Editing Alternatives

30. Myna- http://aviary.com/tools/audio-editor from Aviary, a complete audio editing suite online that lets students remix music tracks and audio clips.  Students can apply sound effects, record their own voice or instruments.

Video Editing Alternatives

31. Jay Cut- http://jaycut.com a free online video editor including webcam and voice-over, slow motion effects, green screen, drawing and annotation tool, and customize and colorize clips.

32. One True Media- http://onetruemedia.com mix photos and videos with special effects to create a slideshow/video montage.

33. Flixtime- http://flixtime.com create videos online using images, video clips, and music.

34. Stupeflix- http://stupeflix.com mix images videos and add soundtracks in an online editor, add titles and transitions for an impressive yet simple-to-create video.

Online software alternatives are fabulous not only for their price tag (usually free) but also for their portability and ease of use.  Students no longer have to worry about remembering a CD or flash drive to transport their work from school to home.  With the online alternatives, all they need to remember is a password.  Their school work is accessible from any Internet connected computer.

Free online alternatives to expensive software solutions are popping up every day.  If you have a specific piece of software that you would like to replace with a free online alternative, search http://alternativeto.net for your options.  I also keep up with free online classroom resources on my blog, http://ilearntechnology.com.  Here you will find daily inspiration and ideas for your classroom.  The sites I review are always easy to implement, have the ability to increase or enhance learning, and best of all-free!  Looking for something specific? Use my search bar at the top of my site or multi-category search in the sidebar, you are sure to find something to use with your students!

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Article by Kelly Tenkely

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  1. Melissa says:

    Thanks Kelly for sharing all those great sites!

  2. Sal says:

    Great list! Thx for sharing. May I also mention a great website for productivity is Enterthegroup.com which enables students to manage group projects online and teachers to create online classrooms.
    It’s a free service.

  3. Marcy says:

    As always, great resources! Thanks

  4. ktenkely says:

    Sal, I hadn’t seen enterthegroup before, thanks for pointing it out!

  5. Kelly, This is an amazing list. What a great way to open up the series! You are such a wealth of knowledge and I think this list will keep me busy for the next few months.

  6. James says:

    Nowhere do I see Open Office. Or Linux, or any piece of free software which is actually productive.

    At first look, I don’t see a single piece of software on that list that actually replaces and known expensive equivalent.

    Sorry… This is a freeware cloud computing list. It’s inability to recognize popular and productive desktop applications which have free 30 day trials and a means to escape upgrade paths to more expensive cloud computing services just isn’t right.

    Drop Box isn’t free… Its probably the most expensive and slowest data storage solution in existence.


    No offense drop box…

    This list is a bad list, or at the very least, very misleading.

  7. James says:

    The only thing I really meant to say is, if it’s not in your budget, don’t build a dependency on these products as many are a free trial. There is a good chance these software programs which are according this post designed to save you money could in fact cost you thousands.

    Free means something different in the cloud.

  8. gabriel says:

    Excelent post very useful form me and my team
    We teaching basic IT tools for the community in a no formal space dependent from a tech university near Buenos aires argentina best regards

  9. Jeremy says:

    Great list, thanks. I have a few items on my list to investigate!

    I would respectfully disagree with the previous comment and state that DropBox is, for all intents and purposes free. It does have ‘paid for’ options, but the amount of storage they provide for free will be adequate for most school students.

    I also contend that what makes them worthwhile is not necc. the storage, but the file syncing ability.It is among the more efficient ways to handle file distribution for class sets of mobile devices.

  10. Jesse S says:

    Thanks for the great list! I have used SumoPaint and Audacity for photo and sound editing alternatives with my students. I hate the idea of teaching them the Adobe Suite, only to know that they cant afford the apps at home. I really like the idea of sharing with them sites and applications that they can use on their own! I look forward to exploring the Aviary collection…

    One more site I use with my students is Glogster. It is a digital poster creator that can include animations, video and sound. There is a educational version of the site http://edu.glogster.com which keeps the video content appropriate via SchoolTube and allows teacher control.

    Thanks again for the great list!

  11. Jimish says:

    Thanks for the amazing list.

  12. Doug Sawyer says:

    These are all great. The one thing that I would really like to see is a free/open source publishing program similar to MS Publishing. Anyone seen one out there?

  13. James says:

    @Jeremy – It is a centralized service based software system, which is different than lets say a decentralized file sharing service like a torrent system.

    So while it is free, for starters, it is not really a free service when it comes to academia. The purpose of the drop box is two fold, not so much to distribute classroom materials to students, but it also serves a means for students to hand in projects.

    I am sure that most people will not mind paying the money for a simple and easy to use service, I was just a little upset at the lack of information in the post. That’s all.

    Dependencies are not difficult to build when it comes to cloud computing, and in some environments, its probably better to understand the pros and cons of different softwares, which isn’t mentioned at all. That’s all.

    I feel like a traitor, but its school.

  14. Some interesting comments here – so many of the sites on your list do indeed offer much for free – it’s a good list, but I grow tired of so called free sites who are very limited in what they offer for free.

    Some favourites, just from a personal point of view with outstanding free resources – WordPress, Wikispaces and Evernote. Also Moodle, Google Apps for education and Open Office.

    From a subject point of view there are an amazing number of free Mathematics resources out there (though I refuse to use anything with unsuitable adverts – there is no way I will direct my students to a site offering loans or ways to reduce their fat!)

  15. Jeremy says:

    @James Point taken, and I guess I should have been clear that in my mind I was thinking about younger students. So imagine a shared DropBox account installed on a class set of mobile devices. Distributing a file to a class set of iPods, laptops, etc is as simple as placing it in a folder on a teacher machine. To me that is the attraction, not so much the storage space. Agree that there are less expensive places for online storage.

  16. Jeremy, I agree. For many teachers and students these tech tools can do the job in their free capacity. This is a great list to simply show what is available out there. There are so many possibilities and you really need to find what works best for you and your students.

    Jesse, thank you for adding Audacity and Glogster. I LOVE these programs. I’ll have to check out Sumo Paint.

    Colleen, I see your point. It is amazing what is out there and is truly free. Thanks for your additions to the list!

    These are all great comments! Thank you for this ongoing conversation.

  17. Kelly Goldberg says:

    Phnomenally detailed list. I intend to share it with my students to spark their interest…we’ll tackle a few of these from there.

  18. Indrek says:

    There’s a good one for scheduling and planning (classes etc.) – http://www.ganttic.com

  19. Adward says:

    Thanks for sharing so many useful tools!

    I don’t know if you use screencasting tools for authoring online courses. I’m using DemoCreator and wanna know if there are any alternative which is free.

    Thanks in advance!

  20. Adward says:

    Thanks for the input, Elizabeth. I took a shot at the both sites and ScreenToaster is really great, I can use it with my browser. And one thing that I hope they can improve is that they can add more recording options like zoom-in, pan and subtitle input in the next version. Anyway, I will keep it with the screencasting tool I’m using now.

    You do share us many great free stuff and especially recommend other two sites for me. Thanks!

  21. Great list! An alternative to http://alternativeto.net/ (lol!) is http://www.osalt.com/, which lists open source applications only.

  22. ktenkely says:

    Thanks for all of the great comments and recommendations of additional sites. In response to @James, I will respectfully disagree with your assessment. In my experience, the cloud has been completely and totally free (working with 438 k-5 students). I like Linux and Open Office/Neo Office as well, the problem with these is that they don’t make student work easily accessible at home. In the cloud, whatever a student worked on in class, can be easily accessed from a home computer. In my experience the functionality of the free portions has been more than enough for school use.
    @Educational Freeware thanks for pointing me to osalt.com, had not run across that one before!

  23. Beth Phillips says:

    Take a look at http://entri.co/
    I prefer this to Piratepad or Primary Pad because it does not have the chat feature.

  24. Wow this is a great resource.. I’m enjoying it.. good article

  25. Thank you for sharing! My Delicious collection of edtech tools just grew. I’m looking forward to sharing some of these tools with my high schoolers.

  26. David says:

    Dropbox, Evernote, OpenOffice, and Google’s applications (tasks, gmail, docs, calendar) are all free and are all excellent for being productive.

    Here’s some more info on free tech tools and how to use them to be productive:

  27. franz says:

    very usefull post.thank you

  28. Hannes says:


    Great article! I’d like to add that not the tools define the success, but more the processes and the people behind the processes who are willing or not willing to collaborate are key to success. Furtheemore I’d like to suggest a look at http://www.agreedo.com which applies a simple interface leaving enough room for company specific processes to take place

    Best regards,


  29. Ram says:

    Thanks for sharing the huge list

  30. Alle says:

    Hi, awesome list of online productivity tools. Online tools can help you stay productive but it depends on what you needed most. I would like to suggest one more tool in your list i.e. Proofhub. It is an enterprising project management tool that enables perfect management and collaboration over projects and plans.

  31. Sebastian says:

    These are great! I’ve always been using Google Docs and slideshare and I also recommend it! Thanks for the list though! I’ll try to use the others later on.

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