Summer is almost over. And that means that students will be flocking back to their good old campuses again. Yep, it's back to school time!
And with technology playing an increasingly big part in school work nowadays, students will need all the right tools for all the papers, the homework, and the budgeting they'll be doing in their pursuit of learning.
Here are five free downloads that can help along the way.
Nothing beats free, especially for students who are tight on the budget. If you don't want to shell out for the king of productivity software Microsoft Office, then LibreOffice might just be enough for your needs.
LibreOffice is a free and open-source office suite that's compatible with Microsoft Office files. Since it's an open-source software, the program is continually updated at no charge to you.
LibreOffice offers six programs that will feel instantly familiar to you if you've used Office before. Writer, Calc, and Impress are equivalent to Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Even better, LibreOffice can open and edit the documents you made in Office and can save new files in Office formats.
Aside from Writer, Calc and Impress, LibreOffice includes drawing, database and equation programs, too. On top of these, there are plenty of extensions and templates you can add to give the program more features.
Grammarly is a popular real-time grammar and spelling checker tool, which can come in handy when you're writing your next term paper.
The company even offers nifty browser extensions that can detect your errors as you type on a webpage.
There's also a paid premium version that gives writers vocabulary suggestions, detects writing style, and checks for plagiarism. These features really come in handy for students with writing assignments or anyone who wants to improve their writing skills.
For your graphic needs, nothing beats a full blown photo editor you can use to tweak and edit any image in limitless ways. Unfortunately, professional grade editors like Adobe Photoshop can be too expensive for the average student.
Fortunately, there is a free alternative to Photoshop. It's called GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) and has a lot of the same capabilities as Photoshop. There are filters, brush tools, gradients, smudging, cropping and erasing tools. You can add colors with a pencil, a paintbrush, or fill in whole areas of your image. Did I mention it's free?
Speaking of budgets, students will definitely need a way to easily visualize their bills and expenses.
Mint is a very handy app for monitoring your finances. It can automatically track your spending. All you have to do is enter your account information.
You can set aside how much you can spend per month on different categories. For example, you can set $150 on gas, or $300 on groceries. At the end of each month, Mint gives you a financial report, which will let you see how close you stayed to your budget.
In situations where you can't afford distractions, Cold Turkey is your answer. You can choose common distracting sites to block, or add your own custom sites. It's also a great solution to keep your kids from visiting gaming sites when they should be doing homework.
Set how long you need to avoid distractions and then click the Go Cold Turkey! button. Until the timer is up, those sites will be completely inaccessible from any browser.
Bonus: Web-based tools
For a free cloud-based word processor that's feature-rich but easy to use and minimal but powerful, try Zoho Writer.
Zoho's Writer word processor is a cloud-based HTML program that's a cinch to use.
It supports all the major document formats (file sizes up to 10MB) like doc, docx, docm, dot, dotm, dotx, odt, rtf, html, htm, txt, and tex. Aside from these formats, it can also export your work into PDF files.
Microsoft Word veterans should feel right at home with Zoho Writer and can even replace it for your basic word processing needs. Zoho even has a Microsoft Word plugin for tighter interoperability. It even offers real-time collaboration, perfect for those team projects.
Another great free photo editing suite that's great for every student's graphic needs is Pixlr.
Pixlr's web apps are free, and the browser based photo editing suite comes with everything you'll need for creating your next masterpiece.
Pixlr Editor is an advanced photo editor with layering support and a complete set of tools similar to other software like GIMP. For experienced photo editors, Pixlr Editor is a great web-based alternative.
Like other advanced photo editors, it has support for multiple layers, shapes, various selection options, level adjustment options and an assortment of effects/filters, all impressive capabilities for a web-based tool.