The Best Free Software for Students
We all know school is expensive, and while we have to save our pennies to pay back our student loans, we don’t have to spend oodles on software. A lot of software is free online, especially for students. You just have to look past the shiny, expensive boxes. We’ve gathered a list of the best free software for students for when you need to edit that video for history, create a presentation on “The Catcher in the Rye,” learn a new language and whatever else you can pack in your schedule.
Apache OpenOffice (Windows, Mac and Linux)
Microsoft Office Home & Student with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and OneDrive goes for $139.99 to download on one computer. That’s more than a year’s worth of Netflix subscriptions. Instead, Apache OpenOffice is a free download and you’re not restricted to using it on one computer. OpenOffice includes alternatives to all Microsoft Office applications, plus the ability to draw 3D illustrations and create mathematical equations. Download it here.
GIMP (Windows, Mac and Linux)
Yes, you can do a lot with Adobe Photoshop CC, but it also comes at a cost of $19.99 per month ($240 per year). GIMP is a free download that has long been popular as a substitute for Photoshop, and with good reason. It works. You can enhance, retouch and add to photos in the same way you can on Photoshop.Download it here.
That video project isn’t going to edit itself. While Adobe Premiere Pro CC goes for $19.99 per month and Final Cut Pro X is $299.99, Lightworks is a completely free download just for students. Along with all the usual features such as file type conversion, audio manipulation and adding transitions, this software lets you share edits in real time for group work. You know Pulp Fiction and The King’s Speech? They were edited with Lightworks. Download it here.
Picasa 3 Photo Editor (Windows and Mac)
Owned by Google, Picasa 3 Photo Editor allows you to organize, share and edit photos with Google+, Blogger and YouTube with the click of a button. Picasa has basic edit tools like crop, straighten, redeye and color correction, but also gives you more than 24 filters that change the look of your photos, and fun photo and movie collage settings. Like Facebook, Picasa has face recognition and makes suggestions based on friends in your Google+ circles. We like it so much we gave it 4 out of 5 stars in our review.Download it here.
Audacity (Windows, Mac and Linux)
Audacity is an open-source, cross-platform software program that media and music majors can use for editing sound. Through Audacity, you can record live audio, convert tapes and records, edit sound files together and more. Your next audition tape will simply blow them away. Download it here.
Boomerang for Gmail
In the haze of oversleeping, you forgot to email the paper you were up all night writing, and now you're late. Disaster? Not with Boomerang for Gmail. This free download allows you to schedule any email to be sent at the perfect time. It also alerts you when someone hasn’t gotten back to you yet. Boomerang archives emails and can set a time for when they should be brought back to your inbox. It works with Google Chrome, Safari and Firefox. Download it here.
Prezi (Windows and Mac)
Are you tired of PowerPoint or plain slides? With a free Prezi account, you can create presentations that include motion, brainstorming diagrams and any amount of videos, photos and text you want. The easy-to-use interface lets you choose from 92 unique templates designed by professionals, or you can create a Prezi from scratch. World map, newspaper, chessboard and family tree are just a few of the design options. What’s more, Prezi is cloud-based, so you can start creating your presentation in your room, move to the library and finish it in the classroom. The software lets you autosync your work across all of your devices, including iPads and iOS and Android phones. Download it here.
KeePass Password Safe (Windows, Mac and Linux)
As a student, you have to keep track of an overwhelming number of passwords ... just remembering iPhone's unlock pattern is hard enough. Enter the free, open-source KeePass Password Safe software. This download manages all your passwords by putting them in one database that you can unlock with one master password. Download it here.
For all the student developers out there — Microsoft brings you the free DreamSpark program. All you have to do is verify your status as a student and you can download new software tools such as Visual Studio Community 2013, Xamarin and GitHub Education, which enable you to develop and design apps for Android, iOS and Windows devices. Find it here.
Miro (Windows and Mac)
Miro equips you to store music and videos all in one place and sync them to your phone or tablet. It’s easy to take music from your iTunes library and from any files on your computer. A nice feature of Miro is video playlists. You can have your favorite videos play right after each other in their own playlist, and format doesn’t matter — Miro plays almost anything, including MPEG, QuickTime and AVI. Download it here.
Freemake Video Converter (Windows)
All students have to do a video project at one point or another, even if it’s only for extra credit. However, the format you use to save your video file matters — media players require different video file formats. With the Freemake Video Converter, you can recode video files to any of the 300-plus formats. Besides converting videos, this free software has a lot of cool features. You can transform your movies into DVDs or Blu-rays, make and edit slideshows with music, cut and piece together video files and upload all new videos onto YouTube for free. Right now, this software is only for Windows, but a Mac version is in the works. Download it here.
Stuffit Expander (Windows and Mac)
Zip and RAR files, or “archive” files, contain a bunch of files that have been compressed or reduced in size. A lot of software programs you download online might be ZIP or RAR files, which need to be opened by software like Stuffit Expander. This free download is a simple tool to expand Zip and RAR files. If your teacher emails you a zip file with the semester’s homework schedule and lesson plan, you’ll have to open it with software like this. Download it here.
Avira Free Antivirus (Windows and Mac)
With all the junk that’s out there online, it’s important to have some antivirus protection on your computer. Avira Free Antivirus software protects your computer against threats such as Trojans, viruses, adware and spyware. Plus, unlike a lot of other antivirus software, it won’t constantly bug you about starting security scans — you can automatically set it so that the program runs silently in the background. It's our Editor’s Choice on Tom’s Guide for best free antivirus software, so it's got that going for it. Download it here.
Bkyi Express (Windows and Mac)
Considering that each of the very popular Rosetta Stone packs costs $499, you might conclude that getting help to learn a language is expensive. But just a little digging reveals the free alternative: Byki Express, which offers lessons for 40 languages. Native speakers take you through the lessons, and you can save your process. Byki Deluxe goes to the next level with language-learning games and 70 languages you can choose from for $69.95 — still a big price drop from Rosetta Stone. Find it here.