Be More Creative and Productive With These 10 Free and Low-Cost Software Applications

One great thing about working online nowadays is there’s an endless supply of free and low-cost software to help you be more creative and productive. Unfortunately, with all the choices, it can often get a little overwhelming. As a full-time webworker for the last five years, I’ve managed to come up with a short-list of apps that have become virtually indispensable to me. Here are ten of my favorites.

1. Evernote – Information Collection, Storage and Retrieval

I do a lot of research, and I use this program to collect, store and organize research materials or anything else that I find online.

I use it only on my laptop, but you can use it on other devices, such as an iPad or iPhone/Smart Phone, if you have those.

What’s great about this program is I can tag each piece of information that I collect. That way, it’s much easier to keep things organized and easy to find. This is another program that I probably couldn’t live without.

Cost: Free (there is an optional paid version)

Get it Here: Evernote

2. The Journal 5 – Journal, Calendar, Planner and More

I love this application. It serves a few different functions for me, but mainly, I use it as a computer-based notebook (or journal) to jot down notes, ideas or draft blog posts that I think of throughout the day.

What I love most about it is that it runs in the background while I perform other tasks. So, when I’m ready to jot down a note or work on a piece of writing, it’s right there for me. The writing area is clean and uncluttered, which is important to me as I find it a distraction to my writing otherwise.

There’s a lot more this application can do, and you should check out the screenshots on the website to get a better idea. It also includes, for example, a cool calendar function that makes it quick and easy to keep track of appointments.

I couldn’t live without this program. Hat tip to my writing coach for turning me onto it.

Cost: 49.95 (after a 45 day free trial)

Get it Here: The Journal 5

3. Skype – Free Global Communication and Podcast Recorder

I’ve been using Skype for several years, and it just gets better and better. If you’re one of the four people on the planet who’s never heard of Skype, it’s a Voice Over Internet program (VoIP), also known as Internet phone.

I use it to make phone calls anywhere in the world. Not that I make many overseas calls, but I could if I wanted to and it wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg. In fact, when you call other Skype users, the call is free anywhere in the world.

Also, whenever I do an interview that I want to record, I use Skype along with another program called SkypeCallRecorder (free) that allows me to record skype calls. Once the call is done, I can open the recording with a program called Audacity (free), edit it and turn it into a podcast.

Cost: Free (Per-minute charges incurred when NOT calling other Skype users)

Get it Here: Skype

4. Google Voice – Free Nationwide Communication

This is another VoIP application that I’ve started to use in addition to Skype.

What’s great about this one is that nationwide calls are free. Also, it integrates with your home phone, cell phone or both. You can call people from right inside the gmail interface, and that is pretty cool.

Between Skype, my cell phone and Google Voice, I’ve pretty much eliminated my need for a landline home telephone. In fact, a couple months ago, I switched to cable Internet service, and got rid of my home phone service other than basic service for less than $15/month.

Cost: Free For Nationwide Calls

Get it Here: Google Voice

5. Open Office – Free Document Creation Suite

This is an open source version of Microsoft Office. What’s great about it is you can open and modify several different types of documents from other programs.

So, for example, if someone sends me a MS Word document, I can open, read or edit it with the Open Office word processor. In sum, It includes applications for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics and databases.

What I like best about it is I can create a document – an ebook or special report for example – and use the built-in PDF converter to publish the ebook in PDF format, which is the standard format for downloadable documents nowadays.

Cost: Free

Get it Here: Open Office

6. Google Docs – Free Web-Based Documents & Collaboration

Google Docs is free, Web-based word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, form, and data storage service offered by Google.

It allows you to create and edit documents online while collaborating in real-time with other users.

I don’t use this application often, but the few times I have, I’ve been impressed. The collaboration function, for example is great. You can have multiple people working on a document at one time, and the document is updated in real time right in front of you as changes are made.

The other cool thing about this application is there are thousands of free templates created by other users. Just find the template you want, and start playing with it.

Cost: Free

Get it Here: Google Docs

7. 750 Words – Free Web-Based Morning Pages

This is the site I use for my daily writing practice (aka Morning Pages). According to the site creator, 750 Words is the online, future-ified, fun-ified translation of Morning Pages.

I’ve already written about this site, so I won’t go into much detail here. I’ll just say if you do a daily writing practice, you’d do well to give this site a try.

Cost: Free

Get it Here:

8. Pandora Radio – Free Internet Radio

Pandora is essentially web-based radio. What makes it cool is that you create your own stations. Just select a song or artist, and it will automatically choose music or artists that are similar to your selection.

You can also provide feedback on approval or disapproval of individual songs, and Pandora will take that into account for future selections.

I use this site quite a bit. There’s no limit to the type of music it can play. Right now, for example, I’m listening to my Mozart station. Later, I might get into some George Winston, Peter Kater or Ellis Paul. When it’s Italian meal night around here, some Mambo Italiano Radio is great while preparing dinner. If you like music, you need to try this site.

Cost: Free (Premium Ad-Free Version Available)

Get it Here: Pandora Internet Radio

9. Readability – Browser Plugin for Distraction-Free Reading

This is a browser plugin that strips away website clutter and advertisements, which makes web pages much easier and enjoyable to read.

Because I do a lot of online reading, this application is invaluable to me. Not only does it strip away distracting clutter from web pages, but it also presents the text in a nice large font so it’s much easier for my 43-year-old eyes to see it.

If you’re sick of squinting or trying to ignore web page clutter, give this little app a try.

Cost: Free

Get it Here: Readability

10. Gmail – Free Web-Based Email

When it comes to email in the 21st century, this is hands-down the best way to go. Beyond the basic email service, you get several handy features, such as SPAM protection, message tagging and search, as well as the ability to chat with other Gmail users on your contact list.

Not only that, because it’s web-based, you can access your email from any computer or hand-held device in the world, as long you have an Internet connection.

Mainly because of the SPAM protection and message storage and retrieval, I channel all my email accounts through Gmail. That includes email that comes into my email address.

Cost: Free

Get it Here: GMail

How About You?

I’m always looking new apps that will help me be more productive and creative. Which ones are you using that are indispensable to you?

There are 15 brilliant comments

  1. Thanks for the list. Excellant selections. Several I had not heard of. Good looking out. Have you explored Eseential PIM? It’s one I use for organizing data, and it has expanded its cababilites over the past couple of years. There is a full featured free version.

  2. The applications identified were awesome. I already knew about skype but several of the other apps were new to me. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Thanks Marty. My pleasure. I’m glad you found some of them useful. Skype is great, and I really dig Google Voice for local and U.S. calls that don’t need to be recorded.

  3. Thanks alot for this. I use most ofthe programmes already, but evernote is new and proving to be extremeley valuable as it allows me to focus on goals rather than get distracted by the each small part of the puzzle that leads to that goal.
    Unfortunately Pandora Radio, which sounds great too, is not available to us living outside the US – any recommendations welcome.

      1. Yes, have tried but found nothing that works for me and defintiely nothing that was recommended.
        Will keep searching and post when I find something

  4. I had not heard of Readability and will try it. I put two free apps, HoursTracker and SpendingLite, on my phone to track my time and expenses. It’s so easy and a great way to capture this data for those of us who don’t use spreadsheets.

    1. Thanks Mary. I luuuuv Readability and use it often. You won’t be sorry for trying it.

      Love the suggestions too. I don’t use my phone all that much as I work from home, but there are some amazing apps out there. I’ve heard of several folks using Evernote on their phones too. That’s a pretty versatile program.

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