11 Fun, Free Things Writers Can Use Now

What I’m reading: The Son by Jo Nesbø
What I’m listening to: Love Test by The Growlers

bus-stop-number-11-1523493-1280x960There’s nothing like starting the week with three things that have to be done on Monday. Yet there it was — my Monday in a nutshell. I was fortunate in that there were a lot of projects last week, so having just three deadlines was actually refreshing.

I spent the weekend gardening, enjoying a holiday with my husband and daughter, and reading. Also, I had some time to get some language lessons in. I’ve not mentioned it, but I’m brushing up on my French. As soon as I get through that, I’m going to continue with the Italian and Portuguese I’ve been chipping away at.

All of that made possible by a free program. In fact, today’s post is about free stuff. Who doesn’t love free stuff? I’ve assembled some of my favorites, and included others that may be of interest to you. Some do pertain to writing, but not all.

Duolingo. I’ve tried learning other languages via books, tapes, DVDs, but nothing has been anywhere as effective (and easy) as Duolingo. What’s more, it’s free.

Coursera. Probably the best MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) there is. There are many free courses — check out English for Journalism and my personal favorite Modern & Contemporary American Poetry (ModPo, which will start up again in September). There are also paid specialization courses in nearly any subject you want (prices vary). Nothing strike your fancy? Try searching AcademicEarth.org or browse the sites listed on MOOC List.

Fast Scanner app. You don’t think you need it until you need it. It’s a scanner that runs on your phone, and it creates PDFs, saves to the cloud, prints, emails, whatever you need. It comes in versions for both Apple and Android platforms.

GIMP image editor. I don’t have a ton of need to justify owning Photoshop (or a ton of money). If your image editing needs are minor, try GIMP. It’s free and it works a lot like its pricey counterpart.

Google Hangouts. I have a client who uses Google Hangouts exclusively for business conference calls, and why not? It’s free and it’s easy to use.

Bing. Strange to include a web page, no? Not when you realize every search can earn you free stuff. I get my Starbucks fix free just by using Bing as my search engine. Other rewards include Amazon, Skype, Macy’s and Hulu gift cards.

Yoga. Sometimes, you just need a good downward dog. I go between two different sites: Do Yoga With Me and My Free Yoga. A great way to greet and end your day.

Family Tree Software. FamilySearch.org used to have a downloadable program called Personal Ancestral File, which I still use. However, they now have another freebie: FamilySearch for Apple and for Android.

FedEx Office Printer. It’s just a little plugin that attaches to Office programs, allowing you to send your job directly to FedEx from Word, Publisher… It’s kind of a big deal.

Microsoft Phone Companion. If you have Windows 10 or if you’re looking for a good reason to get it, here it is. Phone Companion lets you sync every damn bit of your PC’s functions — Cortana (Windows version of Siri), music, Skype, email, photos….right on your cell phone. Works with Android, Windows, and iPhone/iPad devices. And it’s seriously kick-ass cool.

3D Builder. It just showed up one day on a recent Windows update. Here’s the ability to build and print anything in 3D. It’s probably Windows 10 related, but again, if you need it, it justifies your upgrade.

LastPass. I love LastPass. I can create complex passwords and never forget them. LastPass saves them for you. All you have to do is create one seriously strong master password and voila! All of your passwords are stored for you. The program even prompts you to change weak passwords or duplicates. I opted for the premium program, which syncs across all my devices, but the basic PC version is free.

Writers, what are some of the free things you can’t live without?

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  • Anne Wayman March 29, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    lovely list… bookmarked… thanks

  • Cathy Miller March 29, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    Great stuff, Lori. Some I need to check out for sure. I like Print Friendly & PDF for creating PDFs of web pages. I also like Toggle for time-tracking, Pixlr photo editor, and I am sure many more my boomer brain can't remember at the moment. 😉

  • Lori Widmer March 29, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    Ooo, I love suggestions! Thanks Cathy.

    Anne, any time. I'm all for free stuff that helps us look brilliant. 🙂

  • Devon Ellington March 31, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    I'll have to try FastScan. that sounds good!

    I had a terrible time with GIMP. Could not get it to work on the Mac. The user manual was useless. They never answered questions.

    I love my daily yoga practice. It's made a huge difference.

  • Lori Widmer March 31, 2016 at 8:35 pm

    GIMP has been tough for me too, Devon. I was never any good at Photoshop either, so no surprise there!

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