It’s easier than ever to be a college student if we’re talking in terms of affording the incidental expenses that accompany a typical class schedule. No longer do you have to worry about shelling out hundreds of dollars for the latest version of Office or for a yearly security software subscription; welcome to the world of Open Source. Here is the must-have list of free online tools to get you through your four-plus years of academia.
A reliable computer security software, avast makes it easy to keep your machine, data, and documents secure in the virtual environment of the college campus swarming with computer hacks with too much time on their hands. You’ll get improved spyware protection and ensured safety on your social networks, online shopping and banking sites and you’ll never have to pay for a subscription.
Comapping is a great online tool for group projects or even just to help you organize your own thoughts for a paper or conceptual assignment. The site offers free and easy-to-follow tutorials that explain all the ways you can use comapping for everything from note taking, organization and sharing. And because it’s virtual you can access it anywhere you have an Internet connection. You can use the site’s existing templates or create your own. It’s a great way to visualize your projects or discover a different approach to organizing your notes.
There’s a lot of note taking that goes on in college, but when you need to jot down something outside the classroom now you have a solution. Forget sticky notes, writing on your hand or mirror, Evernote allows you to make a text note, clip a Web page, grab a screenshot or even snap a picture of whatever you need to remember and it will never get lost. You can use Evernote to organize your notes in a way that makes sense to you — or for the not-so-organized individuals out there you can let Evernote do the organization for you — and your entire account is searchable.
Filezilla may become a huge help in your college career when large-scale projects demand file transfer capabilities more robust that your average email account can handle. As a free FTP solution that runs on Windows, Linux, Max OS X and other operating systems, the tool is perfect for a wide range of design and developer students. The system can handle up to 4 GB of data for transfer and free support is available.
Gimp stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, which is exactly what it is. Whether for schoolwork or fun, photo manipulation is almost like a required skill these days. With Gimp you can take care of all your photo retouching needs as well as image authoring and composition. Think of it as Paint, Photoshop and Aperture all rolled into one free program that can be easily augmented with plugins and extensions on both PC and Mac operating systems.
All you need is a Gmail account and a computer to access one of the most robust, and often-used pieces of Open Source technology available. Upload your files from anywhere, access them and share your documents with anyone. You’ll never have to buy Office again; you’ll be covered for all your basic computing needs, including documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. And Google Docs makes it even easier to work on group projects, allowing you and your group mates to make edits to the same virtual version of the document.
Highlighter is revolutionizing the whole concept of “required readings.” Now you can highlight and annotate any virtual document and share your annotations with others. You can even bookmark your notes for future reference, which comes in quite handy when term paper time rolls around.
Get all your chatting done all on one platform. With Meebo you can log in to your AIM, facebook, Yahoo, and Windows Live accounts, among others, all under one screen name, which is perfect for giving mom your weekly update while simultaneously getting your Chem questions answered from a classmate and making plans with your friends for Friday night.
Mint may not help you with a specific class or assignment, but it can help you keep your finances straight and teach you something about budgeting — a topic the typical college student chooses to bypass. Link some or all of your financial accounts to your Mint account to keep track of your spending and bills. The system will alert you of timely notifications and offer easy budgeting tips, and you can take it on the go with the mobile app. Not a bad way to start planning for your financial future.
Ottobib can make your college life exponentially easier. Can’t remember the difference between MLA and APA citation styles? Or just don’t care? Pop your citation information into this online tool, select the type of citation you’re looking for and Ottobib can create it for you. That’s one less piece of information you have to keep stored in your brain and one easy way to avoid losing senseless points off your paper grade.
By the time you get halfway through your first semester of college you’ll already be sick of using Powerpoint. Get your hands into the world of Prezi, a virtual presentation tool that can completely change your thinking and your approach to presentation making and giving. Prezi allows you to organize thoughts in a non-linear fashion, creating more flexibility and allowing for more creativity in your presentations. You can embed video and images directly into the presentation, allowing for smoother transitions, and you never have to worry about forgetting your jump drive or dealing with software incompatibilities. Plus, you can get inspired by the existing Prezis in their virtual database or share your own.
Now available in the United States, Spotify is what you would get if iTunes and Pandora decided to reproduce. Their motto pretty much sums it up: “Any track, any time. And it’s free!” With more than 15 million available tracks, you can access practically any song you want and build and share your playlists. You never have to wait for downloads or take up any more space on your hard drive.