Free Software

This is definitely the question I am asked most often. So here is my list. In order to make it into my classroom there are three criteria:
  1. It must enhance or encourage learning. As much as I love to "geek out" on technology, I feel that technology for technology's sake cannot be the sole criteria.
  2. It must be free (as in $0 in cost) and preferably Open Source (code is released to the public). Firstly, because classrooms cannot afford expensive software and secondly, because of my personal philosophy as a programmer that all software is made better when the world has the ability to look at the code and improve it.
  3. The only software that is not Free and/or Open Source is that which meets criteria #1 and for which there is no FOSS (free and open source) alternative. Although, I only encourage their use if your district can afford to purchase it. No technology is so essential that it should adversely affect the school's ability to be fiscally responsible.
I want to thank all of the bloggers, programmers, and IT managers I have worked with over the years to find these software.

Without any further ado, here is the list with a link and a short description. If there is a cost associated with the program it will be indicated with a dollar sign ($). Disclaimer: I may mention that a software is a Free and Open Source Alternative to a certain software (e.g. Adobe, Microsoft). This is only mentioned because of how well known those products are so you can understand what they are capable of and should not be taken as a negative endorsement.
  • 7-ZIP - A file compression utility capable of working with many different file types like .zip and .rar, and .tar (A free and open source alternative to WinZip)
  • Audacity - A powerful multi-track audio editor. Create MP3s, Podcasts, music, and more.
  • Alice - Learn the Java Programming Language through the creation of stories. Loved by all ages. Created by Randy Pausch of The Last Lecture fame.
  • App Inventor - Create Android Phone Applications with ease! Learn more about the possibilites.
  • Blender - 3D modeling, animating. Great for making video games and creating 3D objects.
  • CamStudio - Screen Capture/Video Tutorials
  • Celtx - Script Writing Software for Film, Audio, Comics, and more
  • Filezilla - File Transfer Program (FTP) use this if you have a large number of files to transfer from one computer to another. Free and Open Source. 
  • F.lux - If you or your students stare at a computer all day, this can be bad for your eyes and your sleep cycle. This software adjusts to your timezone and light to slightly modify the color of your screen (you will not notice the difference unless you are a Graphic Artist) so you are less affected by it. 
  • Geogebra - Mathematical software that will allow you and your students to "play" and interact with math like never before. (A Free and Open Source software similar to Mathematica)
  • GIMP - Photo Editing Software (a Free and Open Source Alternative to Adobe Photoshop)
  • Google Apps - Email, Video/Voice Chat, Document Collaboration, Calendar, Website, and more! See my post here for ideas and here for Google's tutorials.
  • Google Earth - Take a tour around the world, geography, topography, geocaching etc.
  • Google Translate - Freely convert from one language to another. I use it most often to convert a website from one language to another and to translate everything I send home into Spanish so all of my parents can understand it. Note: It is not perfect so you and your parents should be aware of this when you use it.
  • Greenshot - Quickly take pictures of your screen and annotate it (like I do for this blog). So many features (best of all is the "obfuscate" tool to hide your private information) that put this at the top of its class.
  • InfranView - Photo Viewer (Free to schools, educators, and individuals). There are so many photo viewers out there, this is just the one I prefer.
  • Inkscape - Vector Image Manipulation (a FOSS alternative to Adobe Illustrator). This is the software that Patrick Yurick and the Graphic Novel Project use!
  • Kompozer - WYSIWIG (What you see is what you get) HTML editor. Make websites! (A free and Open Source Alternative to Adobe Dreamweaver)
  • Math-o-mir - Math notebook to quickly create and format math equations, graphs, and more. Blog link here.
  • Open Office - Word Processing, Create Presentations, Spreadsheets, Math Equation Editor, Drawing (a Free and Open Source Alternative to Microsoft Office).
  • Python - A programming language that is far simpler to learn than Java or C++ while being just as powerful. Check out the tutorials.
    • VPython - The extension to Python that allows for great graphing or animation in 2 or 3 dimensions. This is the software I trust for my Slope Art Project.
  • Skype - Phone, Video Chat
  • Tracker - STEM Video Analysis tool. Use this with your science, math, engineering class to collect data about experiments, robots, projects. Imagine being able to have a video of a catapult and create data and graphs with relative ease. Find the difference between ideal and experimental with this powerful tool. 
  • Video LAN (VLC) - Video player capable of playing practically any video you can think of.
  • WinFF - Convert audio and video to various different formats. See my post here for a tutorial.
  • This list will grow and be edited constantly so if you have any suggestions, questions, leave it in the comments!