The four free content tools you need in your life

With these tools you can conquer the World! Or make some rather lovely content, at least.

Content creators (the ones who get paid just to make content) are highly skilled at what they do, no doubt. Most have degrees in content creation in one form or another and have a high level of technical know-how that allows them to master digital tools with ease. But guess what? So can you.

If you run a small business you probably need to create content in some form or another. Whether it’s posts for your social media channels, flyers, blogs, whitepapers, invitations, website copy – you might not have a ‘person’ for all of that. But it’s ok, because there are programmes available, for free, that are so intuitive and clever, that even those without a degree in content (gasp!) can use them. Chances are, you’ve heard of them, but you might not know all that you can use them for. So here goes…

1. Pixlr X – to edit pictures with ease

Pixlr X editor in use to edit an image of women writing

Photoshop is the professional go-to for photo editing, but it’s costly and requires a fair few hours of YouTube tutorial viewing to get to grips with its tech. Pixlr X, however, is a free in-browser image editing software that takes the skill out of editing.

The app has been through several updates in its time and its latest update is quite removed from the original, which modelled itself closely on Photoshop, but with limited tools.  The latest free version (there is a pro version called Pixlr E) applies clever AI to make editing easy. It’s limited, of course. It’s not possible to easily swap colours, for example. But for most people it’s a great substitute, allowing you to crop, resize, cut out and add effects to images.

2. Canva – to design literally anything

Screengrab of Canva templates

This free design app is fast becoming the go-to place for content production. It began as a basic design app to produce professional-looking graphics such as logos, but with updates and a burgeoning bank of templates, it’s now possible to design websites, flyers, business cards, presentations, invites and even videos.

There’s a paid-for version and a free version, but the free version is very generous, giving you access to most of its services to a limited degree, with minimal costs to add paid-for elements.

If you really do want to feel like a ‘pro’, a subscription is very reasonable and allows you to create a brand kit with colours and fonts and to save templates to adapt and reuse. You can add team members to collaborate on projects and save your favourite templates for ease of reference.

Using Canva is as simple as choosing a template and adapting the elements. Easy as pie.

3. Grammarly – to capture all those naughty little typos (and more)

Screengrab of Grammarly analysis

Even Booker Prize winners can make typos (they’re only human after all), but with Grammarly, you can capture all of those slippery little mistakes.

It’s not just a spellchecking tool though. As well as spelling, grammar and punctuation, Grammarly’s AI can tell if what you’ve written makes sense, if it’s punchy enough or even if it’s too formal.

Of course, not all writing requires the same informality that Grammarly determines as ‘correct’ for engagement, so some of its recommendations might not be appropriate for what you’re writing. But you can decide which of its advice to follow and which to ignore.

Grammarly can be used in-browser, to check everything you write online from Facebook posts to Google reviews and it also has an upload function to check your offline documents before you fire them off to your clients.

4. Trello – To get your **** together

Screengrab of Trello templates

I plan my life on Trello.  For real. When I was getting married, I organised the whole thing on the collaborative planning platform; the table plans, the order of the day, the to-do list.

The Kanban-style software, owned by Jira and Confluence developers Atlassian, allows you to create content workflows from concept to analytics, moving project ‘cards’ along as you enter each new phase. You can add lists within each card, assign team members, add deadlines, upload documents, add tags, and more, allowing you to manage your projects for free.

Paid-for ‘power-ups’ allow you to sync to other software, add a calendar view and automate lots of processes.

It can be daunting and heavy on the eye if you don’t know how to use it effectively, but there are heaps of templates that you can use and once you learn to use its filters and create your own system, it’s a real treasure.

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