online software

Can't afford the Adobe creative suite?

The Adobe Creative Suite is an industry standard these days.  Many newsrooms already have their hands on the software, but with the 24 hour news cycle and reporters in the field, how do you access the suite outside the newsroom? Chances are, your staff isn’t going to pay thousands to get Adobe CS on their personal laptops.

There are plenty of low-priced and free browser-based tools that can serve the basic functions of Adobe CS (meaning it doesn’t matter what operating your reporters are running — as long as they have internet access).

Photoshop alternatives

It’s hard to find a program that can do as much as Photoshop, but then again, the average j-student probably doesn’t know how to really use all of Photoshop’s features anyway (I sure don’t).

The basic needs for you as a journalist: Cropping, color correcting, graphics

Photoshop express

The tool is free, browser-based and allows you to correct, crop, and resize – any basic functions you’d use in PS. When you’re done editing, you can then download the edited photos to your computer. The beta “decorate” feature allows you to add text, too.

There are plenty of other free, browser-based Photoshop options out there:10,000 Words has a handy list of 21 additional free photo editing tools and online slideshow creators.

Downside: Most online resources for photo editing don’t allow you to use layers, meaning your ability to create original graphics or collages is gone. But generally for breaking-news, in-the-field stuff, you probably won’t need to get fancy.

Illustrator alternatives

Aviary – Raven

The advantage Illustrator has over Photoshop is that it’s vector-based, meaning you can resize your graphics/text as large as you want without losing resolution (i.e. your graphics don’t get pixelated when  you zoom in). Until this week, I hadn’t heard of any free, web-based vector editing programs. Then Aviary’s “Raven” program was released last Monday.

In basic terms: It’s a simple version of Illustrator. It let’s you hand vector graphics without all the other bells and whistles.

Disadvantage: You cannot paste or import rasterized images or use text. I’m sure those options will come soon.

 Dreamweaver alternative

If you’re using a CMS, you’ll probably never need a Dreamweaver equivalent for anything. But if you can’t code and notepad isn’t enough, KompoZer is a free, open-source alternative with both code view and design view.

The downside though is that you can only create and edit .html files — no .php, .css, .js or any other extensions.

(Thanks Jessica Estepa for the tip on this one!)

Premiere alternatives

Free, web-based video editing just doesn’t exist. At first, the site Jumpcut popped into my head, but although their site still boasts it’s the “easiest way to upload, edit and share video,” clicking the upload button takes you to this page:

“We’re sorry to announce that we are no longer accepting uploads to Jumpcut.

We will be keeping the Jumpcut site up and running for the foreseeable future so you‘ll still be able to play, remix and share your existing movies – you just won’t be able to upload anything new.

If you’re looking for a place to upload and share your video, we recommend that you head over to Flickr:

Thanks for all of your contributions to the Jumpcut community.

The Jumpcut Team “

They suggest using free editing software like Windows Movie Maker for your PC or iMovie for your Mac and then upload to a video sharing site. That’s the same advice I have for you. iMovie and Windows Movie Maker can do the basics– and that’s all you really need: Transitions, titles, and lower thirds.

If Movie Maker and iMovie aren’t hitting the spot for you, Pinnacle offers Videospin for free. For an additional $14.99, you can buy the Advanced Codec Pack to created MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 files and share videos for the iPhone.

Interactive tutorials to show ya the ropes:

Flash alternatives

There’s not one all-encompassing free program that will replace all that Flash does. But there are many free things that can individually do small portions of what Flash does.

Interactive maps: Google Maps is the answer (and even if you do have Flash, you should use Google Maps combined with YouTube/Vimeo anyway). You can insert your custom placeholder icons onto the map and by clicking the “html” option when you’re creating a custom Google map. You can embed video, text and photos to pop up when users click your placeholders.

Tutorial here:


Quizzes: Easily create an interactive, embeddable quizzes are easy to make at  MyStudiyo. They’re a clean, simple fun way to put a little interactivity on your site.

Video players: YouTube, Vimeo, and many other free video-sharing web sites are great places to put your video. While it’s cool to have your own custom video player that you created in flash, that’s not always embeddable nor will they come up on a Google/You Tube search. Plus, using free sites means you don’t have to export to an FLV and then upload to a server– these sites do all the converting for you.

The following programs aren’t entirely free, but they’re a lot cheaper than the latest $699 version of Flash and a lot easier to use for interactive graphics:

Firestarter $49

  • Add text, images, sounds, links, and shapes
  • Control their motion, opacity, layer order, and more
  • Import images from any format, and convert WAV files to MP3 format
  • Can export as .swf files
  • Use built-in FTP support to upload your movies.
  • Use the HTML code generator to copy and paste code right into your site/blo

Swish $145

  • Includes over 350 Preset Multimedia Effects
  • Includes over 180 Ready-to-use Components and Vector Shapes
  • Import Images, Graphics, Sound and Video from all popular formats
  • Export Presentations to Flash, Video, EXE, GIF Animation or Image Sequence
  • Tools to Control Motion, Draw Shapes, Edit Text, and more

Examples of how it can be used:

If you don’t have Adobe CS, look into all the above options and find out what works best for you. Get comfortable with using the alternatives so that if you do need them on deadline, you’re ready to get to work (instead of teaching yourself how to edit photos in-browser). If you know of any other free online tools, throw ’em in the comments!