From e-books to learning a language, 15 things you can get for free
There’s always something new to spend on technology. Here’s a secret these companies don’t want you to know: there’s a lot you can get without spending a penny.
Take photo storage. Are you using the free space you can get from Apple, Google, and Amazon? Tap or click here for the best ways to store photos and videos on your phone.
Speaking of money, I hear people wanting to cut Netflix, Hulu, and other expensive streaming services all the time. Here is a list of 15 sites where you can find movies to watch for free. Some services include ads, but you won’t encounter any illegal downloads or malware.
Storage and movies aren’t the only things you can get for free. Here are 15 gifts you can thank me for later:
1. Photo editing software
Photoshop is the program synonymous with photo editing, but the subscription to the software is expensive. Here are some free ways to crop, brighten, and adjust your photos:
• Cloth: This user-friendly, browser-based and app-based editing software is ideal for creating presentations, social media graphics, marketing materials, posters, and anything else you can imagine.
• Pixel X: This tool runs in your browser; no download is required. It has advanced features like photo filters and drawing options, but it really shines with easy-to-use cropping and resizing tools.
• GIMP, or GNU Image Manipulation Program: This professional-grade photo editor works the same way as Photoshop. Unlike Photoshop, GIMP is free to download.
Photoshop is also testing a free, browser-based version of its photo editing software. At this time, you need an Adobe account to access it. Tap or click here for more details and a direct link to try it out.
2. Video editing software
It’s one of those things you don’t need until you really need it. Maybe you’ve been commissioned to edit a video for a wedding or a class reunion, or you finally want to start a YouTube channel.
The most reliable video editing programs cost an arm and a leg. Notice I said the most. When it comes to free options, DaVinci Resolve takes the cake. Tap or click here to see how it makes editing easier.
If you have a Mac or an iPhone, you’ll be happy to know that Apple iMovie is a surprisingly good video editor. Tap or click to see how to turn your clips and photos into a masterpiece with iMovie.
3. Word processing software
When it comes to productivity software, Microsoft Office is the gold standard. Of course, it’s expensive. I’ve been recommending LibreOffice for years. It is an open source software suite that works much like Microsoft Office applications.
It also saves new files in Office formats, so you don’t have to worry about file conversions. Tap or click here for a step-by-step guide to downloading LibreOffice.
Already using Google Docs? Tap or click for a simple trick that makes starting a new document easier.
4. Freeze your credit
Blocking your credit is free. If you’re ever asked to pay, you’re on the wrong site, clicked on a dodgy ad, or talked to a scammer.
The trick is knowing where to freeze your credit. It’s not just one place. Tap or click for the steps you need to follow. This page is worth bookmarking for the next time you receive an alert that your personal information has been exposed in a data breach.
5. Engraver email addresses
Do you want a promo code but not the spam emails that come with it? Use an engraver email address.
You can use a free disposable courier like May 10 minutesI. It’s easy to create a temporary email address to keep you safe, so you don’t have to divulge your personal and work email addresses.
Using an iPhone? Hide My Email is powerful, easy to use, and requires no additional downloads. Tap or click for an easy way to protect your inbox privacy.
6. Brush up on your university Spanish
Duolingo is a top-notch language learning app and for good reason. It’s easy to use, engaging, and surprisingly easy.
Duolingo offers 37 languages, including Spanish, French, Japanese, German, Latin, Korean, Scottish Gaelic, Ukrainian, Italian, and Chinese. Having trouble staying engaged? Duolingo offers daily reminders that keep you accountable every day.
7. E-books for your summer vacation
eBooks can add up, especially if you’re a voracious reader. OpenLibrary.org lets you browse thousands of books to find your next favorite. Sign up, verify your email address, and you’re good to go. You can start browsing in minutes.
Are you trying to start a side business or a freelance career? I have a new e-book you should read to maximize your profits: “Guide to successful online freelancing”.
8. Audiobooks to listen to on your walks
Prefer to listen to your playlist? Audiobooks can make chores like yard work and cooking that much more interesting and brighten up long walks or road trips.
9. Internet Speed Tests
Free internet speed tests can help you determine if you are actually getting the advertised rates. One of the most reliable free speed tests is Speedtest.net. This site will measure various statistics such as ping time, upload speed, and upload speed of your internet connection.
If you are a streaming video enthusiast, try Netflix’s free internet speed test, Fast.com.
If your internet speed turns out to be slower than expected, there are ways to improve it. Tap or click for tips to boost your Wi-Fi speeds.
10. Cheap or Free Internet
The Emergency Broadband Benefit Program provides up to $50 per month for broadband service. To qualify, you must meet one of five criteria, one of which is income equal to or less than 135% of Federal Poverty Guidelines.
12. Shipping material
Here’s some good news for small business owners who work from home. In fact, this freebie is useful for anyone who wants to stop spending so much money on their mail. Through the US Postal Service, you can mark free envelopes and boxes.
It’s not just one or two either. You can get a pack of 50 Priority Mail Express parcels for free. You can get medium boxes, shoe boxes and more.
13. Update your passport photo
Don’t wait long for someone to take your photo for your passport. Just head to ePassportPhoto.com and follow a few steps to take the perfect photo. It’s pretty easy, and the site tells you exactly what to do.
14. Magazines to read on the beach
Do you have an Amazon Prime account? You can access a rotating library of popular magazines for free for 30 days. Discover them here. The Prime Reading benefit is a great way to save money that you would otherwise spend on expensive monthly subscriptions.
Titles include Wired, Popular Science, Reader’s Digest, Taste of Home and more.
15. Weekend Project Ideas for You and the Kids
If you or someone you know likes to sew, check out FreeNeedle. It includes step-by-step tutorials, sewing and crochet patterns, and helpful articles.
Instructables.com has a stellar library of projects for all ages and skill levels for those more into crafting and woodworking. There is something for every taste. Here are some of my favorites:
• Make a 3D printed lamp
• Make a university loft bed
• Learn astrophotography
• Build a chicken coop in the shape of a spaceship
• Design a custom fighting game controller
16. Free bonus
I’ve been helping countless millions of people use technology for over twenty years. I’ve collected hidden tricks and handy features you won’t find in a user manual as a free downloadable guide. Whether you use Windows or Mac, you’ll definitely learn a few that you’ll use again and again.
Here is a short list of what you will learn in my free guides:
• Search tips to find your files and programs at a glance
• Keyboard shortcuts to boost your productivity and show off a little
• Quick photo editing without downloading additional programs
• Messaging shortcuts to receive your texts directly on your computer
• Free and convenient secure downloads for Windows and macOS
PODCAST CHOICE: Rent your kitchen, get $20 from Amazon, the Google Meet betrayal
Bad news: Google Meet will now notify you if you’re late for a meeting. On the bright side, Google Workspace lets you work offline with Microsoft Office files. Plus an easy way to get $20 from Amazon. Time is running out, so listen now to get free money in about 60 seconds.
Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando”.
Discover all the latest technologies on the Kim Komando show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For his daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit his website at Komando.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.