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30 Free Web Tools and Open Source Software for Students

Commercial software purchases can quickly eat away at the budget you have. The good news is that there are many free Web tools and open source software for students that will help you stay on task and organize your busy student life.

If you are a student you're probably wondering how to manage the cost of tuition, books and living expenses – and still pay for the software you need for your student laptop or desktop computer for research and assignments. Commercial software purchases can quickly eat away at the budget you have.

The good news is that there are many free Web tools and open source software for students that will help you stay on task and organize your busy student life. From typing reports to taking and sharing class notes, this list of 30 free Web tools and open source software will help you get through your courses without spending a dime on software.

Free Web-Based and Open Source Software Communication Tools

1.  Gmail is Google's online email (Web mail) service. You can register for a free email account and access a number of feature including storage, search, built-in chat, mobile access, voice chat, spam filters and more. Google frequently rolls out updates and new features to the Gmail service.

2.  Meebo integrates a number of online communication channels and platforms into a single   service. The Meebo Messenger lets you access your buddies on all the major networks (AIM, Yahoo!, Windows Live Messenger, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber) in a single buddy list, right from your Web browser.

3.  Opera Mail is a free email client that is built into your Web browser. Opera Mail organizes, indexes, and sorts your messages. It also integrates RSS feeds and a smart spam filter.

4.  Thunderbird 3.1 is a free, customizable messaging and email client. All you need is your name, email address, and password to get started. Thunderbird is help individuals manage their online communications including email, instant messaging and social networking messages. Thunderbird is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux systems.

Editor's Recommendation:  Need help understanding email? Our Webopedia technology term definitions will help you better understand: email, email software and email services. This "Deciphering Email" reference is also an excellent starting point if you want to learn how email communications work.

Free Web-Based and Open Source Software Collaboration and Scheduling Tools

5.  GanttProject is a free and open source desktop tool for project scheduling and management. The software can be used by students to Share projects and collaborate. GanttProject runs on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux systems.

6.  TimetoMeet is a web-based scheduling tool that lets students find a common time to meet with others to work on assignments and projects. TimeToMeet can automatically synchronize your calendar from Outlook, iCal or Google and show your appointments all in one place.

Free Web-Based and Open Source Software Document Editing and Management Tools

7.  EditGrid: An online spreadsheet service that offered many of the same features found in Excel. EditGrid allowed you to share, collaborate and publish your spreadsheet online. EditGrid was shutdown in May 2014.

8.  Google Docs is a free Web-based productivity spread that gives students free software to work with documents (word processing), spreadsheets, presentations, drawings and forms.  You can upload files from your desktop, access the files from any Internet-connected computer, and collaborate with classmates and teachers.

9.  PDFCreator is an open source program that lets you create PDF files from any Windows program. The software is used like a printer in Word, StarCalc or any other Windows application.

10.  Zoho Writer is an online word processor that lets students create documents on an individual basis or within a group for real time collaboration. Zoho Writer features a WYSIWYG editor for publishing to blog and you can import (or export) documents from your desktop, Google Docs or anywhere on the Web.


Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has been covering small business, electronic commerce and Internet technology for more than a decade. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

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