Free software resources

There are a lot of great examples of free software available. Here is a list of some of the free software that I find most useful and use in teaching as well as for my own research.  Hope you find this useful.

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Free Software list:

  • ActivePresenter: ActivePresenter is the software I use to create all of the software demo videos for AutoVectis and the other MS software.  But, it is also the tool I use to make tutorial/seminar for teaching.  I also teach the use of this tool to students so that they can use it to create their own videos.  It is easy to use and produces good results.  It allows you to record your screen as you undertake tasks/demo software but also to produce power point type slides and to mix the two together into a final video.  You can record voice overs for each annotation separately as well as for an entire slide.  The paid version allows for many other, more complex functions. Wiki

  • Freemind:  Freemind is open source mind mapping software.  This is the tool I use for planning almost everything and for brainstorming new ideas – it is also my preferred method of recording meeting minutes.  Students like it because it is free (!) and also because they have often not encountered mind mapping before – and once they have give it a go, they usually love it.

  • GIMP:  GIMP stands for the GNU Image Manipulation Program.  It is free and open source software for image editing and creation.  I only do a small amount of image creation (although my wife uses it a lot for adding effects to and touching up photos), but is it a key part of my standard workflow for creating figures for papers, posters and reports, together with SciDAVis and Inkscape.  I teach this workflow to students to help them produce high quality figures.
  • Inkscape: Inkscape is a fabulous vector drawing program that is both free and open source.  I use it for producing schematics, labeling figures, scaling graphics and graphs and for designing rapid prototyping parts.  Together with SciDAVis and GIMP, it is part of my standard workflow for creating figures for papers, posters and reports.

  • SciDAVis: SciDAVis is a free application for Scientific Data Analysis and Visualization.  It is the package that it use to teach the students how to convert spectral data into figures. Unlike Origin, it is free, so the students can install it on their own laptops and use it to process their own lab and project data.  Together with SciDAVis and GIMP, it is part of my standard workflow for creating figures for papers, posters and reports, and that we teach to students.  It has some rough edges, but once you learn what its wrinkles are it does the job.

  • Socrative:  Socrative is a tool that allows you to create online quizzes for students.  I use this to create short quizzes to use as part of lectures and in the middle of a course and to produce revision quizzes/materials to use at the end of courses.  Students like it because they can get immediate feedback on their answers.  I like it because when I use it in lectures or in the middle of courses, I can see what parts of the topic the students find more difficult and which bits they have grasped – this allows me to choose what bits to re-cover.  You can write true/false, multiple choice or short text answer style questions.  It can be hard to think of every possible way a student could write a short answer to a question (you have to provide all the “right” answers – if you want the amrks to reflect the students’ performances accurately).   You can allow the students to move through the questions at their own speed to force the whole class to go through one questions at a time. Students can access the quiz through a website or from the Socrative app that they can install on their smart devices.

Socrative screenshot on laptop – whilst logged in as a teacher

Socrative screenshot on phone whilst logged in as a student.

  • yEd graph editor:  yEd graph editor is the tool I use for making flow diagrams.  It is capable of producing many other diagram types, including mind mapping – although I prefer Freemind for that task.  But for flow diagrams, it is the best I have found. Wiki.

Screenshot of yEd graph – also shows the standard workflow for producing paper, report and poster figures that I teach to students.