When looking for tools to perform a certain function, particularly when you are trying something out for the first time and you’re not quite sure, free is always better than paid.

As such, we’ve compiled this ultimate guide to free and freemium software.

Definition of free software

A quick note on the definition of ‘free’ that we are using here. There are two main instances where we won’t feature a product:

  • If a tool is free for a certain amount of time, such as 7, 14 30 days etc, then we are going to define this as a trial period and not actually free.
  • If the free version of a tool is so limited that it makes it not that usable, then we won’t feature it.

Methodology

There are probably infinite software packages we can have on this type of list.

However, in order to give some focus to the list and to what you may want to read about, we are prioritising the following:

  • SaaS, OS-agnostic products
  • Products for business, freelancers or power users
  • For now, we won’t include the biggest of the big household names, such as the Google suite or WordPress, but that might change in the future.

We may include other products if they are useful for a category, but for now, we’ll focus on these.

Also, as I am based in the UK, I’ll be showing

Note-taking apps

Evernote

Evernote

The original and the king in syncable note-taking app.

It’s been around since 2002 and was the first real SaaS product to offer synced notes between devices. This feature drove the premium adoption so much, that they eventually had to limit the free plan to two devices so that people would upgrade.

Regardless, we still think that Evernote is a great offering, combined with a multitude of integration options, there are thousands of possible use cases out there for it.

  • Main free account limitations: Monthly upload data limit, syncing with more than two devices
  • Premium from: £4.99 per month for personal users, £10.99 per user per month for business users.
  • Rating: 4.4/5 (6622 ratings)

Notion

Notion

Notion is really trying to be the one note-taking, productivity and planning app for modern teams.

With product management features, scheduling interfaces, user delegation and tracking, and even the ability to function as a CRM, it is a great option for small to mid-sized teams to get and stay organised.

If you’re starting out with a note-taking tool now, then you can’t really go wrong with Notion.

  • Main free account limitations: Limit of sharing with 5 users
  • Premium from: Starting at $4 per month for personal and $8 per user per month for businesses
  • Rating: 4.7/5 (158 ratings)

Count

Count

Count is a new type of note-taking app, which combines the practicality of notes with the data storage of SQL.

Think of it as a database of notes, but with the added functionality of being able to handle and present data. This way you can create dashboards AND provide context around the dashboard to provider a clearer picture of what is going on.

It’s a relatively new tool so it is still evolving but so far so good.

  • Main free account limitations: Up to 3 users are free & with 0.5 GB storage limit
  • Premium from: From $25 per user per month
  • Rating: 5/5 (1 ratings)

Microsoft OneNote

Microsoft OneNote

The notebook option from the enterprise software behemoth does offer a lot of good functionality for free. It primarily functions a lot like a scrapbook, rather than a linear notebook. Which will obviously work for how some people think and not for others.

It, of course, comes with the Microsoft Office suite, but is free if you just want to use it as a standalone app.

  • Main free account limitations: Working with the rest of the Office Suite
  • Premium from: As part of an Office subscription, from £59.99
  • Rating: 8.6/10 (615 ratings)

Design

Figma

Figma

Figma’s powerful cloud-based design software allows designers to create, edit, download and share their work. If you think of what Google Sheets did to Microsoft Excel when it comes to sharing, this is what Figma is doing to everyone else for collaboration on design projects.

Being an online tool built for teams, it excels at rapid prototyping designs with vector graphics, but also with the standard mod-cons you would expect from a market-leading design tool.

  • Main free account limitations: Can share with 1 other person, limit of 3 projects and a 30 day version history
  • Premium from: From $12 per person per month billed annually
  • Rating: 4.7/5 (172 ratings)

Adobe Spark

Adobe Spark

Adobe used to have undisputed kings, queens, princes & princesses when it came to design software. But in recent years, their market share has since waned.

Not resting on their laurels and knowing that one of the biggest use cases for any type of design software these days is to create interesting imagery for social media. This is why they have embedded the common image sizes used in leading social networks into their templates from the beginning.

If you want to create an Instagram post or a LinkedIn carousel, then Adobe Spark can have you set up with the correct dimensions in a few clicks. They even have the two leading free image repositories, Unsplash and Pixabay, embedded within the tool so you don’t even have to browse their site in a separate tab if you don’t want to.

  • Main free account limitations: No sharing or collaboration, premium templates, preloading your branding & styles, or use of Adobe’s font library. You also have to manually remove the Adobe Spark watermark manually with each file you create.
  • Premium from: From £10.10 per month for individuals or £20.22 per month for teams
  • Rating: 4.5/5 (620 ratings)

Canva

Canva

Similar to Adobe Spark, Canva focuses on allowing designers and non-designers alike to quickly and easily create images to be used across various popular social network sites. In addition, they have multiple other common preset sizes in place.

  • Main free account limitations: No saving your branding, limited free templates and stock images. No ability to upload your own fonts or logos or customise your own templates.
  • Premium from: From £8.99 or £10.99 per user per month billed annually or monthly
  • Rating: 4.7/5 (7015 ratings)

Pixlr

Pixlr

This is the tool that I’ve been using personally for the past couple of years. It’s a basic, no-nonsense image editor that uses some of the historical Adobe products as inspiration for tools and layout.

Split into two products, Pixlr X is for beginner users that don’t need as much functionality, and Pixlr E is for more advanced users that may want a few additional things – see above for what.

That said, it is a bit quirky, especially when trying to edit different layers and to undo certain things. But for a basic free image editor, when you don’t want or need the heavy skew towards social media usage for the final design, it’s a solid choice.

  • Main free account limitations: Basic editing tools only, ad supported, limited library of templates and icons etc, limited tutorials
  • Premium from: From $7.99 per month
  • Rating: 4.4/5 (8 ratings)

Stock imagery

If you don’t already, I’d recommend that you create a browser shortcut folder called ‘image libraries’ and add the next sites in. You never know when you’ll need them!

Pixabay

Pixabay

Great mixture of imagery, particularly more every day photography, illustrations, vectors, videos and music. At the time of writing, they boasted over 1.8 million total assets available to download.

  • Main free account limitations: None
  • Premium from: 100% free, though they do ask for you to make a donation
  • Rating: 3.6/5 (15 ratings)

Pexels

Pexels

Another good, solid stock imagery folder so even

  • Main free account limitations: None!
  • Premium from: None! But you can donate with each download.
  • Rating: 3.8/5 (9 ratings)

Unsplash

Unsplash

Unsplash is another free stock imagery site, though they just have photos.

The difference though between Unsplash and the previous two options is that Unsplash’s imagery is a bit more artistic and/or abstract. Actually we use some of their photos on our blog. They are the sort of photos that amateur photographers wished that they could take.

  • Main free account limitations: None
  • Premium from: None, but they do ask you to provide a back link
  • Rating: 4.3/5 (15 ratings)

unDraw

unDraw

Unlike the previous three sites, unDraw is a free repository of SVG graphics that you can personalise with your own brand colours.

They are great for SaaS companies looking to get started or anyone wanting to drop something that looks like a custom illustration into a presentation.

  • Main free account limitations: None
  • Premium from: N/A
  • Rating: 4.8/5 (44 ratings)

SEO tools

Moz

Moz

Moz basically started the SEO tool industry as we know it today and they have one of the best SEO blogs out there, all started by their founder, Rand Fishkin.

Their suite of SEO tools are excellent and it’s been a personal favourite of mine over the years.

What they do better than most is showing you what featured snippets should be achievable quickly and easily. Their other tool, Follwerwonk, is a great tool for analysing Twitter accounts to see the makeup of your audience.

  • Main free account limitations: Depends on the tool used but about 3-10 searches per day or month are free, so it’s easy to get to the limit quite quickly
  • Premium from: Starting at $99 monthly or $79 per month when paid annually
  • Rating: 8.3/10 (291 ratings)

SEMrush

SEMrush

SEMrush has really positioned themselves as one of the leaders in the SEO tool space.

They have all the key SEO tools that you’d expect, such as keyword research, rank tracking, backlink checking etc. And, as you’d expect, paid accounts to have quite a bit more, including content writing templates, social media management, PPC campaign development tools etc.

Like most SEO tools on this list, the free tier limits are quite low and be prepared to create an account.

  • Main free account limitations: 10 searches per day, 10 results per day, 100 pages per site audit, 10 keywords to track and 1 list or template to create.
  • Premium from: Starting at $99.95 per month
  • Rating: 4.3/5 (116 ratings)

Ubersuggest

Ubersuggest

Like him or loath him, Neil Patel is an influential digital marketing authority and his tool Ubersuggest is a great free alternative to paid SEO tools out there.

It has the same rank tracking, keyword research and backlink checking functionality that you’d expect from a standard SEO tool.

The data quality isn’t quite the same as Moz or SEMrush but the free tiers are higher than other tools and Neil did recently announce that he has made the free levels even higher.

  • Main free account limitations: 12 months of historical data when logged in or 3 months when not logged in, 4 keyword searches per day
  • Premium from: From £29 per month or £290 for lifetime access
  • Rating: 9.3/10 (2 ratings)

Screaming Frog

Screaming Frog

Screaming Frog is a bit of an anomaly on this list as it is software that you actually have to install on your local computer. Though, as the free level is very high compared to other SEO tools, I thought it would warrant making the list.

If you are doing SEO for a small website, then you could suffice with the Screaming Frog free version is powerful enough to crawl and provide great insights into things like HTTP status codes, including 301 redirects etc.

  • Main free account limitations: Mainly a crawl limitation of 500 assets (pages + images, CSS files, JavaScript files etc) plus some additional functionality
  • Premium from: £149 per year
  • Rating: 4.9/5 (31 ratings)

Keyword Surfer

Keyword Surfer

Keyword Surfer is one of the few Chrome extensions that will make this list, but if you are looking for a good keyword research tool that will integrate with your Google SERP experience then this is the tool.

Best of all, it is 100% free!

  • Main free account limitations: None
  • Premium from: Free!
  • Rating: 4.3/5 (113 ratings)

Link Redirect Trace

Link Redirect Trace

Link Redirect Trace is a free tool by a guy who has probably forgotten more about backlinks than most of us will ever know, Christoph Cemper.

His main suite of products are on the (very) expensive side, but this little tool is free and a great use for anyone that is looking at redirect paths that a user might go on before they are served their final page. Without this plugin showing you what jumps the user has been on, it would require a more detailed understanding of Chrome developer tools or similar.

  • Main free account limitations: None
  • Premium from: Free!
  • Rating: 4.8/5 (269 ratings)

Email marketing

Mailchimp

Mailchimp

Mailchimp are the big boys in this space and are often the first default vendor that people think about when someone says ’email marketing’.

They offer contact list management, simple 1-step marketing automations, basic email templates and a few other bells and whistles. Their other main attraction is that many related products pick Mailchimp as the first email tool that they integrate with, which makes user journeys rather easy to piece together if your requirements are simple.

  • Main free account limitations: 2000 contacts on 1 list, single step only automated emails and basic reporting
  • Premium from: From $9.99 per month
  • Rating: 4.5/5 (13134 ratings)

Sendinblue

Sendinblue

Sendinblue is similar to Mailchimp where they offer most digital marketing tools in one place, but they limit their free plan more on emails sent rather than the size of your list.

You get standard email marketing features and marketing automation, but what cool and different is that live chat is included, even with the free plan. So if you are looking for a tool that can handle both email and chat, then this could be it for you.

  • Main free account limitations: Send up to 300 emails per day, unlimited contacts but a limit of 2,000 contacts though marketing automation flows
  • Premium from: From £16.50 per month
  • Rating: 4.4/5 (450 ratings)

Benchmark Email

Benchmark Email

Benchmark Email focus on helping their clients deliver quality campaigns that are easy to build and execute. They have a drag-and-drop email builder and free responsive email templates that even the free tier can use.

If you do decide to go paid, they do have a 25% discount for not-for-profits.

  • Main free account limitations: Limited marketing automation campaigns, 250 emails per month
  • Premium from: From $13 per month
  • Rating: 4.2/5 (149 ratings)

Accounting & bookkeeping software

Wave Accounting

Wave Accounting

Wave is truly the sort of free software that any budding entrepreneur wants to use. They provide everything for free, including basic accounting software, invoicing, multi-currency, expense tracking, receipt scanning and multiple accounts.

What’s the catch? Well, you have to use them for any card transactions. However, given that their rates are pretty competitive with alternatives like Stripe and better than Paypal, it’s a pretty easy choice.

  • Main free account limitations: None, except for payment processing
  • Premium from: Payment processing which is different depending where you are in the world.
  • Rating: 4.4/5 (951 ratings)

Cloudbooks

Cloudbooks

Cloudbooks is a relatively basic accounting app with a few additional features that some people may find useful. It has invoice generation, project & time tracking, estimates, expense management and reporting features.

It is a solid option, but it’s not really going to light the world on fire.

The Cloudbooks free account limitation is pretty strict with just five invoices and one client, so we almost didn’t include it, but for people who can suffice with that limitation then it could be an option for you.

  • Main free account limitations: 5 invoices & 1 client
  • Premium from: $10 per month for up to 5 users
  • Rating: 4.6/5 (10 ratings)

Akaunting

Akaunting

Akaunting is a modular, free accounting software package that follows a common open source business model; they supply the basic functionality for free, but then charge for the add-ons that you may need for your situation.

This way you get the very basic accounting functionality, but for things like double-entry accounting, custom fields, inventory, estimates/quotes etc all need to be purchased individually from the Akaunting app store. Prices for each module are generally $19-99, so they are relatively affordable, but this though does defeat the purpose of a ‘free app’. But, if you need basic accounting or invoicing, then this could be the tool for you.

  • Main free account limitations: Basic functionality only with additional functionality modules purchased separately
  • Premium from: Starting at $19 for a one-off purchase with one year support & updates
  • Rating: 7/10 (47 ratings)

ZipBooks

ZipBooks

Freemium, full-featured accounting software with a pretty decent free tier for businesses that need a solution to get off the ground.

Track all your transactions, issue unlimited invoices to unlimited clients, manage expenses and connect to your bank account.

All in all, it is a very decent option available for businesses that just need a solid accounting software solution.

  • Main free account limitations: Connect 1 bank account & basic reporting only
  • Premium from: From $15 per month for up to 5 users
  • Rating: 4.8/5 (344 ratings)

CRM

HubSpot CRM

HubSpot CRM

HubSpot CRM is a free CRM offered by the marketing automation behemoth. It is essentially a lead generation tool for their wider marketing automation solution, similar to how Google Analytics was originally a lead generation solution for (then) Google AdWords.

It does your basic tracking of contacts, but also has other nice features like free live chat, Gmail and Outlook extensions, and allows for unlimited numbers of relatively minor customisations when compared to other CRM options.

Though, most unsurprisingly, it doesn’t integrate with any tool that you could use HubSpot for, like email marketing, marketing automation etc. As mentioned before, you can have multiple customisations, but those customisations are quite inflexible and won’t suit all businesses.

  • Main free account limitations: None
  • Premium from: Free
  • Rating: 4.5/5 (504449 ratings)

ZohoCRM

ZohoCRM

Zoho is the maker of many online tools, similar to the G Suite or Office 365, but an independent business based out of India.

Their CRM is free for up to three users and has many of the paid features unavailable until you take up a subscription. That said, you can add and track contacts, leads, accounts deals and call/contact logs.

  • Main free account limitations: Up to 3 users
  • Premium from: £14 per user per month billed monthly
  • Rating: 4.0/5 (4255 ratings)

Conclusion

Please let us know if you have any other free tools that can be realistically used for free for new businesses, and we’d be happy to add them to the list. Let us know via twitter.


Sam Wiltshire

Passionate digital marketer with an interest in most things sport, especially rugby union, food, booze, tech and music. Just wanting to help small content publishers with getting more content ideas that resonate with their users at scale. My Medium page where I write about more conceptual subjects.