Simplenote — free, cross-platform note taking

Simplenote is a free note-taking tool that can be used on the web or natively on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android or iOS. (what else is there?)

Simplenote is one of the best, least-known free tools I’ve ever used. It is a mature product having been around since 2008. It was acquired by the good folks at Automattic who made the full version available to all without ads or cost. I don’t like exposing students to advertising, so this makes Simplenote great in education. Users do need an email address.

Remarkably, Automattic puts no limits on how many notes you can take. None!

Automattic has developed Simplenote for more platforms but has not succumbed to “bloatware.” For me, a note taking program must be fast and simple like a real notebook. (I’m not a fan of Evernote for that reason.)

Simplenote supports Markdown of which I’m a huge fan. Backup is beyond easy — just download a .zip file and read your notes with any text editor. Simplenote also has tagging, sorting, revision history, collaboration, publishing but not many more features.

Publishing is so easy! A couple of clicks and you get a shortened URL like simp.ly/p/8LTSXK to share with students or colleagues. It’s one of the easiest ways I know of to publish a simple web page. All for free!

I haven’t tried it but collaboration seems equally simple — just use their email address as a tag and it shows up on their account.

Too Simple?

Text Only

Simplenote is strictly text-based, so you can’t easily embed graphics or pictures from your phone. This is one of the useful features of “Keep” by Google, also a simple program. With Markdown, you can link to graphics but those have to be stored elsewhere online. A service like TinyPic makes this fairly easy but it is another step.

No Spell Check

This is probably another deal-breaker for some people, especially if you are using this as a tool to publish directly to the web.


Tool:  Simplenote
Description: A free, text-based note-taking program which synchronizes across all your computers and phones.
Usefulness: very

Public Domain Comics

 

 

 

 

Comic Books Plus and the Digital Comic Museum are both excellent sources for comic books in the public domain.

I’m a huge fan of comic books , even the old ones. A 75 year old comic book is a hard sell mine do get checked out occasionally. I have successfully used them a couple of other ways.

Remix for class projects

I’ve used old comics for technology lessons on desktop publishing and writing story arcs. I take them apart using GIMP and have the students reassemble them in Google Draw or similar. The kids like the style and it saves them stress of having to draw their own.

Primary sources for reluctant readers

The Common Core emphasis on primary sources can be a challenge for reluctant readers. There are quite a few comic books from World Word II, the Korean War and the Cold War era.


Comic Books Plus and the Digital Comic Museum

Description: Sources for old public domain comic books.

License: public domain

Usefulness: maybe

SoundBible — free sound effects

soundBible-iconThe folks at SoundBible have collected hundreds of CreativeCommons licenses and public domain sound effects from around the web. The sound files are tagged with the license clearly displayed.

If we demand that our students obey copyright laws, then I believe we should make it easy for them to obey the law. SoundBible does just that.

The only downside is that the sound effects can be a little hard to find.

Bottom line: free sound effects for mutli-media projects.


Tool: soundbible.com

Description: sound effects for students media projects, with clear licence reqirements.

License: CreativeCommons, public domain

Usefulness: possibly

imgur — easy, no registration photo hosting.

Imgur_logo.svgimgur does one thing — photo hosting. But, it does it very well. You simply upload your photo and use it on your web page.

Imgur seems almost too good to be true. It allows you to upload your image, without registration, which the site says will never be deleted.

Imgur accepts JPEG, PNG, GIF, TIFF, BMP, PDF files, which should include any type of graphic you’ve created. Any files, besides JPG, will be converted to PNG, which should not be a problem since PNG files are standard for web browsers. Nicely, Imgur also accepts XCF files which are native to the open-source GIMP photo editing program. I’m not aware of any other hosting service that allows this.

Bottom line: a very easy way to post a photo with no registration.


Tool: imgur.com

Description: photo hosting with no registration

License: Open Ethos

Alternatives: Flickr, Tinypic, many others

Usefulness: very

Archive.org Community Media – free, cloud publishing

Archive dot LorgArchive.org is now a great way to publish your eBooks.

You probably know Archive.org as a repository for live music or their Wayback Machine.

communityTextArchive.org also has a community media section where you can upload your eBook. It is an easy, open way to publish your students’ ‘zines, eBooks or student newspaper. One of the best features is that it allows you to embed your document in your website without advertisements.

For most people, the simplest way is to upload a PDF/Acrobat file of their ebook. I prefer the Comic Book Archive format and that works as well.

The only downside I can think of is that Archive.org has NSFW (or school) content. But, if your ebook is embedded on your own site, your students needn’t visit Archive.org or even be aware that it exists.

 


Tool: archive.org Community Media

Description: repository for self-published eBook

License: Creative Commons

Alternatives: Google Drive, Scribd, others

Usefulness: very

Pixabay – free graphics and photos with no restrictions

Pixabay-logo.svgNothing beats free and Pixabay offers pictures and graphics with the CC0 license which is the least restrictive license possible. Simply put: take the image and forget about it.

Pixabay_screenshotBest yet, these are good quality images.   Pixabay has almost 300,000 images which can be found with Google.

Pixabay does not require attribution although I always require my students to credit their sources even when they are public domain. Pixabay does not require sign-in although they limit your downloads to medium size.  The site comes in Spanish as well as number of other languages.

colored-pencils-168392_1280This is a fantastic site.   My only minor quibble is that they also include Shutterstock photos which are not free. This might be confusing for some students.

If your students need pictures for their projects, Pixabay is a fantastic resource.

 


Resource: Pixabay

Description:  Thousands of high quality pictures and graphics with no licensing restrictions.

License CC0/no restrictions

Alternatives: Wikimedia Commons

Rating: highly useful

Open Font Library – free, high quality fonts, without a hassle

open font library logoThere is no quicker way to get a virus than to click on a “1000s of Free Fonts!”link in Google.  Even if no virus, they often require registration, installing spyware or some other nuisance.

Instead, go to:   Open Font Library.    This is part of larger Libre Graphics Initiative which also supports the very useful program, Inkscape.

open font library ScreenshotFree Font Library offers only a few hundred fonts which may seem weak compared to the other sites which brag about thousands of fonts but good graphic artists know that a few high quality fonts are much more valuable than lots of shoddy fonts.  A high quality font offers separately-designed italics, bold and small caps as well as support for symbols and non-English characters.

Very importantly, Free Font Library provides a very nice font specimen which allows the user to see the font in all its formats. And, downloading is just a click.

If you need a wild decorative font then you will probably still need to risk a virus and go to one of the “1000s of Free Fonts!” websites but for your everyday needs, Open Font Library is the place.


Tool: Open Font Library
Description: free (virus free!) fonts
License: various, but all open
Alternatives: many others
Rating: very useful

 

morgueFile – free stock photos

jjffjj_morgueFile_logoMorgueFilemorgueFile includes a collection of free photos with very few restrictions. Many of the photos in morgueFile (why the name?) have that “stock” look associated with commercial sites.

Helpfully, photos can be searched with key words.  Less helpfully, the site also includes links to commercial stock photos which are not free.  Students will need to keep within the free portion of the site.

morgueFile uses its own license which is similar to the Creative Commons license but is slightly more confusing.  The photos are meant to be used for “reference” and not redistributed unaltered.   As I understand the license, if you put a photo on a blog or web site, the photo should have attribution and link back to morgueFile (as I do below) rather than redistributing it from your site.

For in-classroom use, this should be no problem since you are not redistributing the photo.

http://www.morguefile.com/creative/middlewick
by Middlewick

 

 

 

 

 

 


Tool:  morgueFile
Description:  stock photos licensed for reuse
License: morgueFile license
Alternatives: Wikimedia Commons, Flickr, Yahoo CC image search
Rating: very useful

Getty Open Content Program — free photos of fine art

Getty Logo

 

 

 

The Getty Museum provide high quality public domain images of their collection available with virtually no restrictions (attribution is requested.)   Kudos to the Getty Trust for their dedication to open content — an effort that more appropriately should be led by publicly funded museums.   Getty_screenshot

Currently Getty provides over 87,000 public domain images which can be found on the Getty Search Gateway with the “Open Content Images” filter selected.

Click on the image below to see the excellent documentation that comes with each image.

Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program.
Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a fantastic contribution to the open information movement.  Thank you Getty Trust!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Tool:   Getty Open Content Program
Description:  Public domain photos of the Getty art collection.
License: Public domain with attribution requested.
Alternatives: Wikimedia Commons
Rating: very useful