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.
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


Writer — no-hassle word processor in the cloud

JJFFJJ_writer_logoWith Writer it’s 1992 all over again!

This is one of those little oddball tools that is both retro and ahead of its time.

If you are of a certain age, you remember DOS computers with monochrome monitors, first green and then amber, which, I believe, were one of the purest writing tools ever, even better than typewriters.

 Big Huge Labs provides a free and very simple on-line text editor called Writer which reminds me of the DOS days.

Retro but also ahead of its time: Writer launched in the “cloud” back in about 2007 when Google Apps was still clunky and slow. But, Writer is no GoogleDrive — which can be a good thing.  (Read my sort rant on privacy and the cloud.)

JJFFJJWriterIn Writer it is possible to do basic formatting (italics, bold, etc.) but Writer really shines for just writing. Despite its sparse formatting features, it offers several useful ways to export your document including text, PDF, print and Word. (Sadly, no OpenDocument format) You can also publish your writing directly to a blog.

There is no need to register but, if you do, your document are saved. Writer offers a paid option that is integrated with Google Docs and Dropbox. Unfortunately, Writer does not offer collaborative tools. BigHugeLabs offers special services to schools.

Writer could be a great alternative to Goodle Docs if the main point is to write. I have found, with Google Docs or MS Word, students tend to fuss for too long before they get down to writing. I haven’t tried it in a classroom but I think Writer would require less of a “fuss phase.”

I still think MoPad is probably better for classroom writing because of its collaborative features. But, if the point is to just write, Writer does that very well.

Tool: Writer (atBigHugeLabs)
Description: simple “cloud” word processor
License: OpenEthos
Alternatives: MoPad, GoogleDocs, many others.
Rating: very useful

Open Definition – alternative licensing to Creative Commons

jjffjj OpenDocument logoOpen Knowledge is a non-profit organization in Cambridge, England founded not long after the Creative Commons organization.   While it seems to have a (somewhat) broader scope than Creative Commons, it also runs a licensing service called Open Definition.

While I have found the Creative Commons license perfectly useful for what I create,  the Open Definition tools apply more broadly to things like funding and services.

Open Definition buttonsIf you find that the Creative Commons license doesn’t fit your effort, you may take at look at the Open Definition licenses.   Like Creative Commons, they have a license guide to assist you.  Unfortunately it gets into the legal language fairly quickly but that may be unavoidable considering the broader nature of this project.

Tool: Open Definition (dot org)
Description: open licensing system
License: open (obviously!)
Alternative: Creative Commons
Rating: potentially useful

openclipart – free clip art (yes, really free)

Open Clipart LogoThere are a lot of sites that offer “free clip art” but they are, in fact, a hassle to download. Some have viruses or spyware.

Openclipart ScreenshotOpenclipart is truly free… find a piece of clipart and download it. No registration, no watermarks, no royalties.

Openclipart has 50,000 images which may seem like a lot but you can not have enough clip art! As I browsed around this site, I sometimes didn’t always find what I wanted.

Even so, I suggest you bookmark openclipart and make it your first source for clipart.

Tools: openclipart
Description: free clip art
License: public domain
Alternatives: many others
Rating: very useful

Free Music Archive – legal music for your students’ projects (and yours, too!)

jjffjj Free Music Archive LogoObviously, many students steal music without a second-thought.  As educators, we can make them think twice by not accepting projects with stolen content.
And, by “think twice,” I mean teaching them about respect for artists.
But, it is not a reasonable requirement if permission is too hard to get or if royalties are more than a couple of bucks.jjffjj Free Music Archive Screenshot
Free Music Archive helps solve that problem because nearly all of the artists have given permission to use their songs non-commercially.   And, importantly, the music is usefully organized by genre and properly documented.
Free Music Archive is a service of WFMU, one of the great “open”  radio stations in America (another is KEXP who also contribute to this project).
With 63,000 songs, organized into 15  genres (including some specifically for video soundtracks) it is reasonable to require that students use legal music for their videos and multi-media presentations.   While licenses vary at FMI, nearly every song I surveyed had a Creative Commons license that would allow classroom use.

Tool:  Free Music Archive
Description:  Free music, mostly licensed for re-use.
License: mostly  Creative Commons
Alternatives: Audio archive at
Rating: very useful

Desktop Publishing with LibreOffice Draw – a school “newspaper” template

 I frequently use LibreOffice Draw for desktop publishing as I previously blogged about here.  I think this makes me unusual  since Scribus is the more-powerful, better-known open-source DTP tool.   But,  for one- or two-page items printed on a school/home printer, I find Scribus a little bit of over-kill.   (I’m not bashing Scribus!  I plan on leaning it better and reviewing it later.)

Anyway, I decided to contribute to the commons with a “newspaper” template for newsletters.  As an exercise in open-source discipline, I strictly used only open or free fonts and graphics.

iconAlthough I used LibreOffice Draw to create the template, it should work flawlessly in OpenOffice Draw (but I have not tested it.)

Although I’m pretty good with LO Draw, it still was a learning experience.  One of the biggest lessons I learned was that if one uses the “Styles” feature, every element (headline, subhead, body text) must to be in its own frame.  (frames can be joined)  I tend to do this, anyway, so it’s no big deal but this could be a deal-breaker for some.

You can preview the Newspaper Template with this PDF file.

I am keeping the file at Archive dot org since they get a lot more traffic than my site.

Here is the Newsletter Template page.   Here is a direct link to the zip file (will all fonts).





3 Note Taking Programs Reviewed

I prefer to write in a note taking program rather than a word processor because I want a single place to store my random ideas/clippings, organize them into a final draft. and then archive them for future reference.

I used Info Select for many years but they kept charging me a hundred dollars for every upgrade which I had been doing version 1 in DOS. This made it possibly the most expensive program on my computer — maybe by quite a margin. When I wrote them an email mentioning this, they wrote me back telling me that their program was a value because of savings in efficiency. But I wasn’t using it commercially! That response was one reason I became so committed to open source.

But, I have to admit, I have not found an open source note taking program as good as the best parts of Info Select. (Info Select has suffered a bit from bloat.)

Lately I have been playing with three such programs, each which have limitations.

Cherry Tree CherryTreeLogo

Cherry Tree is being basically a hierarchal word processor, making it the simplest of the three. In note taking, simplicity is a huge virtue. While graphics can be used in Cherry Tree it not a convenient process. Cherry Tree exports nicely to PDF, HTML and text which for backing-up and publishing.

Cherry TreeUnfortunately, Cherry Tree doesn’t have a clip-library or template function, a feature I find very helpful for repetitive tasks like taking phone messages. The deal breaker is not spell-check. All writing tools need a spell check! In my world, this is an essential feature.

But, if you are a very good speller and you mostly are writing documents, Cherry Tree could be a good tool for you.

BasKet Note Pads BasKet Note Pads Logo

BasKet Note Pads is the most ambitious of the three note taking programs and is the best for collecting random pieces of information. It doesn’t have templates but it does allow fast importing of an HTML file which could be used as such. It only exports notes to HTML which will surely be a limit for some even though HTML can be imported into many different programs.

BasKet Note Pads It has a “nearly finished” feel to it but still has a couple of missing features (and it crashed once in my testing the program). To make-up for this, it does allow you to launch an external program — like LibreOffice if you need, let’s say, a spell checker, because this program does not have one either! (This just amazes me.)

If you are collecting random notes, lists, graphics, etc, then Basket Note Pads could be useful for you but it is probably not the most useful for writers.

Everpad Everpad Logo

Everpad is a Linux open-source implementation of Evernote. Like Cherry Tree, it’s mostly a hierarchical note taking program. (with fewer hierarchies.)

Everpad screen shotIts stand-out feature is that it synchronizes with the on-line version of Evernote. This is a huge advantage if you use your notes from several computers and devices.

If you use Linux with the “Unity” interface, Everpad is nicely integrated in the “Dash” menu so that your notes are discoverable, even when Everpad isn’t running. Of the three programs, it has the most limited export options.

Some users have complained on-line that Everpad does not always synchronize properly with Evernote. I did not have this problem in my testing but this would be a critical issue, if true.

And, it doesn’t have spell-check!

Of the three, I am most likely to use Everpad because of the “cloud” advantages of Evernote. But, I’ll keep looking for the perfect note taker.

Tools: Cherry Tree, BasKet Note Pads, Everpad
Description: easy to use digital story telling tool
License: open-source
Alternatives: many others
Rating: useful