No matter the industry you work in, having the right set of tools at your disposal can eliminate a great deal of potential frustration. When working in a digital environment, these tools – software tools – often come at a steep price, which is not a problem if you work for a big company. However, for freelance web designers and developers, investing in these software packages is a major expense and they are often forced to use free alternatives to those pricey packages. We’ve set out to account for 10 different free software tools to be used in web design and here is our list:
Brackets by Adobe is imposing itself as one of the best code editors. It is an open source software, available for Mac, Windows and Linux. This editor comes with some standard features, such as code auto-completion, code highlighting, split window and find and replace option. New features are quick editing (with a color picker), live preview and multiple cursors. Overall, Brackets is a good choice.
Chrome DevTools, a built-in feature in Chrome web browser should be reason enough to switch to Chrome as a main browser. This tool is divided into 8 groups including Elements (panel for viewing your HTML structure), Resources (inspects the loaded resources), Network (shows all requested and downloaded elements), Timeline (time for each resource loading), Profiles (memory usage of elements), Sources (tracks where do scripts and snippets come from), Auditing (analyzes page as it loads) and Console (where you test the pages and apps, and debug the scripts). A handy tool for troubleshooting and improving network performance.
GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program) represents an excellent alternative to Photoshop, and it comes with a high number of features where you can create artwork, retouch and reinvent your images like a professional. The program is very helpful with customizable interface, it is full of tutorials and free downloadable plugins, and it has a devoted community.
Bootstrap is quite a popular front-end development framework. It enables fast development with its ready-made lines of code and its cross-browser compatibility. It comes with its own set of CSS, Java Script and fonts. Bootstrap is highly consistent and customizable, and it is described as being created on a concept of ‘’pairing designers and developers’’. Definitely worth looking into it.
In the past, WP was just a blogging platform, but now it allows you to create functional websites and mobile apps. It is easy to use and learn, and it takes no prior knowledge of designing or programming. WordPress on its own is not a website or page builder, but a CMS. It depends on themes and plugins to run a fully functional website. However, what it does offer is a powerful set of tools for editing those themes and plugins. You can take a ready-made theme and alter it to suit your own desires, add custom css, html, use visual builders, and much more. All of that customization comes with an option of a live privew.
Notepad ++ is probably the best open source code editor, if not the best on the overall. Its standard features enable much quicker and easier coding. It has a customizable interface, multiple cursors, a handy document map, and a number of plugins. A great feature of Notepad ++ is working with Macros (recorded complex operations).
This useful color palette generator is an excelent color scheme tool similar to, yet quite different from Adobe’s Color wheel. The best thing about Pictaculous is that it has the ability to extract the colors and tones from the image you want to use on your page and help you make a uniform experience across the page or a website.
WAMP, MAMP and Lamp
Google’s free web fonts service has recently been through a major overhaul. It uses Material Design and is fully mobile responsive. They’ve also included a color chooser so fonts can be tested on the spot with different backgrounds and black or white fonts. Besides matching contrasts between your fonts and backgrounds, you can now preview sentences, paragraphs and your own text, and also choose font weight and size. The new web fonts app is excellent and you’ll probably going to like it.
Google Web Designer
Though the name could be perceived as a bit missleading since this tool is best used for creating animated CSS3 animations on HTML5-based ads, it can still create a full website. To anyone who’s ever used Adobe products, the interface of this program should be fairly familiar as it looks a lot like it came from Adobe, rather than Google. The code it produces is not too clean, but not too bloated either. The problem is that it supports only webkit-based browsers, so think twice before using it. Nevertheless, since it is free, it is a good tool for creating animated CSS, at least.
As stated before, paying for tools is something many freelancers are not so keen on, due to the high prices of some commercial software packages. Whether you deal with freelance web development or design, having an option of using free tools is a major advantage.
Ryan Burchey is the Owner Ryan’s Web Design and you can contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org