Management and Accounting
Manager claims to be the most comprehensive free accounting software out there, and I have to say that it has all the features I have ever needed. For example, it can handle multiple currencies, invoicing, cash accounting, reporting and bank reconciliation. The desktop software is very flexible, easy to use, stable, and best of all, completely free. On top of that, it is cross-platform, meaning it is available on Windows, Mac and Linux.
Protemos is a translation management system which is completely free for freelancers. It is online-based and allows you to manage projects, store and send documents, create invoices and more. Since it is online-based, you can access it from anywhere on any device.
Wise is a way of sending and receiving money in other currencies that is much cheaper than PayPal or high-street banks. Wise is licensed and regulated in all the countries and regions where services are provided, so you can trust that your money is safe. You can also get bank account details in ten different currencies, making receiving payments in those currencies much easier since it can be done with a normal bank transfer that doesn’t incur any fees. It’s free to open a personal account, but you now have to pay a small fee to open a business account.
Time Management and Productivity
Google Keep and Google Calendar are completely free and are available as apps on your phone or in a browser. They also sync seamlessly across all your devices. Keep allows you to create and store notes, lists, audio recordings, photos, and more. It’s possible to reorder and indent items within a list, which can be really useful when prioritising tasks or creating sub-tasks. You can also colour-code, tag, add collaborators, and set up reminders linked with Google Calendar.
Notion is an innovative productivity and organisation tool based on the ‘freemium’ model. It’s an incredibly flexible and customisable workspace that can be used in so many ways to keep you organised. For example, you can use it to take notes, write to-do lists, schedule tasks, manage files, track projects, set reminders and bookmark pages.
Toggl is a time-tracking app that you can use to track how much time you spend doing different tasks. You can then create reports based on this data. It can be used in many ways, including through an app, a browser extension or a desktop app. It also has the option to integrate it with many other programs, such as Google Keep or Google Calendar. The free plan doesn’t include all of the features, but it still does what the majority of users will need. Have a look at this blog post at the Translator’s Studio for more information on how translators can use this tool.
Tomato Timer is an online timer based on the Pomodoro technique, which is a time management method that aims to make you more productive. The technique is based on working in 25-minute bursts followed by a 5-minute break. After 4 bursts of 25 minutes, you take a longer break of 10 minutes. The online timer is simply pre-programmed to time a Pomodoro (25 minutes), a short break, or a long break. I’ve found that I really concentrate better this way and get more done.
Another ‘tool’ which can be used to increase productivity is your keyboard! Have a look at my post about keyboard shortcuts here.
Document Processing and Formatting
LibreOffice is a free, open source equivalent to Microsoft Word. It uses a similar layout to Word and has many of the same features.
Bullzip PDF Printer is installed on your computer as a printer, but it actually saves whatever you choose to ‘print’ as a PDF. These days, many programs already give you the option to save as a PDF. However, Bullzip is especially useful when you only want to save certain pages of the document as a PDF.
Translation, Terminology and Proofreading
Grammarly is a tool that you can download as an app inside Word or as a browser extension. It works like a spellchecker but for more advanced grammar issues. It’s really good at picking up homonyms, misused words and incorrect comma usage. I found that the browser extension REALLY slowed my browser down, so I ended up uninstalling it. However, the Word app is great, and I usually run documents through it as a final QA check. The free version doesn’t include all the features, but I’d say it’s definitely still worth having.
IntelliWebSearch is a program that allows you to search terminology in multiple search engines, dictionaries and encyclopedias all at once. As you can imagine, this can save translators a lot of time. Many of the main CAT tools these days now include their own version of this. However, IntelliWebSearch allows you to do this from any application, using any browser. It could also be argued that this tool is more customisable and has more features than the built-in searches that now come with CAT tools. The freeware version (version 3) has some limits but should still be sufficient for most translators.
Design and Social Media
Canva is a great graphic design tool that’s really easy to use. It has templates for all sorts of social media formats, as well as print media formats. You can use it to design logos, business cards, flyers, Facebook cover photos, Twitter profile pictures and much more. There are a lot of free images and icons available, but you do have to pay for certain stock images and features.
GIMP is a free, open-source equivalent of Photoshop. Admittedly, it doesn’t have every single feature that Photoshop does, but it is still incredibly advanced for a free program. I use GIMP when creating images for marketing and social media. It’s also useful for converting between different image formats or resizing images.
Meta Business Suite
If you have a Facebook or Instagram account for your business, you can use the Meta Business Suite to see everything related to your business accounts in one place. It’s particularly useful for scheduling posts.
Perhaps strictly speaking it is not a tool, but Pixabay is still a really useful resource. It’s a huge library of royalty-free stock photos, which is great when writing blog posts or creating marketing materials. Pikwizard is a promising, new image library similar to Pixabay. However, unlike many free stock photo websites, it has a lot of photos of people.
Security and Backup
LastPass is a password manager, generator and vault. Using a browser extension, usernames and passwords for all manner of accounts are encrypted and stored in your vault. You access your vault using a master password, and two-step verification if you set this up. Once logged into LastPass, you are automatically logged into sites that are saved in your vault. This means that you can use very secure passwords without worrying about forgetting them. However, the free version limits you to only using one device type.
Dropbox is a file-hosting service that offers cloud storage and file synchronization. It also lets you share files and collaborate on them. You can access your Dropbox account from any device, and any changes you make automatically sync across all devices. Another really useful feature is that you can easily restore previous versions of files and undo changes. It is even possible to recover deleted files for up to 30 days. Basic accounts are free and include 2GB of space. You can also earn more space in various ways, such as referrals.
If you ever work away from home on public Wi-Fi, you need to use a VPN. Windscribe is one of the best free options. Public Wi-Fi networks are insecure since they are not usually encrypted, so they are often targeted by hackers. This means that users are at risk of having their information stolen. VPNs encrypt your connection in order to protect your information. Windscribe comprises of a desktop app and a browser extension. The free version offers up to 10GB of bandwidth per month with the option to connect to various different servers located around the world.
Mozilla Thunderbird is an open-source desktop email application. You can use it to manage multiple email accounts from one place, and you can also link your Google Calendar to it. Besides being easy to set up, one of the main benefits over using an online email client is that you can view emails that you have already received when you are offline.
BlueMail is a completely free email management app for your phone, also allowing multiple email accounts. I find BlueMail to be really well designed and easy to use. I had problems with instant push settings on some other email apps, but with this app, I get email notifications instantly with no problems.
Listening to podcasts is a great way for translators to continue learning, and there are many translation-themed podcasts available. Of course, you can listen to podcasts without an app, but having one makes downloading and keeping track of your podcasts so much easier. Castbox is a great, free app that allows you to discover, subscribe to and download podcasts. It also tracks which podcasts you have already listened to and suggests other podcasts based on your listening history. One of the best features of Castbox is the ‘In-Audio Search’ which uses artificial intelligence to transcribe and search within podcasts. You can also access your account from multiple devices and your podcasts will automatically sync.
The Snipping Tool is included in Windows Vista and later, but many people don’t know about it or how to use it. Basically, it captures screenshots, but it can do so in various formats. For example, in free-form or by selecting certain windows or menus only. You can then annotate, save or share the screenshot directly from the tool. To find the Snipping Tool, select the Start (Windows) button and type Snipping Tool.
Speech Recognition comes included in Windows Vista and later, and you can find it by searching for it in the taskbar. Once set up, you can use the speech recognition tool to control your PC with just your voice, without the need of a keyboard or mouse. Using this tool can speed up your work, enable you to work at a distance from your desk, or allow you to do other tasks at the same time. Speech recognition is available in English (United States, United Kingdom, Canada, India, and Australia), French, German, Japanese, Mandarin (Chinese Simplified and Chinese Traditional), and Spanish.
Windows 10 and later also have a dictation tool, which is activated by pressing the Start (Windows) key + H when speech recognition is enabled. The tool will then convert whatever you say into text anywhere you want on your computer. Currently, this is only available in US English, but it seems to do an okay job at recognising my British English accent.
WeTransfer is a cloud-based file-sharing service. Some files can be too large to send by email, so this is where WeTransfer comes in. It is free to share files up to 2GB in size and can be used in your browser or via mobile apps.