If you’ve always dreamed of working from home, you’re not alone. 99% of people say they would like to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers.
When you’re new to working from home, it can be a bit confusing on where to start looking for tools to keep you productive, organized, and most importantly sane. We’ve compiled a list of free tools that will help ease you into your transition to working from home. These tools are great for both new freelancers, college students adjusting to remotely working on group projects, and small businesses taking their business to the cloud.
G Suite: Your one-stop shop
First up is G-Suite, a comprehensive productivity platform that has pretty much everything you could need to work from home. Its most ubiquitous tool is Gmail, which provides users with a free email account with a custom alias. Gmail, in particular, works well with Google Calendar, which can sync multiple accounts into one calendar and can be accessed from anywhere using mobile devices.
Other popular tools within the suite are Google Docs (word processor), Google Sheets (Google’s take on Excel), and Google Slides (think Powerpoint). G-Suite also contains tools for web conferencing or making free phone calls (dependent on your region) via Google Hangouts, sending texts with Google Voice, and storing files with Google Drive.
G-Suite is a great option for individuals on a tight budget, companies who can’t yet afford to purchase multiple licenses for standard office software, or those who are moving from traditional processes to cloud-based processes. While almost all of G-Suite’s tools can be used free, small businesses can scale up their plan should they find that G-Suite works particularly well for them.
For a full list of products that Google offers, check out their vendor page on TrustRadius to read reviews from users with similar use cases as you.
Trello: Stay organized
For veteran project managers, applications like Trello appearing on the market were a godsend—and a no-brainer. But for most workers outside direct project management, they might not have realized just how much time and stress great project management software can save.
Trello is consistently listed among the Top Rated collaboration and project management tools here on TrustRadius. While it does have paid plans, it can be used completely free. It has a very easy-to-use interface, which makes it great for team projects with no project management expertise required.
It is based on the kanban board method, which is a style of visual project management using cards to visual tasks and columns for keeping track of progress and stages. Kanban is known for being used in agile or lean work environments.
With Trello, you can utilize different “boards”, so you can keep projects organized by departments. Within boards, you can customize projects based on a variety of factors such as project status, due date, and more. You can even assign members to specific tasks and integrate your Trello boards with third-party applications, allowing you to work seamlessly across programs.
Everyone’s specific project management needs are different, so check out our Features Scorecard for Trello. It provides you with ratings into specific functions you may care about like Gantt charts or support for Agile projects in particular.
Discord and Slack: Stay in touch
The importance of communication triples when you are working remotely. No longer able to walk over to a coworker or classmate’s desk, you have to find ways to contact them. This is where Discord and Slack come in.
While G-Suite does have software dedicated to online communication, including web conferences with video, they don’t have a tool that incorporates communication and collaboration as effectively as Discord and Slack do.
Slack is great if you’re looking for a tool to use specifically for business purposes. It features integrations with Google Drive, G-Suite’s cloud storage offering, and allows users to have both audio and video chat sessions with each other. It also facilitates group chats well and has a lot of interactive features like polls and file sharing which some collaboration tools do not.
Discord can be used for business purposes, but is designed to facilitate communication between friends. It excels at allowing users to connect with friends while playing video games and lets users stream tv shows and films directly to their friends’ devices, which is a bit different than simple screen-sharing. Discord, like Slack, allows you to set up separate servers and channels for different topics and groups.
It’s important to take time throughout the day for mental breaks, and enjoy checking in with people you care about. It can make working from home less isolating and much more interesting.
Spotify and Soundcloud: Get motivated
Music can be great for productivity. 90% of people say they feel more productive when listening to music while they work. Music can help you crush an assignment you’ve been putting off for days (no judgment), or sit back and relax while brainstorming up a new design. There is a plethora of music streaming services from which to choose, but we picked out the best depending on your needs.
Spotify is the premier music streaming service today. You can use it for free, but you will have to listen to ads every few songs and its free mobile-version is shuffle-play-only. The highlight of Spotify is that you can pick which songs you’d like to listen to on its browser-based or desktop versions. Another perk is that it has both Discord and Slack integrations, which make sharing what you’re listening to with friends and coworkers extremely easy.
You can also choose from thousands of podcasts (including many focused on career and business topics), and hundreds of Spotify-curated playlists perfect for any work mood ranging from “instrumental Study” to “All-Nighter”. You can also make collaborative playlists with your teammates and friends, which can be a great way to bond. Its vast library of business-focused podcasts also makes it great for working on career development together across a distance.
Soundcloud is a great alternative to Spotify for users who are into all things indie. It’s also available for free with ads, but unlike Spotify, artists don’t have to go through a label or distributor to upload music. Because of this, there are a ton of independent musicians and podcasts on Soundcloud that you can’t find anywhere else.
Like Spotify, you can make playlists or radio stations based on a specific song. Soundcloud also curates playlists based on genre and moods, similar to Spotify. Where they differ is that on desktop computers, Soundcloud is only available as a browser-based app. However, Soundcloud’s browser-based interface is easier to navigate than the browser-based version of Spotify. Soundcloud users can also download some songs to their computer whereas Spotify does not allow this.
Visual Studio: Develop on a budget
Microsoft’s Visual Studio is an integrated development environment used for developing computer programs, websites, and both web-based and mobile applications. It uses the C++ and C# coding languages and is available completely free.
Visual Studio is great for students or web developers who may find themselves having to downsize from paid coding environments. With Visual Studio, you can still write code, run debuggers and diagnostics, and test your code. A key benefit of using Visual Studio is that it supports multiple users working on the same coding project at the same time. This is an invaluable feature for teams of developers working remotely.
Since its interface is so user-friendly, it can be easily picked up by beginners. It also integrates with other applications like Microsoft Azure and GitHub, so you can work even more efficiently across teams. And while it is C++ and C# based, users can install plug-ins to incorporate other programming languages like Java, Python, and PHP. This expands its utility to a variety of roles ranging from data scientists to web developers.
Free tools for any niche
The tools above are suitable for a wide variety of use cases and will help jumpstart your work-from-home experience. However, we understand that in certain industries, you will need software specifically tailored to your needs.
You’ll find a variety of posts dedicated to vertical-specific free software on the TrustRadius blog. Here are a few we’d recommend next: