Best free software and apps every student needs

Best free software every student needs to ace remote studying

This article was updated by the Great British Mag content team on 7 May 2020

It’s a fact that all universities and colleges in the UK will not be allowing students back on campus until September at the earliest and remote learning is something that you need to get your head around.

That’s why the Great British Mag team have reviewed apps that will keep you sane, focused and productive during lockdown.

As a response to the Coronavirus pandemic, some tech companies have made previously paid for software available for free – so nice of them! And there has always been a tonne of previously free software that will help you ace remote studying.

Microsoft Teams

What it is: Microsoft Teams allows large groups to message, video call and share and edit Word documents, PowerPoints and Excel files in real time.

Why it’s great for remote studying: Since you can share and edit documents easily through video calling, Microsoft Teams is an efficient way to work on a group project with classmates.

How you get it: Microsoft is currently offering the Premium version of Teams for free for the next six months. This means there’s no limit to how many people can be in a Teams group and each user gets one TB of storage.

Google Drive (including Docs, Slides and Sheets)

What it is: Free web-based file storage service. It allows you to create and share documents, slideshows, spreadsheets, forms, drawings and websites. Everything you create is centralised to one location and accessed through one account. You can then invite people to view and edit in real time.

Why it’s great for remote studying: Whether you need to write an essay or plan a presentation, Google Drive will have the tools you need. You can share your content with other users and give them access to edit it, making for easy collaboration. You can also access your Google Drive from any device, so you don’t need to worry about losing files on a hard drive.

How you get it: Google Drive with up to 15 GB of storage is free for all users. You just have to make a Google account.


What it is: Digital library that includes books and scholarly academic articles.

Why it’s great for remote studying: With libraries shut down, JSTOR allows you to access thousands of publications across subjects. You’re able to search for publications by keyword, author and publication type, along with save them as PDFs so you can mark them up as you read. Researching from the comfort of your home has never been easier.

How you get it: If your university has a licence for some of JSTOR’s collections, you now have free access to all of JSTOR’s collections until 30 June, 2020. JSTOR has also partnered with various publishers to make loads of free books available to all (even if your university doesn’t participate in JSTOR’s book collection).

For additional library resources, check with your local public library to see how it’s handling remote access.


What it is: Online file storage service that allows whoever you choose to upload and edit documents. You can create folders within the service and give certain people access to certain files.

Why it’s great for remote studying: Dropbox is an easy way to ensure that everyone who needs access to a certain document does. If you’re working on a group project, you can use Dropbox as a way to keep track of everyone’s contributions. Professors also might use it to share lectures and notes with your entire class.

How you get it: Dropbox is free for all users and gives you three GB of storage space.


What it is: Video conferencing software that allows you to host meetings with up to 100 participants. There is a 40-minute time limit on group meetings, but there is no limit to how many meetings you can host. Other features include HD video and audio, active speaker view, simultaneous screen sharing and virtual backgrounds.

Why it’s great for remote studying: Zoom has the best video and audio quality, so it works really well for students conferencing from different locations. It also has a personal meeting ID which allows you to set regularly scheduled meetings with the same participants. Everyone can then log into the meeting with the same ID every time.

How you get it: Zoom Basic is free for everyone. You just need to make an account.

Adobe Creative Cloud

What it is: Collection of creative software, including Animate, Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop.

Why it’s great for remote studying: Many students use Adobe software to complete their coursework. Picking up a new creative hobby is also a good way to manage mental health. With most students stuck at home, using Creative Cloud can give you something new to try in your spare time. 

How you get it: Most students only have free access to Adobe software at their campuses through their university’s Adobe licence. However, if your university has an Adobe licence, then you’re eligible for in-home access through 31 May, 2020. An IT Admin from your university must give you the proper access information by going to Adobe’s website and requesting access for students. If you know that your university has an Adobe licence but no one has contacted you about in-home access, ask one of your professors about it.


What it is: Web-based graphic design platform. You can choose from hundreds of templates to edit photos and create presentations, infographics, and gifs.

Why it’s great for remote studying: Canva has all the tools so you need to prepare a stylish presentation easily. You access the site from any device using your Canva account, so you don’t have to worry about losing projects on a hard drive.

How you get it: Canva has a free version you can sign-up via the website. 

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