Yearbook tools can be expensive. But they can also be free—you just need to know where to look.
If you’re looking to avoid the jaw-dropping price tags of InDesign, Photoshop, and other tools that can help improve your yearbook, you can still get the same level of performance from some free, web-based tools. Don’t have time to research on your own? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.
Inside this post, we’ll share 22 free yearbook tools that will help you and your staff succeed without blowing your entire budget on software. And they won’t just help you create a better final product, they’ll help you streamline your yearbook-making process, too.
Yearbook Tools for Photo Editing
- VSCO. Is the iPhone camera app underwhelming your photographers’ attempts to capture candids? Instagram and its filter thwarting your yearbook marketing efforts? Enter VSCO. It’s a camera app like no other, and it’s the best free option if you’re running a camera-strapped ship. While it’s pitched as a tool for “influencers and creators, it’s perfect for snapping and editing pictures on the go.
- Pixlr. Pound for pound, Pixlr might be the most useful app on this list. Think of it as the free, web-based, lite version of Photoshop (you know, that Adobe software that’ll cost you an arm and a leg: for a single license). Take pictures in VSCO, edit them in Pixlr: it’s the perfect lean tech stack for yearbook photography.
Yearbook Design Tools
- Canva. Canva is used by publishers across the internet, in industries as disparate as non-dairy frozen desserts and digital marketing. It gives you ability to choose from hundreds of free design elements, fonts, and even entire templates. Canva can be used for creating custom graphics, yearbook marketing collateral, and other visuals in a snap. Don’t sleep on it if you’re looking for a quick, user friendly alternative to something like Adobe inDesign.
- Unsplash. While stock photos might seem superfluous when you’ve got a staff full of photographers, they could end up being an incredible source of inspiration for the budding photographers on your staff.
- Visme. When a spread in your yearbook needs a little extra panache, data visualizations—like infographics and polling charts—can be the perfect thing to turn to. Unfortunately, they can be easy to dream up, yet hard to execute. Enter Visme. This web application allows users to create really nice infographics in minutes, with no explicit design or coding skills needed. The next time a member of your staff wants to incorporate survey data in your yearbook in a unique way, Visme should be your go-to solution.
- Pinterest. Pinterest isn’t just for discovering gluttonous recipes and craft projects: it can be an incredible source of yearbook design inspiration. Have your designers login and check out the hundreds of spreads and themes. Don’t be afraid to share the wealth; upload your own yearbook designs to help other schools out.
Yearbook Marketing Tools
- Social Media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat. Your students—and their parents—use them all. While it’s easy to throw up a post that says, “Buy your yearbook today,” only doing that would be missing the point. You can easily collect photos from students, run contests and polls, and have your yearbook staff show some of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating a yearbook. You’ll create buzz and get buy-in.
- Mailchimp. Email is a great way to keep in touch with your staff, but it’s also a great way to share updates about your book with the school community, let them know of special pricing, and ask them for help with photos and event coverage. Mailchimp is about the easiest way to manage all of that … and it’s free for lists up to 2,000 email addresses.
- Flyers. While the digital tools mentioned above can be fun, nothing beats the effectiveness of the backpack express—especially at the elementary and middle school levels. Make sure you’re using flyers to reach parents who tune out email updates and don’t follow you on social media.
Yearbook Tools for Class Communication
- Remind. Communicating with your staff is the key to creating a great yearbook. But communicating with students via phone or text can be messy for a teacher. And email? Let’s face it, students would much prefer a text. So, do yourself a favor: implement Remind. It’s widely used in classrooms around the country to facilitate communication among students and teachers—without revealing phone numbers. Better yet, Remind is focused on schools, and it’s free for teachers to download and use.
- Hootsuite. Remember all of those social media platforms we recommended above? Well reminding your staff to share alerts and updates for important events on all of them, every time, can be a pain. Luckily, some smart people created Hootsuite. The app allows you to pre-schedule social media posts days, weeks, even months in advance. While snapping or live-tweeting a major event is still important, supplementing these bursts with key updates is helpful for staff and other students alike. You can connect up to three accounts for free.
- Google Forms. Whether you’re looking to crowdsource the inclusion of a yearbook component among members of your staff or poll your student body for answers to an important question (you know, like favorite pizza topping or member of One Direction), you’re going to need a survey tool. Google forms is that tool. It’s super easy to create and share surveys quickly.
- Jing. Students are bogged down with written feedback in every aspect of their academic lives. Why not provide helpful suggestions to your staff a bit differently. Jing is a free screencasting app. It allows you to record a video of your computer screen as you speak into a microphone for up to five minutes; when you’re finished, simply send the link to the appropriate student and let them listen to your suggestions before taking action.
Yearbook Organizational Tools
- Trello. Organization is a necessary component of success. Yearbooks have so many moving parts that it can be difficult to remember who’s responsible for what and when it needs to be completed by. While you might have been relying on your trusty planner for years, it might be a little bit difficult for your entire yearbook staff to take that home with them. This is why we recommend using Trello. It’s incredibly easy to get off the ground; the app offers a ton of pre-made boards for various types of projects (the editorial calendars are particularly useful), and you can find useful guides on how to maximize its many features all over the internet.
- Dropbox. You need somewhere to store all of those incredible photographs your staff’s taking, right? Check out Dropbox. It allows you to store and manage files of any type. Whether you’re sharing word documents and mockups for feedback or simply organizing your mountain of photographs, it’s an essential tool for today’s yearbook staffs.
Yearbook Writing Tools
- Hemingway. The best word to to describe Hemingway is “cool.” That’s the word-nerd in us talking. Hemingway helps writers identify overly complex sentences, comma splices, and other common errors in their copy. Suggest your staff writers check it out, and watch it help them improve their writing as the year progresses.
- Grammarly. In a similar vein as Hemingway, Grammarly is a real-time text editing plugin for browser-based word processors (like Google Docs). Think of it as those red squiggly lines you know and love from MS Word on steroids. If you operate with a small staff, Grammarly can save your editors a ton of time they’d have spent looking for syntactical errors, allowing them to focus on the quality of the ideas present in every piece of writing.
- Google Docs. Google Docs can completely replace Microsoft Word as your staff (or school’s) go-to word processor. Not only does it afford writers the ability to do nearly everything. Students can collaborate in real-time, making every aspect of yearbook writing—from brainstorming to copy editing—a frictionless process.
- Power Thesaurus. English teachers have extolled the virtues of thesauruses since the dawn of synonyms. Why not encourage your writers to expand their linguistic horizons as well? While your library or classroom might be well-stocked with thesauruses, Power Thesaurus is a little bit different. It allows your yearbook writing staff to view synonyms based on popularity and proximity to the word searched for. While it’s easy for students to fall in love with this tool, make sure they don’t go overboard with the archaic and multisyllabic alternatives to simple words that work just fine.
Well, there you have it: Yearbook tools don’t have to cost you and your staff money, even if you’re looking for some powerful features. These tools can help you make a better-looking yearbook, sell more copies, and improve your collaboration. Not bad, huh?
(Of course, you can find a whole bunch of these yearbook tools in TreeRing’s software, which—you guessed it—is free.)