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5 (Free) Programs for the College Lifestyle


Spend a lot of time (probably too much) on your computer? Find yourself consistently jumping at an opportunity whenever someone says that something is “free”? Then check out these five free programs that will take care of your healthy-living, document-citing, photo-editing, music-listening, and video-watching needs, as well as make the countless hours you spend on your computer more enjoyable. Also, being naturally tech-savvy shouldn’t be a prerequisite to adapting to the college lifestyle. These programs are among the most popular in their individual categories, so there is an abundance of helpful tutorials online to help you get to know them. I’ve included one video per program to get you started!


1. f.lux

I have used f.lux consistently for over three years. If you spend over four hours a day staring at a computer screen, it’s essential. The program warms the tone of your display, kind of like wearing sunglasses on a sunny afternoon. You can adjust the warmth whenever you want, or set f.lux to automatically adjust based on your location’s daylight range (warmer before sunrise and after sunset), which softens the standard harsh blue glow of your screen.

Download f.lux here.


2. Zotero

Zotero is commonly ranked as the best free citation software. You can download it for your computer and/or for Firefox, Safari, and Chrome. Zotero makes it easy to collaborate with others on papers, organize research and citations, and work between computers. You’ll never need EasyBib again!

Download Zotero here.



GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) is a free photo editing program with nearly all the same abilities as Photoshop. I used GIMP for years before I began using Photoshop, and as I’m familiar with both programs, I would recommend GIMP over Photoshop for users who don’t need the Creative Cloud package and who don’t need more advanced functionalities like .gif creation or plug-ins. GIMP’s interface is a bit klunky, but worth learning; once you’re familiar with GIMP, Photoshop is easy to pick up.

Download GIMP here.


4. Spotify

Out of this list, Spotify is probably the most widely known program among college students. With Spotify, you can stream nearly every artist, make playlists, and listen to themed radio stations. If you already have the program, here are some tips you might not know: you can import your iTunes library to Spotify, send music to your friends, and often find playlists with music compilations from your favorite shows. Also, at the end of the year, you can see what songs, albums, artists, and genres you listened to, as well as how many minutes you spent listening total (Go to 2015’s Year in Music here).

Download Spotify here.


5. VLC Media Player

If you download a lot of video content, VLC is a must-have. It can play any video file, such as .avi and .rar files, unlike Quicktime or other programs. VLC also saves your spot in files you’ve viewed so you can quit the program, then open it later and resume. Other unique features include the ability to adjust playback speed and adjust subtitle size and color.

Download VLC Media Player here.


Each of these programs will make your next semester more manageable, whether your eyes need a break or you want to speed up the bibliography process. If you want more ways to get the most out of your device, check out Life’s a Game: 3 Fun Apps to Improve Your Life.

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Casey Linenberg

Mt Holyoke '19

Hi! I'm co-Campus Correspondent for Mount Holyoke's chapter of Her Campus. In addition to HC, I study English and am a member of our campus newspaper.
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