Free for All: Something for Everyone

Photoshop Brushes
Until starting this column, I didn’t realize how many free sets of Photoshop brushes are out there, nor how varied they are in content. And no matter how often I include free Photoshop brushes amidst the other freebies, you always ask for more — which I’m happy to provide!

Here’s the latest offering:

15 Moldy Paper Brushes:

21 Thick, Curly Smoke Brushes:

40 Streaks of Light:

6 Marks and Scratches:

Stained Paper Textures
Caleb Kimbrough photographed, digitized, and cleaned up 18 fantastically detailed textures of stained brown paper. He then released them for free use in personal and commercial projects, with no attribution required. Download them in a single Zip archive.

Build a Word Cloud from Your InDesign Document
Ever seen a word cloud on a blog? Sure you have, though you may not know what it was called. It’s a seemingly random arrangement of words, often displayed in a blog’s sidebar, that are actually keywords or taxonomy tags used throughout the site. The words are often in several different sizes that correspond to frequency: The larger a word relative to the other words, the more often it’s used throughout the site. On a scale from 8pts to 32pts, for example, a word cloud with “InDesign” in 32 pt type and “InCopy” in 8pts indicates that the former word is among the most used words on the site, while the latter is one of the least used. At a glance, word clouds give you a feel for a Web site’s subject matter.

Wordalizer, a free script from, brings word clouds to InDesign. Running the script examines the textual content of your document, evaluates how often each word is used, and builds a weighted, visually interesting word cloud from your keywords. Wordalizer’s numerous options — including the maximum size of the most frequently used keyword, the amount of variation between horizontal and vertical word fitting, and preset cloud “themes” — affords you quite a bit of control over the resulting word cloud. You won’t use this script on every document, but its effect could prove quite useful in differentiating your longer document design from others’.

Bookkeeping and Tax Estimation
If you freelance, you have to keep good books. You need to track your income and expenses; produce reports; and prepare for quarterly taxes every three months and end-of-year taxes by March 15th (in the United States, at least). Having an accountant helps, but a lot of the work still falls on your shoulders.

Let Outright carry some of your load. It tracks your income and expense, profit and loss, by automatically pulling in income and expenditures from your credit cards, PayPal, and eBay as well through direct integration with the Freshbooks invoicing system, Shoeboxed receipts manager, and the mobile expense log Xpenser. Outright keeps on top of all this data so that you have instant access to accurate P&L reports, estimated taxes, and even your contractors’ W-9s and 1099s.

You can give your accountant or bookkeeper direct access to your Outright account, eliminating the need to manually e-mail or mail your financials.

Turn Any Web Site or Online App into a Standalone Application
Many people keep Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Web mail, and other Web sites open constantly while, in other browser tabs, they access bank sites, corporate intranets, online invoicing, and to-do list apps, and check out interesting links tweeted by their pals.

This leads to a couple of problems. First, it can be hard to find the tab you want when you want it. And second, the browser is an environment and user interface built to facilitate reading, not working with an application. Sometimes a standalone desktop application would offer a better experience, yet lots of Web applications aren’t available in desktop versions.

But here’s the good news. Using the free Mozilla Prism you can turn any Web page into a standalone application that runs completely independently of a browser. Provide Prism with a URL and, optionally, an icon file, and it will create a standalone application from the site or service whose URL you specify. Under the hood a Prism application is really just a standalone browser window, it won’t look like a browser; you won’t see an address bar or toolbars; in fact, you’ll see none of the usual hallmarks of a Web browser experience — just the page or Web application in its own, self-contained window that can be run and used independently of your Web browser.

Google Gears does effectively the same thing as Mozilla Prism, except it uses the Google Chrome browser engine. (Prism uses Firefox.) Gears is Windows-only, however, while Prism is cross-platform. I prefer the more mature, community-developed Prism on both Mac and Windows.

What can I find free for you? Want more free fonts? More Photoshop brushes? How about more online applications that do this or that for free? Tell me in the comments what you’d like to see in future installments of Free for All, and I’ll do my best bloodhound impression to track it down for you.

Please note: Free for All will often link to resources hosted on external Web sites outside of the control of At any time those Web sites may close down, change their site or permalink structures, remove content, or take other actions that may render one or more of the above links invalid. As such neither Pariah S. Burke nor can guarantee the availability of the third-party resources linked to in Free for All.

Posted on: January 20, 2010

3 Comments on Free for All: Something for Everyone

  1. Some great freebies this week. Things I never even knew I needed (ie. Mozilla Prizm), but now I do. Thanks!

  2. My pleasure! I’m glad they’re useful to you. Prism was a surprise to me when I first found it, but I love it and can’t live without it now. 🙂

  3. Great collection, thanks so much.

    -Steve Dolan
    New Media Designer

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