The Best Free Apps From Adobe

Adobe used to be best known as the company that sells a $700 dollar photo editor that’s all but ubiquitous in the design world. Now, it wants to be known as the company you pay $50/month to, for its whole suite of apps. Adobe’s rethinking their entire business in terms of a one-size-fits-all Creative Cloud subscriptions, which is either great news for you price-wise (if you upgrade every time and own one of the pricer Creative Suites), or terrible news (if you only own an individual Adobe app or don’t purchase upgrades that often).

Now, there are great new features coming to all of the Adobe apps we love in upcoming Creative Cloud releases, but lost in the limelight at Adobe MAX and the discussion about the switch to Creative Cloud is the great free stuff that Adobe offers. They’ve dropped a few things over the years — like the beautiful online office suite they used to have at – but they’ve added enough stuff that Adobe still has quite the nice set of free offerings.

There’s Mac apps, fonts, and web tools here: enough for everyone, even those who swore off Creative Suite years ago. So here’s the best stuff you can get 100% for free from Adobe, today.

Adobe Brackets

A really nice free code editor.

Want a beautifully designed code editor or plain-text writing app? Adobe’s got you covered with their rather awesome Brackets app. It’s an opensource project itself, designed to let you code for the web with an app that’s itself built with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Brackets will let you code your whole project and live-preview it in Chrome. It has code completion, built-in extension support that lets you install extensions directly from Github, view quick CSS documentation in-app, preview colors from your code, and more. It’s still in development, but you can download milestone builds and get started with it today. And it’s easily one of the best offerings in this list.

A nice extra: it works great with Markdown formatting, and I’ve used Brackets to write this article in Markdown, complete with Markdown preview from one of the many extensions.

There’s one extra thing to note: Adobe also has the Edge Code app, which is based on Brackets, and it also currently free along with the rest of the Edge tools. It’ll be interesting to see if they merge the two, or how the future of Brackets and Edge Code progresses.

Adobe Revel

Picture syncing with a side of editing thrown in.

The only free app from Adobe in the Mac App Store, Adobe Revel lets you organize and backup all of your photos, share them in private albums, show them off in high-quality online slideshows, and even make (very basic) edits to your photos. It’s not Lightroom — not even close — but more like an online synced iPhoto. And it has one nice touch: you can have it not keep all of your originals on your device, letting you use cloud storage to actually free up local storage (unlike Dropbox and iCloud, which take up equal amounts of storage on device and in the cloud).

Free for unlimited photo uploads for the first 30 days, then you’ll only get 50 photo uploads per month after that unless you pay $5.99/month for unlimited photo sharing.

Story Free

Every great story begins with text.

Ever dreamed of writing the next Academy Award winning screenplay? Adobe has a free Flash-powered web app that might be just what you need to get started. In an interface that looks strikingly like Adobe’s desktop apps, Story Free lets you import from Word and Final Draft, write up your screenplay with industry-standard formatting, and integrate with Premiere Pro to quickly find shots and more. It even has automatic versioning and previous version comparison.

It’s fully free, though there is also a Pro version that is included with Creative Cloud or available individually for $9.99/month. It adds team sharing features and automatic scheduling, as well as offline support. But the free version is rather impressive on its own.


It’s native, but not.

Are you a web developer that’d like to build native apps for iOS and Android? Then PhoneGap is what you need. It’s a free framework to let you build native apps for a wide variety of mobile platforms, using HTML, CSS, and Javascript. It’s already been used by the BBC and others for their native apps, and while it’s not going to give your apps the most native feel, it’s a great way to target multiple platforms at once.

There’s more for free. You can also use a free Creative Cloud account to get one app complied into native apps for all supported platforms, online, using PhoneGap Build for free. That way, you don’t have to maintain the SDKs locally, and can focus on your web code in your app – perhaps the code you’re writing using Brackets.

Typekit Trial and Edge Web Fonts

Fonts. And more fonts.

Want nice fonts on your site, for free? Adobe’s got two options for you. First, you can use Typekit’s trial account if your site gets 25,000 or fewer pageviews per month, or you can use Adobe’s Edge web fonts for free for any site if you’re content to stick with Adobe’s own catalog of 500+ fonts. It’s curious that they have the two services, but hey, the more the merrier.

If you want more beautiful fonts for your day-to-day use, Adobe has two free ones for you as well: the beautiful sans-serif font Source Sans Pro, and the monospaced Source Code Pro. They’re my personal favorite for writing and coding, respectively.


Ohh, pretty colors…

A beautiful way to make and share color palettes sound nice? Good. That’s exactly what this nicely designed web app from Adobe does. Design your own palettes online, or make them from photos with the iPhone app, and either download them to use on your own or sync them with Illustrator CC (which, of course, isn’t free).

The Edge Tools

Pro web dev tools, for free

We mentioned Edge Code above, but that’s not all Adobe has to offer for free today for web coders. There’s also Edge Animate to code interactive, animated HTML and CSS, Edge Reflow to help you design for the responsive web and make sure everything looks great on all screen sizes, and Edge Inspect to preview your site in all sizes and inspect on your mobile devices.

All high quality, and all free — at least right now. It’s like Adobe’s reinventing what Dreamweaver should be in 2013, building it in small apps that work together with Adobe’s creative apps like Photoshop and services like Typekit, and giving it all away for free. Because that’s rather precisely what they’re doing. ‘Tis cool for web designers.

Creative Cloud

Image storage and sync, for free

Did we say Creative Cloud cost? Our bad. Adobe actually has a free Creative Cloud account available as well, which gets you 2Gb of storage for free, as well as access to all of Adobe’s free apps and 30 day trials of the rest of the CC apps. You can sync the files to your Mac or PC, share them with others, and organize them or add more files in your browser.

It’s not Photoshop for free, but hey, it’s something at least.

Photoshop Express Editor

Photoshop, or at least its core, in your browser

We did it again: turns out, there is Photoshop for free … if you squint. Adobe has a very basic photo editor online that lets you do a ton of simple touchups to pictures. You can crop, touch-up, adjust brightness, sharpen, add text and effects, and more. It’s far from full Photoshop, but it could give Aviary a run for its money in online quick photo editing.

And That’s All…

So there: over a dozen apps from Adobe that’ll 100% free. You could throw in Adobe Reader and Flash Player if you want, but I prefer using Preview for PDFs, and even Adobe’s starting to move away from Flash (hello, Edge tools!).

If you want some new Adobe goodies to play with without signing up for a Creative Cloud subscription, here’s you some apps to try out. And really, if you do any web design, give the Edge tools a shot. They’re rather cool.