84 of the Most Useful and Unique Tools for Journalists and Bloggers
Writing a story is tough, and there are multiple moving pieces in each post or article that journalists and bloggers need to consider before publishing.
When it comes to apps and sites, who doesn’t love one that will actually make the day-to-day easier?
Whether you’re in search of a tool to help with brainstorming, research, writing, multimedia/visuals creation, social media, or analytics/monitoring, we’ve found an app or site for that.
Have a tool you think should be included? We’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment or tweet us at @BeyondBylines.
Account Analysis looks at all of a Twitter user’s public tweets and provides an analysis through easy-to-grasp visualizations. It’s helpful for anyone trying to learn more about another user, whether you want to make sure someone is legit before you embed a tweet in a story, fact-check a bold claim, or attempt to identify if a user is a bot or not.
Answering a question for searchers is key to getting your content to show up in search results. But how to do you know what the question is? With Answer the Public, you can plug in a keyword and the tool will give you the most popular Google and Bing searches related to that term. Free and paid options are available depending on your needs.
Can’t keep up with the AP changes between edition prints? This tool provides automatic AP style checking and makes sure your writing is consistent. Make sure to also check out our quarterly AP Style posts.
Many people want location-based information and ArcGIS offers a number of ways to create shareable maps. The Living Atlas also offers a large amount of demographic data, images, and maps to help you find content for your project.
Need a soundbite for your story? Audioburst is a vast library of live and prerecorded audio content from radio stations and podcasts. You also can create a customized stream based on interests and trending topics.
This site calls itself “the perfect toolkit for every journalist.” Authory allows you to permanently back-up any articles you write, regardless of where they originally were published, monitor their performance on social media, and also set up a newsletter for your readers.
This writing app for Mac and iOS is known for its speed and ease of use. Features include an Advanced Markup Editor and the ability to export in multiple formats including HTML, PDF, DOCX, MD, JPG, and more.
BIGVU is a popular video creation tool for iOS and Android devices. With the app, you can use your phone as a teleprompter, replace green screen backgrounds, and create video sequences from social media posts.
This site collects and makes available public safety and other audio streams from across the country. Even better, with a small annual subscription, it gives users access to archived streams up to 180 days old.
If you have a topic in mind but are having trouble coming up with a headline, BuzzSumo can show you what headlines are performing best for that topic. You also can provide the URL for a competitor and see what headlines are working best for them. After a seven-day free trial, you can choose between a number of tiered paid plans.
In our opinion, Canva is one of the best graphic design apps available. Whether you need to create an infographic, a social media post, or an email banner, Canva has you covered and then some. Available on desktops and mobile, Canva has a “freemium” model: most of the graphics are free and others are available for a small fee (usually $1). The tool is great for design newbies, pros, and anyone in between.
This is a to-do list app with personality for iOS devices. If you need a little humor to keep you on task, CARROT makes getting things done fun and addictive.
Clockwise is a free (for now) Chrome extension that helps you optimize your calendar to get more “Focus Time.” By selecting flexible meetings, the app will adjust your calendar and those of your teammates to help maximize productivity and prevent multiple interruptions throughout the day. It also syncs with Slack to update your status or set Do Not Disturb while you’re in a meeting — one less button to click.
Convert anything to anything in the cloud with this tool. CloudConvert supports more than 200 formats, including PDF, audio, vector, presentation, and website. Free and pay-as-you-go packages are available.
This content discovery and social monitoring platform lets writers view the performance of their social profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit. Cross-platform reports also are available to give a comprehensive look at your total social performance. Access to historical data also makes it possible to determine long-term trends.
By monitoring Parse.ly’s network of thousands of high-traffic, premium content sites, Currents allows publishers to gain insights into what topics are performing best and the keywords audiences are using to find articles that they read. This measurement of attention, not just shares and searches, is key to helping journalists understand the attention habits of their readers.
Need to engage with readers right from the site? Dexter is a chat bot building tool with a simple interface that allows you to write the dialogue in a text editor. It works with Facebook Messenger, Slack, Twilio SMS, Twitter, and more. It also has a phone built into the console, so you can test how the dialogue will look on a screen.
DocumentCloud is a nonprofit committed to improving trust and transparency in journalism. The platform helps journalists share, analyze, annotate, and, ultimately, publish source documents to the open web.
Having trouble accessing a website for story material? This tool is a quick, easy way to find out if you’re the only one having issues.
Echosec uses geofencing technology to provide location-based social media data from more than nine social networks. Journalists can use the tool to get a picture of events as they unfold in real time. The base tool provides Twitter data, while the premium version includes other platforms like Instagram and YouTube.
The free note-taking app has a number of helpful features for writers. Users can make lists, set reminders, add attachments to existing notes, record audio, mark up documents, and share notes. Upgrading to paid plans gives users access to AI-suggested content, integrations with Google Drive, Slack, and Outlook, and team collaboration tools.
Exposure is a platform for hosting video and photo websites. Users can upload an unlimited number of assets, create their own domain name, and create mailing lists. Stories, and even a user’s full site, are embeddable.
Searching for brand logos online can be difficult when the results are low-resolution or out-of-date. Findguidelin.es is an easy way to quickly find web guidelines from the most popular brands, including social media sites. It’s also a collaborative site, allowing you to add your own assets.
Flourish is a data visualization tool that allows journalists to convert data into charts, maps, and more, no coding experience needed. Striking, mobile-friendly visuals can be created in a matter of minutes to help engage your audience. Flourish also offers free accounts to newsrooms that qualify.
This free tool offers journalists a way to file a public records request with all the necessary legal boilerplate details. You also can track the progress of your request or share the request with other users.
Part of the Free Speech Project, this tracker offers a compilation of instances of the First Amendment being exercised, debated, or tested. It’s free-of-charge to the public, updated regularly, and is neutral and nonpartisan.
Gather allows engaged journalists to connect, collaborate, and learn with their peers. The platform brings journalists, tech specialists, artists, researchers, and professors together with a mission to improve the future of journalism. Whether you need help with a project or have lessons to share with the community, Gather is a great way to bring yourself out of isolation and work together.
Use this Google tool to locate datasets from thousands of repositories on the web through simple keyword searches or searching specific websites. To make it even more convenient, results also display datasets’ publication dates, sources, authors, and descriptions.
Use Google Earth imagery to create visually stunning geospatial videos or stills with this animation tool. Need to zoom in on a city map to show readers where a crime took place or the upcoming parade route? What about an aerial look at travel hot spots in your town? The tool is available in Chrome and is free for news, research, and education use.
Upload an image and the search engine will give you any page with a similar image. The tool is useful for verifying the source of images, screenshots, or memes for a story.
Using natural language and writing readable content is important to making sure your story appeals to a broad audience. Hemingway helps you recognize common errors and lengthy or tough-to-understand sentences in your writing. In addition to helping you strengthen your writing, it also provides estimated reading time, a nice feature. The online app is free and a paid desktop version also is available.
Copyblogger created this eBook with steps to convert a website browser into a reader with effective headline writing. Headlines are the most valuable real estate in a story and it’s critical that you know how to write attractive ones to draw readers in.
This internet scraping tool is useful for journalists looking for data to build a story. With Import.io, writers can pull data from multiple sources, like the US Census Bureau, World Health Organization, and CIA World Factbook.
Including an infographic with your story is a great way to increase engagement among readers. This is an easy-to-use tool for creating infographics and other data visualizations like charts, maps, and reports that present your data in a compelling format. Extra features like analytics, images, and templates are available with paid packages.
InterviewJS is a free tool that turns “interviews into shareable and embeddable interactive chats.” Messenger bubbles, videos, and sound can be included before publishing the interview, which are mobile-friendly and shareable.
Before & After comparisons can be a powerful way to show the impact of single events, like a natural disaster, or slow changes over time. One of many useful tools from Knight Lab, JuxtaposeJS is free and user-friendly — all you need are the two images for comparison and you’re set.
Author Frank Smyth is a senior adviser for journalist security with the Committee to Protect Journalists. With many journalists working in dangerous situations to report on street crime, armed conflicts, or sensitive political stories, CPJ wants to make sure writers are informed, prepared, and know how to take care of themselves and others. The document covers basics like how to obtain credentials and lodging, as well as information on planning exit routes, building a network of contacts, and using encryption tools for your data.
KoBoToolbox is a free and open source tool for field data collection in challenging environments, like humanitarian crises or natural disasters. Developed by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, journalists can create and share survey forms to collect data, and perform analyses and mapping. The site allows you to archive questions for future use, and no internet connection is needed to collect data – it’s stored offline and will sync when you’re back online.
Between email, social media platforms, content management systems, and everything else, writers need to remember a lot of passwords. LastPass can help you create strong passwords and will remember all the ones you need. LastPass can help you securely share a password with teammates. Users can choose from multiple plans, including a free personal option and a team plan for $4/month. The organization and security this tool provides can easily justify the paid plans.
Lingofy is a virtual proofreader that ensures your content is accurate, error-free and consistent with your brand and voice. There are multiple style guides and dictionaries available to make sure your writing is consistent and you can use it directly from your favorite text editor like WordPress, Office, and others.
Little Sis, the “opposite of big brother,” is a free-to-use database that shows connections between powerful individuals and organizations. The site organizes data about these relationships to provide transparency for journalists, watchdogs, and grassroots activists.
Listly makes organizing articles and reports for your research easy. Lists can be shared with collaborators, customized, and embedded on a project website. A WordPress plugin is helpful for bloggers by allowing readers to contribute and making it easy to update lists to keep content fresh.
Use Lumen5 to turn your blog posts into high quality videos you can share on social media. The tool’s AI will read your text and help summarize your content and pair it with relevant images and videos. Lumen5 is perfect for creating social-friendly videos to promote your blog post or article. It gives you access to a library of videos and images to utilize. Pricing starts at $19/month.
Mailvelop is a free, open source software that makes email encryption convenient for journalists. Journalists needing to protect confidential sources or working on high-risk stories, for example, should be using encryption services to secure their professional and even personal communications. Mailvelop works with almost any webmail provider (Gmail, Outlook, etc.).
Designed to increase the transparency of local justice systems, Measures for Justice is a data portal with county-by-county criminal justice data for six states — Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. The living website plans to recollect data every two years to show trends and has a goal to measure 20 states by 2020.
This online whiteboard is a great tool for journalists who are collaborating with one or more team members working remotely. Users can provide instant feedback to avoid emailing back and forth, or vote for favorite ideas to make decisions faster. Digital sticky notes and flowcharts are available, as well as a number of plug-ins that allow you to work with your favorite apps and tools within the platform.
As vertical storytelling becomes a must-have skill for reaching younger audiences, having an app to help you with it is a necessity. Mojo is a “freemium” iOS app that provides users with 100+ templates that are completely editable. Upgrading to the Pro option gets you access to more templates, text styles, and format options like Square and Landscape. “Swipe Up” icons also are available to link to external content.
The MuckRock Slack channel is a free discussion forum for constructive dialogue on both the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as well as state public records laws. Regularly scheduled chats also are available that discuss current issues with public records. The community is made up of journalists, scholars, lawyers, activists, and others with a common goal of a more transparent government.
In June, ProPublica updated the Nonprofit Explorer to allow journalists and researchers to search the full text of nearly 3 million digital nonprofit tax filings to the IRS. Dating back to 2011, the new features allow users to go deeper into the filings and search for keywords or phrases that appear anywhere in the document. According to ProPublica, “The possibilities are nearly limitless.”
This app is used by journalists to cut through the noise on social media to find trending news in their industries. The news monitoring and research tool is available for iOS and Android devices.
Optimizely is an experimentation platform. It’s useful for journalists who want to test the performance of a headline before it’s published. Testing can be done on a headline for specific metrics, such as click-through rates, conversions, social media shares, or engagement. There’s also A/B testing to compare multiple headlines.
Overview is an open source data mining tool that was built for investigative journalists. It can process about 100 documents per minute and offers full-text search, visualizations like word clouds, and also can auto-sort documents by topic and subject.
Journalists use OpenSpending to investigate public financial data. Data includes budgets, spending, and balance sheets. The open community format allows any individual or organization – non-profit and for-profit – to contribute information.
Transcribing audio can be a rough process. This online transcription tool makes the tedious task easier – it can export to multiple platforms, supports video files, and allows you to transcribe without taking your hands off the keyboard.
Over the years, blog comment sections have seen increasing amounts of spam and negative comments that can distract from the conversation. The Perspective API “uses machine learning models to score the perceived impact a comment might have on a conversation.” Tools are available to help readers find relevant information within the comments section and get real-time feedback as they craft their comments. The Tune Chrome extension helps moderate comments on YouTube, Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter.
This highly-rated video editing app (for iOS and Android) makes it easy to combine images and video to display in a panel format. Videos can be up to 30 minutes long and are highly customizable with features like music, voice over, transitions, text, and watermarks.
This is the world’s largest people search engine. Journalists only need one piece of data, like an email address, to verify information about a person, like their name, work history, and social profiles. It can help you gain insights and usable information on your contacts.
Not just for online quizzes, Playbuzz also offers an intuitive video creator tool. There’s also a large video clip library available to creators, a result of Playbuzz’s deal with Getty.
Pocket is a reading list creation tool available on iOS and Android devices. Too busy to read that article right now? Save it to your reading list, which allows you to even read it offline later. Upload any webpage from your phone right into the app. Users also have the option to play saved articles in an audio format, highlight key details, and link the app to their Twitter account. The base app is free with paid options available for extra features.
Once you sign up for your free account, you will be able to create a custom newsfeed to help you cut through the clutter and receive the news that’s most relevant to you, on the schedule that works best for your workflow. Filter news releases by industry, subject, company, multimedia, and more. Users also have access to ProfNet, a database of industry experts available as sources for your story.
Quackbot was created by DocumentCloud and Quartz to make journalists’ lives easier. Once it’s added in Slack, the open-source software can take screenshots, archive websites, or select reliable data sources.
Find and share stunning charts for your story using Atlas. Registered users also can create their own charts. You can browse a huge selection of visuals related to tech, finance, economics, and more.
Representation Matters is a new stock image library focused on providing diverse and inclusive images. Images are royalty-free and the website offers free and paid subscriptions. The free option provides users with three free images per month, available for commercial use. Browse image collections of body positivity, disability, LGBT, POC, and more.
Roundme makes it easy to create 360-degree panoramas or virtual tours. A great option for travel writing, these also can be useful when a simple photo just doesn’t cut it and you want the reader to feel like they’re in the photographer’s shoes.
Search TV for story ideas, share them with your team, or get a clip or GIF from TV to social in seconds. Called the “DVR for Business” SnapStream allows you to record TV (up to 100 channels at once), use closed captioning to search TV in real time, and create and share TV clips.
Instead of making readers choose between reading and listening, use Soundcite to add inline sound bites. Choose a word or phrase to link to the audio, and it will play right from the text when clicked on. The site offers a few ideas like music, spoken word, and natural sound, but the options seem endless with this tool.
Sqoop saves journalists time by offering one place to search for company news about SEC filings, patents, court dockets, releases from the DOJ, and more. Sign-up is free for journalists, and there’s also an option to set up email alerts for news that matches your needs.
Build an interactive line chart with StoryLine that will work on any site or blog. The simple 3-step process creates a simple yet effective visualization of your data.
Like the name suggests, this tool is a way to use a map to tell your story. You also can use large images like works of art and create slides to move your reader through the story. For a fun example, take a look at Game of Thrones: Arya’s Journey.
Use Sutori to create a unique visual timeline for your story. The Essential plan is free for journalists, with additional features like audio, video, and more customization available with the paid options.
Create visual content like newsletters and reports that don’t look like everyone else’s. No design know-how is needed, just add your text and images, Sway will do the rest. It’s free for anyone with a Microsoft account (Hotmail, Live, or Outlook.com).
Need to record an upcoming phone interview, or a call you’re already on? This app, available in the App Store, lets you record, download, and share it easily.
This app allows you to “unroll” Twitter threads and convert them into an easy-to-read blog format. The process is as easy as replying to the thread you want to unroll, mentioning @threadreaderapp, and asking them to unroll. You’ll get a notification once it’s done and can easily share the new version. It’s a great way to cut out the noise from a longer thread.
This free tool pulls data from a Google spreadsheet and media from a number of social networks and websites to create interactive timelines to tell a story. Those with some technical knowledge can further customize the basic timelines.
Do you suffer from too many tabs in your browser? Toby is a Chrome extension that helps you organize bookmarks to “bring context to your workflow.” Bookmarks can be organized by project, team, or topic, for example. The tool also makes it easy to onboard new employees or team members by inviting them to the relevant project.
This is a useful tool to find out if a site is malicious, using phishing tactics, or possibly impersonating another brand.
Ideally, you would never publish a story without a visual element. Photos, videos, and other multimedia are ways to bring attention to the content and promote social sharing. If you’re in need of a quality photo for your story, Unsplash boasts a library of over half a million high-quality free images that can be used without attribution.
Veracio is a user-friendly survey creation tool that also weighs results with census data to give you an idea if your results accurately reflect your community. This means inaccuracies are minimized. The service is free, you can make as many surveys as you want, and surveys are embeddable.
This URL monitoring tool crawls websites of your choosing and, based on filters you create, extracts core content changes and includes these in daily/weekly emails and side-by-side text comparisons. It’s particularly useful for monitoring updates on government and political sites.
A data visualization tool built in part for investigative journalists, VIS converts complex data into simple visual representations. VIS wants to help the public understand “corruption, organized crime and other wrongdoings” quickly and easily. Projects can be exported for online, print, or broadcast media.
Wavve makes it simple to share audio clips on social media channels. Create a custom video with your branding and design. HD templates also are available in the sizes most suitable for each social network.
When coming up with your next story, it’s important to keep ideas organized. XMind is a brainstorming tool that helps you make creative mind maps that can aide in efficiency, creativity, and collaborations.
All you need is a YouTube URL for this tool to pull any hidden data from the hosted video. Amnesty International created the tool to help verify newsworthy user-generated videos. Data includes the upload time and all thumbnails associated with the video, which are crucial details needed to verify the video.
If you need a place to store, organize, and share your research for an upcoming story, Zotero is a free tool built for that exact purpose. The software can sense when you’re viewing research materials on the web and can automatically save it for reference. Co-writing and bibliography creation features also are available.
This is an updated version of our 2018 list of tools and apps.
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Rocky Parker works in Audience Relations at PR Newswire. Check out her previous posts for Beyond Bylines and connect on LinkedIn. When she’s not working, Rocky typically can be found cooking, binge watching a new show, or playing with her puppy, Hudson.