Boost your productivity: 9 amazing web apps you can use for free in your browser

Installing software’s so 2005. These days, you can do almost everything online

That amazing future, where you don’t have to bother installing software, because everything’s on the internet? Already here. But you probably knew that anyway, through using Google Maps and Google Docs, and Google Everything Else.

What you might not know is the sheer range of things you can do in a browser, and how brilliant many web apps have become. Stuff set two rules for inclusion in this list: the apps have to be properly good; and absolutely no Flash (because Adobe says it’s soon going to live on a farm).

Canva – design guru

Actual designers will balk at Canva's suggestion that anyone can “easily create beautiful designs”; a graphic designer armed with InDesign will almost certainly still end up with more polished results. But it does open up a certain kind of design to the masses.

Want to knock up a quick poster? There are dozens of templates, which can be tweaked. Fancy something more custom? Grab a blank grid and add your own text, shapes and images. Whatever you make can be exported as PDF or JPEG, and although some bits and bobs lurk behind a paywall, most of Canva’s features are entirely free.

Try Canva (from free)

Instapaper – web PVR

A read-it-later web app might seem an odd inclusion in this list. After all, much of the power of Instapaper is in enabling you to fling web-page content at its mobile apps, for later perusal on the train.

However, if you’re the kind of person who accumulates tabs during the day, sending interesting articles to Instapaper is a smart move. And given that the web version gives you a very readable and configurable reading experience, it’s a good way to take in content from your favourite sites at leisure.

Try Instapaper (free)

Lingvist – language tutor

This one’s all about forcing as many words into your brain as possible within the tiniest amount of time. Mostly, this occurs through flash cards, into which you type a missing word. At any point, you can tap the right cursor key to preview a word, without penalty.

The app keeps track of your progress, drumming tricky words into your head until they stick. Smartly, key concepts are brought up in context, and before long you’ll be yelling hablo español fluidamente out of the window, until your neighbours demand you stop.

Try Lingvist (free)

Marina Timer – time optimiser

The idea behind the Pomodoro Technique is to transform the working day into shortish sprints, followed by tiny breaks. The thinking is you can optimally focus on a task for about 25 minutes, after which point your brain goes a bit dolally.

This app gives you such a timer, with the added benefit of numerals so large you could probably still see them when standing across the street. Want something simpler? There are custom and ‘kitchen’ timers too.

Try Marina Timer (free)

Photopea – baby Photoshop

Photoshop in a web browser? Surely not! OK, so this isn’t actually Photoshop, and it doesn’t have all of Photoshop’s tools. But Photopea does look an awful lot like Adobe’s powerhouse; moreover, it can successfully import, edit and export PSD files. Blimey.

You’ll need a big display to get the most out of the app (not least because the palettes can’t be rearranged); but mostly you’ll probably just sit wide-eyed at its existence – not least if you’ve used Photoshop, and are now gawping at a usable pretender sitting inside a web browser.

Try Photopea (from free)

Sketch – digital sketchbook

There are loads of web apps for sketching, but most output imagery that’s a low-res mess, meaning you can’t use it for anything useful. By contrast, Sketch is vector-based, so you could cover the side of your house in your masterpiece, if you could find a big enough printer.

If you’re an Illustrator whiz, you can draw Bézier curves with a pen tool. If not, there are pencils and brushes for freehand scribbling. You can even import photos to trace over, if the thought of starting with a blank canvas is terrifying.

Try Sketchpad (free)