Automatically Transcribe Voice Notes for Free
You probably have your phone handy more often than you have paper and a pen nearby. If inspiration hits, you could thumb-in text notes on your handset--or, better yet, try reQall for automatic voice transcription.
You call a special phone number and speak your message (up to 30 seconds), and reQall writes it down. Depending on what you say, it will even store your notes contextually, adding items you want to buy to a shopping list or scheduling meetings in your calendar, for example. But I like it just as much for recording my random notes and automatically e-mailing them to myself--or my contacts--without having to type.
Turn Scanned Docs Into Text, at No Cost
OCR (optical character recognition) turns pictures of text into a document that you can edit. For example, you could read a photo of a book page, but OCR software lets you perform searches on that page's contents or make changes to it in any text editor. Typically you have to pay for such software or get it bundled with a scanner you purchase, but you can access free OCR tools online.
OCR Terminal can import 20 pages of documents each month for free. Just upload your items as PDFs or JPEGs, or in other image formats, and it will convert them to Word, text, and other document formats. Then you simply download the best format for your needs, and use it as you would any other document.
Read Free E-Classics
Because copyrights eventually expire, anyone can (re)publish works by William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Jane Austen, and countless other writers. In general, if you're paying for material that was written before 1923, you're being fleeced. Instead, download thousands of classics for free, for use on your computer, phone, Kindle, or other device.
Project Gutenberg houses 30,000 free e-books and includes links to a total of 100,000 hosted on other sites. Just search the site for a title, or browse the top 100 downloads to get a sense of the catalog. Download books in a format that your device can read, and transfer them over. You'll gain access to a deep library without paying a cent.
Beat the Text-Messaging Swindle
Stop paying to send text messages. Several free options can transmit them from your PC or phone; just make sure to keep your missives under the 160-character limit.
Within AIM, you can send a message just by chatting with the country code and mobile number of a friend. For example, you can send text to the number of a pal in the U.S. in the format +12223334444. Your friend can reply, and the text will route to your chat program. It works even if you're chatting directly on a phone's mobile client.
In a Web browser, try txtDrop or Krypton. For the former, you just enter your address and the recipient's number. For the latter, you need to know the recipient's carrier, but the iPhone-friendly formatting looks great on many handsets.
If you know your friend's carrier, you can also send a text through e-mail. Enter your friend's mobile phone number and then the domain suffix for the carrier. For example, e-mail messages sent to email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com would reach AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon, respectively. Visit Wikipedia's list of carriers for details about other services. Note, however, that the recipient might have blocked incoming texts from any of these sources to shut out spam messages.
Store Large Files Online for Free
Most e-mail servers choke on messages that are 5MB, 10MB, or larger. You could sign up for a range of free sites that offer to host bigger files, but Drop.io beats all of those since it hosts files and doesn't make you go through any sign-up process.
You can upload attachments of up to 100MB, and you can even customize the resulting URL. Afterward, simply send the link to your contacts so that they can download the files. (Be sure to click Share, Zip File at the top to make the whole package downloadable at once.) Downloaders can even leave notes and collaborate in other ways.
Download Free MP3s
Downloading an MP3 for free is often perfectly legal. With just a little scrounging, you can score tracks from many legitimate sources.
The Internet Archive hosts thousands of live music performances, recorded by and for fans. You'll find old and new favorites, including concerts by Ryan Adams, Andrew Bird, Cowboy Junkies, the Grateful Dead, Smashing Pumpkins, and many more.