Essential free apps for your web design toolkit

For version control and file transfer of the kind found in Dreamweaver's site management tools, give TortoiseSVN a try. This standalone client is based on Subversion, which gives a friendly user interface to a powerful revision management app.

So, we've got coding and site building sewn up. What about design and multimedia content? For creating page layouts, buttons, banners and logos, we go with Inkscape. A vector drawing package in the mould of Adobe Illustrator, it enables you to output your images in a variety of web formats. In fact, its native format is SVG.

For bitmap editing, The GIMP is essentially a free version of Photoshop. All your favourite features are present: painting tools, support for massive image files using a tiled memory system, layers, transformations, web animation and support for all the web's most import file formats.

And design tools aren't the only aesthetic freebies on offer. Clipart, fonts and even full layouts are available to help transform your site into something worth visiting. Two sites stand out for web templates: Open Source Web Design and Open Designs.

Both provide layouts individually vetted and rated by the community using them. You'll find some brilliant designs to customise and make your own, as long as you credit the original authors. If you prefer a blank canvas, try CSS Tinderbox, which provides basic CSS layouts.

The web is flooded with poor clipart sites, so it's a pleasure to recommend Open Clipart – a community project with no animated banners or intrusive ads. The site includes open source fonts, but we'd be remiss not to point you towards BlamBot – a site with dozens of free comic book fonts that are excellent for over-the-top designs.

With dial-up well and truly confined to the rubbish bin of history, audio and video are valid content for any dynamic 21st century website, as long as you don't overdo it. Windows and Mac users have tools built into their operating systems that can take care of video production pretty well. Windows Movie Maker is an ideal tool for stitching together that YouTube epic, while iMovie does a similar job on the Mac.

There aren't many open source alternatives in this field – not on Windows and Mac platforms, anyway – but Linux users can learn to love Open Movie Editor, which looks and behaves very much like the now-defunct Avid Free DV.

Mac owners have the jump on Windows users when it comes to audio production, with Garageband among the free software included with the operating system. It's great for podcasting, assuming you have a Mac with a mic input (unlike the Mac Mini).

For the rest of us there's Audacity, a multi-track digital audio recording and editing program. Add MP3 encoding using LAME and you have the perfect production environment for audio on Windows, Mac and Linux.

Streaming media

When the material's produced, you'll need a way to stream it from your site. Let's be honest, professional audio and video streaming usually costs a lot of money and going down the free route involves a cut in quality.

YouTube is the obvious service when you need to embed video. Join as a director to take advantage of longer clip allocations and higher quality. Fancy streaming live video? The web has services for that too. Stickam and Ustream enable you to create your own live video channels, which can in turn be embedded into your own site.

There aren't many totally free solutions for audio, but one method we like is using the Internet Archive's audio repository. You have to make any content you add available for free under a Creative Commons licence, but that's the spirit of open source. When you've uploaded a file, you can link to it directly in a variety of formats or embed the archive's own Flash-powered player.