A picture may speak a thousand words, but what if you want to mix things up a bit?

Here's a list of interactive apps and tools you can use to enrich your stories and boost engagement, from copyright-free images to video, data visualisations, and infographics. 

And the best thing? 

They're all free.


Canva: Super simple graphic design tool. 

Unsplash: Searchable database of royalty-free, high-res photos. Also check out Dreamstime, Pixabay, and Death to the Stock Photo.

Pixlr: In-browser photo editor for fixing and adjusting, plus layers, filters, and more. 

Skitch: An Evernote product, Skitch is a screenshot tool that allows you to add annotations, shapes and sketches (Mac and iOS only).

PhotoCollage: This tool for Mac, Windows, Android and iOS does what it says on the tin. Choose from collage templates or use your skills to create freeform collages.

In Shorthand, the Reveal effect – created with two or more images – can also be used to add animation to a map, for example, or to add or remove layers. See how it works: 


Pexels Video: Copy-right free stock video footage, divided by topic. Also check out Wedistill.io.

Giphy: Quickly create a GIF from a gallery of images, YouTube videos, or uploaded videos.

TouchCast: Create interactive videos by adding elements such as photos, Google Maps, polls, and social feeds. Originally iPad-only, TouchCast is now available in beta for desktop PCs .

Magisto: For video editing on a budget you can't go wrong with iMovie, but Magisto is a good free alternative. It allows you to make basic edits, like trims, filters and transitions, as well as add background music and sound effects.

Miro Video Converter: Converts almost any video to MP4, WebM (vp8), Ogg Theora, or for Android, iPhone, and iPad.  

See how The Sydney Morning Herald created an engaging title section using autoplay video in this story marking the anniversary of MH17, built with Shorthand.


Silk: Upload a dataset and create interactive charts and maps in minutes.

Plotly: Plot your data using line plots or bar charts, 'scatter plots', and heat maps.

MapJam: Quick and easy web app for customising a map with place markers.

StoryMap JS: Tell stories with interactive maps featuring images and video.

Piktochart: Easy infographic design app for powerful visuals. 

See how the Guardian used Shorthand's Two Column Scrollmation section to animate a line chart in this story on energy capture.


Timeline JS: Beautiful timelines that are easy to build, and intuitive to use.

Thinglink: Created embeddable images with tags containing text, other photos, videos, music, and more.

Riddle: A tool for polls, quizzes and BuzzFeed-style GIFs.

Storify: Curate social posts from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more into an embeddable vertical timeline. 

Typeform: Build engaging, mobile-ready forms and surveys.


If you're using a tool that doesn't generate a responsive embed code, you can use embedresponsively.com to make sure it works well across any device.

Want to keep up to date with Shorthand news and the latest visual storytelling tools? 

Of course you do👇