In my role as Co-Chair of the North West Institute of IT Trainers I recent gave an online presentation demonstrating just how many free resources there are available on the Internet and beyond. Originally my intent was to limit myself to free training resources but ultimately I included software and other tools as well.

It proved to be one of our most well attended online events and demand was high for a list of the resources shown. In light of the demand I thought it would be good to share these resources to a wider audience hence this four part series covering free online resources for the IT trainer and in fact the majority of the resources are just as useful if you aren’t an IT trainer.

So with that let’s get to part one!

Local Groups

There are often many groups meeting in your area with a specific focus on either a technology or a profession. Don”t dismiss these as a valuable source of information and demonstrations. To give a few pertinent examples to those of us based in the North West of England:


The North West Institute of IT Trainers Regional Group

NWIITT is the North West Regional Group of the Institute of IT Trainers and we meet regularly at The Pelican Public House on the Sale/Timperly border on the last Monday of each month (except Bank Holidays). We also run online events for members – all the benefits of the regional meetings but without the travel.

Software demonstrations and soft skill presentations are plentiful and with opportunity to ask questions these meetings are a valuable resource!


The North West Adobe User Group

Official Adobe User Group for the North West of England.

We hold live meetings and coming soon online meetings using the Acrobat Connect service for which all you need is a browser and the Flash player.

Topics covered are every product in the Creative Suite, which is a lot, and a few that aren’t:

  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • InDesign
  • Bridge
  • Flash
  • Fireworks
  • Dreamweaver
  • After Effects
  • Premiere Pro
  • Soundbooth
  • Lightroom

So for all things Adobe you can’t beat the benefits of mingling with the experts!

Mac User Groups

The North West Mac User Group

Depending on your platform of choice there are even local groups dedicated to the operating system … OK I mean if you’re a Mac user there are many Mac User Groups across the region and the country.

Here in the North West there is the North West Mac User Group based in Grappenhall and there’s the Blackburn branch too. If you’re based to the East of the region there’s the huge Yorkshire MUG with 500 members.

Again product demonstrations and experts on hand to answer your questions.

Good way to get yourself known and maybe even find work if you’re freelance.



Microsoft have a myriad of free resources avilable from their various online portal pages – the trick is trying to locate something specific among the range of materials available.

I’ve separated the materials available into several separate categories, as follows:

Sample Documents
Learning Portal
Training Presentations
Microsoft eLearning
Application File Viewers
Convertion Kits
Quick Reference Guides


To assist in your search there is an index on the blog of Dumb Little Man (great name!) to 250 free items.

Microsoft also have their own index to the templates available at their template portal.

Sample Documents

There are many downloadable sample documents available from Microsoft’s site, a few examples are:

20 Sample Visio Diagrams

Sample PowerPoint design template

Christmas labels in Word format

Learning Portal

Microsoft maintain a Learning Portal at their web site.

There are both short single page tips and longer training courses available from this portal, for example:

Short tips

Making a Common Change to Multiple Contacts in Outlook

Get Results You Want by Adjusting a Value Using Goal Seek

Help protect a Microsoft Access project (ADP)

Adding Bookmarks to Word Documents

Longer Training Courses

Excel 2007

PowerPoint 2007


Microsoft provide a huge range of seminars delivered online both live and replayable after the initial recording is made.

There is a sample selection of web delivered seminars viewable on demand.

While a full list is also maintained with recordings listed on the “On-Demand Webcasts” tab and the live events listed on the “Live Webcasts” tab.

Microsoft Events


Some presentations are segmented into a presentation element and a separate hands-on lab section.

Delivery is via a technology called Live Meeting 2005 Replay and this requires the following:

  • Internet Explorer 6 with SP1 or above
  • Windows Media Player version 9 or later
Training Presentations

Microsoft provide full training presentations for download from their Office Online Portal, for example:

Word 2003—Create footnotes and endnotes

Excel 2003 – Great Excel features

Microsoft Office – Get up to speed with the 2007 system

Word 2007 – Get up to speed

Excel 2007 – Get up to speed

PowerPoint 2007 – Get up to speed

Access 2007 – Get up to speed

Word 2007 – Save time with templates

Excel 2007 – Create your first workbook

Excel 2003 – Create your first workbook

Excel 2007 – Enter formulas

Excel 2003 – Enter formulas

Visio 2003/2007 – Crime scenes with shapes

Microsoft eLearning

Microsoft eLearning is a more course-like structured learning system than individual online events provide.

Microsoft have categorized users into home/professional/developer etc and then provide a range of eLearning materials tailored to each group. Not all of these materials are free but some are it’s a matter of finding them. I have created a downloadable list of those that I discovered that are free of charge.

Application File Viewers

Microsoft viewers are free applications which allow users without the application used to create the files to view them.

Visio viewer

PowerPoint 2007 viewer

PowerPoint 2003 viewer

Word viewer

Convertion Kits

Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel and PowerPoint File Formats allows users of older versions of the Office suite to work with the new file formats in Office 2007. This is a free download.


Microsoft often offer books in pdf format for free download prior to the official release date of a new product. It’s really an inducement to people to try the new software. A recent example was the launch of Office 2007 when Microsoft gave away First Look at Microsoft Office 2007 by Katherine Murray a 208 page introduction to the Office 2007 System.

So it’s always worth while keeping an eye on the Microsoft web site prior to product releases for items such as these.

Quick Reference Guides

There are many Quick Reference Guides available from various places on the Microsoft web site, many of them are linked to from the online courses as a parting gift on completion of the course.

One example is the Project Management Quick Reference Guide.

Another example is the Word 2007 Quick Reference Guide.

So as you can see I managed to find a huge range of materials available for free download and this is only a part of the list – coming in part 2 are materials from Adobe, free video training and much much more.