It can be tricky deciding which software to use with the students. I think when I trained to be a teacher I thought the idea of learning new software would be fun. 20 years down the line at times it can be challenging. I go through these questions before choosing.

Does it meet the specification?
Will my students be able to use it
How much does it cost? (If it’s free is it good enough!?)
Will it work on the school computers?
And for 2020-21 (and hopefully no longer) how easy will it to complete work during the pandemic

Usual Model

In order to contextualise what I use – here’s roughly the order I teach the units! Current year 10 have a reduced model so are doing R081 and R082 in Year 10 and R087 in Year 11 (with a bit of R085 integrated through teaching of websites)

Year 10 – R081

September to October Half-Term

Year 10 – R082

October Half-Term to March

Year 10 – R085 & R081 Revision

March – June

Year 10 – R081 Exam

First attempt at the R081 exam

Year 11 – R085

September – October Half-Term

Year 11 – R087

November – March

Year 11 – R081 Revision

April – May

So here’s my thoughts on software choices for the Creative iMedia units I teach!


Software for R081? Strictly speaking your don’t need any as it’s theory. However I wanted to make it as practical as possible and so I teach Freemind for mindmaps (free) and Storyboarder for storyboards (free). Plus the usual Microsoft Office for Visualisation Diagrams and Moodboards (preference being Microsoft PowerPoint). In terms of work plans, I show students both Gantt Project (free) and Microsoft Excel.


R082 is a tricky one. I am fortunate enough to have Adobe CC where I work so I prefer Adobe Photoshop as Media Studies and Photography also use it at my school.

Adobe Photoshop CC


  • Many freelance graphic designers would use it, as well as a popular choice in the creative industries
  • All the tools you would ever need
  • A lot of tutorials on the web, due to it’s popularity

  • It’s certainly pricey – you’re talking £1000s not £100s to purchase for a school
  • My school has the ‘wrong’ kind of licence so they can’t afford to pay for me to have at home until the licence is changed next academic year
  • A teacher/student licence costs £16.24 a month
  • Computer hardware – you need at least 8GB RAM and 2 GHz or faster processor


Lockdowns, self-isolation and the pandemic overall has made R082 a tricky mandatory unit. So Photopea can offer some hope that at least some students may be able to practice at home. There’s no restrictions on the use of online graphics editors for Creative iMedia.


  • All the features are available in the free version
  • Runs in a browser, without any special plugins
  • Supports PSD (Photoshop) files
  • The History tool has 30 steps which is probably enough for most students – they should be using version control!
  • If you normally use Adobe Photoshop and need to work on it, the layout and menus are similar
  • There’s an offline editor as well

  • If you have internet connectivity issues then it could be tricky to use if you don’t have the offline editor!
  • Not had a problem yet but what if lots of students are using it – will the website slow down?
  • Hopefully not, but what is Photopea closes down?
  • Advertising could be distracting and costs $9 for 30 days to remove
  • When I’ve used it (my PC and internet are good), a few of the tools are glitchy such as Quick Selection and Content Aware Move Tool – so just a bit of patience needed!


There are others but I’ve not used them extensively enough yet to make a judgement – once I have I will update the page! I’ve used a little for graphics to be fair – it’s quite good and supports layers. Plus if you don’t want to use Photopea there’s GIMP, which supports layers and it a good alternative to Adobe Photoshop. NCCE have produce some helpsheets for the KS3 lessons which may come in handy!


Before you read any further!

Online editors are not advisable for R085 as they would restrict students to Mark Band 1. So the likes of Wix, Weebly and WordPress. I am not saying I agree with the decision, I think there is a lack of understanding about how websites can be created on those websites from the exam board’s perspective but I do appreciate it could be tricky ensuring students are working on the sites only in front of the teacher.

Remember for R085 students to do need to add or edit code ‘manually’.

So what are we left with?

Ambiera RocketCake

When Microsoft stopped supporting Expression Web (see below) I wanted a non-Dreamweaver alternative to help differentiate.


  • Free version meets the R085 specification (see here)
  • Finally a WYSIWYG editor that makes responsive websites easily!
  • All the tools you need are drag ‘n’ drop on the right-hand side of the software and customisation/properties is on the left
  • It organises the files and folders for the students when publishing – so no more (“Why do my links not work!”)
  • RocketCake files are portable so if a student did not publish their website (hopefully not) you could take the RCD file to mark

  • You can’t add much custom code in the free version – just one line of JavaScript
  • It edits the CSS for the students so ability to edit not necessary
  • If a student wanted to tweak the CSS they can only really do that after publishing the website and they can’t go back into RocketCake to edit it after then

Adobe Dreamweaver CC

As if comes part of the Adobe Creative Cloud all the issues of pricing are the same for Dreamweaver!


  • Adobe has improved the software to make it more straightforward to build a responsive website easily e.g. menu bar, headers, layouts
  • There are in built templates that could be heavily customised to make it their own
  • Ability to edit the website code e.g. HTML, CSS

  • It’s certainly pricey – you’re talking £1000s not £100s to purchase for a school
  • My school has the ‘wrong’ kind of licence so they can’t afford to pay for me to have at home until the licence is changed next academic year
  • A teacher/student licence costs £16.24 a month
  • Depending on your cohort, even if you can teach the more straightforward tools, some students might find the amount of features overwhelming
  • Computer hardware – you need at least 2GB RAM and 2 GHz or faster processor


Pre-RocketCake I taught Microsoft Expression Web as the WYSIWYG editor. It was functional and fairly easy to use. It had the advantage over RocketCake that you could edit the code as well. However responsiveness and publishing tools were not as powerful as RocketCake so I did not shed a tear when I had to swap! (If you have a copy it is still installed, you just can’t download it anymore). There is also Blue Griffon, but I’ve not really had musch of a play with that. The interface is not as drag ‘n’ drop but that might be something that suits your students more


If you’ve already taught R085 then the software used for that unit is option number 1. Or if you have time (unlikely) you could teach a second piece of web design software. Then of course you can always use Microsoft PowerPoint to make the Interactive multimedia Product. Just be aware it’s not just a basic presentation. So think buttons, kiosk mode, master slides, multimedia! Of course it’s up to the students which they pick but so far Microsoft PowerPoint has been the most popular choice. I think as they’ve already made a website it creates more variation. Equally if they’ve mastered RocketCake, for example, they have less new skills to remember!