Tools for Archaeologists

To cite this page: Tan, Noel Hidalgo (2021, Updated 5 September 2022) Digital Tools for Archaeologists. Southeast Asian Archaeology. Available at:
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This collection is based on what I use regularly for my work, which is centred around image processing, GIS, and publishing online, along with some general office applications and citation managers. This list is not exhaustive, and there are other specialised tools that other archaeologists use. If you have a software tool to suggest, please get in touch. Most of this software is free, while some are affiliate links which mean I may earn a commission if you click the link and make a purchase. They will be marked by an asterisk.

Fieldwork Equipment

Image Processing / Graphics

  • Pixlr X – Quick and easy photo editing using your internet browser – no download required. The free version is great for casual photo edits. There’s a pro (paid) version but I’ve never had to use it.
  • DStretch / ImageJ – DStretch is an image enhancement software I use for detecting faint rock art. It is a donationware plugin for ImageJ, a free image processing software developed by the US National Institute of Health.
  • Metashape: – Formerly known as Photoscan. Photogrammetry software that lets you create 3D models from photographs, plus other features linked with GIS.
  • Adobe Creative Cloud* – PhotoShop , Lightroom and Illustrator are the most-widely used set of programmes in the industry for photo editing, organising and vector graphics respectively. It is a subscription model (so you can’t get around not paying for it), but they have several package options depending on which software you want to use. Alternatively…
  • GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) – A free and Open Source alternative to Photoshop.
  • Darktable – A free and Open Source alternative to Lightroom.
  • Inkscape – A free and Open Source alternative to Illustrator.
  • Adobe Spark – An online and mobile app for creating graphics and short videos on the go.

Referencing and Citation Managers

  • Mendeley – Citation and reference manager that can extract information from PDFs. Works with or without an internet connection. Free with 2GB online storage.
  • Zotero – Free and Open Source citation manager that works with or without an internet connection. Especially useful when citing online material.
  • Endnote – The most full-featured citation manager, but it comes at a price. If you are a student or staff at a university, check to see if you already have it available to you.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

  • ArcGIS – Esri’s ArcGIS seems to be the most professional and most widely-used GIS but the prices and subscription plan can be quite prohibitive. If you are part of a university check to see if you already have access to the software. They have extensive training videos for all levels of users.
  • Google Earth Pro – The desktop version is free for download.
  • QGIS – A Free and Open Source Geographic Information System. There are a number of tutorials out there for using QGIS in archaeology, eg: here and here.
  • ARCHES Project – Arches is an open source software platform freely available for cultural heritage organizations to independently deploy to help them manage their cultural heritage data.

Creating a Website

  • Google Sites – A simple drag-and-drop website builder, free if you have a Google account. Good for building simple websites and you can add a custom domain name to the site if you have one.
  •* – For more complex websites that need to be updated regularly, e.g. a blog, WordPress is a popular choice. gives you the option of a free website by signing up to an account (with basic functionality, or your can pay extra for upgrades or a full-service option.
  • – Advanced users may want to get their own domain name and host and install WordPress themselves. The WordPress engine is free and open source, and this way you can benefit from the many customisations available.
  • Bluehost – A complete web hosting provider that houses your website online. Offers shared and dedicated server space, and also easy WordPress installation.
  • Vodien* – The web host I use for SEAArch is based in Singapore and has gone through several name changes over the years as it has merged with or bought over by other companies. Today it is known as Vodien, and has been pretty good thus far. I’ve been with them from the start on a Shared Hosting plan, and recently upgraded to a small Business plan on account of increased bandwidth use.

Office Applications

  • Microsoft Office – The world’s most popular suite of workplace software, including three Word (word processing), Excel (spreadsheets) and PowerPoint (presentations).
  • Dropbox* – Online storage locker, useful for keeping documents online for easy sharing. Setting up an account is free and comes with 2gb of space.
  • Google Docs / Sheets / Slides / Forms – A cloud-based alternative to Microsoft Office, free for personal use and also available for business users.
  • LibreOffice – A free and Open Source alternative to Microsoft – with a word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentation maker, vector graphics editor, and math formulae editor.
  • ExpressVPN* – A Virtual Private Network lets you connect to another computer and browse the internet using that connection. It can help make your internet secure when using public connections (e.g. a public wifi), or to get around geographic restrictions when viewing some sites.
  • Scrivener* – Scrivener is a writing tool especially for long-form writing that allows you to write the way you want. I used Scrivener for my thesis and my research papers, it’s also been used by journalists and novelists. Highly recommended for writing.

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