Visual Content Marketing

Top 5 free apps for curating the perfect Instagram feed

Post by
Ruth Stephensen
Top 5 free apps for curating the perfect Instagram feed

Creative people flock to Instagram daily for its bounty of delicious eye-candy and designing the perfect stream of posts to keep your audience satisfied is an art-form in itself! At Creatively Squared we are always keen to curate the most amazing looking Instagram grid to help inspire our community and we've been reviewing the top apps to do just this for a number of years now. Each time we revisit our go-to apps we are impressed with the additions of more powerful features, better integrations and smarter ways to add media.

We've rounded up our top free apps and are discussing every detail that might help you decide which is the one for you.

Most of these apps have premium versions accessible via a paid subscription but for a level playing field we will be comparing just the free versions and functions of these apps. Professional and power-users will likely need more functionality than what the basic free versions of these apps supply but for your average user they will be more than sufficient.

In a rush to make a decision and just want to get planning? Skip straight to our summary at the end!

Later

iOS  |  Android  |  Web

later.com

Later is a much more powerful social media scheduler than some of the other apps we reviewed. It has some great functionality such as the ability to cross-post content on multiple platforms. However if you just want to plan your Instagram feed these added features can bring some unnecessary complexity to the platform.

It does provide an all-in-one solution to your Instagram account from managing your one clickable bio URL with linkin.bio to being able to schedule your Instagram stories on top of regular posts. We also loved it's 'first comment' feature that auto-posts all your hashtags neatly into a comment underneath your post.

One of the best things about Later is it's media library which enables you to effortlessly source content from a variety of sources to have ready to drop into your feeds.

If you like to plan your posts visually you might find this app a bit cumbersome as you must first schedule a post to see how it would look it in the grid planner. There is however a drag and drop version hidden away in the mobile app under the 'quick scheduler' function.

This almost feels like a separate version of the app which enables to you to allocate your preferred posting times each day and quick drop your posts into those slots and rearrange as you see fit.

Post types: Standard  ✓   Video ✓   Carousel ✓   Stories ✓

Media Integrations: Files ✓   Camera ✓   Dropbox ✓   Google Drive ✓   Instagram ✓  Websites  ✓

Things we liked:

Things to consider:

Pricing: Free for one Instagram account and up to 30 posts per month

Planoly

iOS  |  Android  |  Web

planoly.com

Planoly is definitely a hot contender for a top all-in-one content planner for Instagram.

The mobile and web app interfaces are well designed and easy to navigate. Both iterations support all the same features and are easy to use in tandem.

Many users will love the added content calendar planning function which is a clever way to mark important dates and make notes about upcoming content - you can even add a colour code to each one. This feature combined with the image placeholder function enables you to start drafting a post even if your image isn't ready yet.

The discover feature is handy for finding images to repost from Instagram or from free stock sites. Perfect for those to like to integrate aspirational or moodboard style images into their accounts. In the draft section you can play around with the design of different themed grids before integrating them into your feed.

Planoly's design feels a bit less 'tech' and more 'girlboss', which we liked but some might not! It is definitely geared towards professional users and we found that a lot of features we only available to those on Business accounts so those with personal accounts may be locked out of a number of functions (primarily due to Instagrams API).

Those in eCommerce will love the 'Shoplink' feature which adds Instagrams shopping links on to your scheduled posts.

Post types: Standard  ✓   Video ✓   Carousel ✓   Stories ✓

Media Integrations: Files ✓   Camera ✓   Dropbox ✓   Google Drive ✓   Instagram ✓

Things we liked:

What could be better:

Pricing: Free for one user and Instagram account for up to 30 posts per month

Plann

iOS  |  Android  |  Web

plannthat.com

Plann is visual Instagram planner with a simple drag and drop interface. Adding new content is a breeze and you can upload directly from your device or via Google Drive or Dropbox.

If you like to adjust your photos once they are placed in your grid, Plann allows you to edit, crop and enhance your photos directly from the app. If you want to get even more creative you'll love their new Canva Integration which now available via the desktop app. This is a feature to watch and might get a lot of users over the line.

Switching between your desktop and mobile is simple and the web app has a well thought out interface. Unfortunately the speed isn't great and uploading some media files on either device came with a bit of a lag.

Post types: Standard  ✓ Video ✓   Carousel ✓

Add media from:  Files ✓   Camera ✓   Dropbox ✓   Google Drive ✓   Canva  ✓

Things we liked:

Things to consider:

Pricing: Free for one Instagram account and up to 30 posts per month

Preview

iOS  |  Android

thepreviewapp.com

If you are looking for a super simple app to visually plan and schedule basic posts from your phone - Preview is it. It doesn't come with all the bells and whistles of the other apps and although there is a desktop version you can not access it from the free version of the app.

It's unlikely that you'll need any help navigating your way around but if you do they have some tutorials available in the app.

The free version of the app has unlimited posts (whereas most of it's competitors are capped at 30 per month)

You can crop and edit your images in app and the supplied filters are surprisingly nice, although you are limited to just 2 packs on the free version.

There's not really much more to say about Preview aside from it's a slick looking app that delivers exactly what it came to do and nothing else!

Post types: Standard  ✓   Video ✓   Carousel ✓

Media Integrations: Files ✓   Camera ✓   Free Stock Photos ✓

Things we liked:

What could be better:

Pricing: Free for one user and Instagram account for unlimited posts. Note - Can only access desktop version with Premium plan

Unum

iOS  |  Android  |  Web

unum.la

As one of the more creative planning apps on the market we really wanted to love Unum. Unfortunately recent updates have had a detrimental effect on the user experience and due to speed and bugs in the system, the time it took to get started was far longer than with it's competitors.

Navigating the interface of both the mobile and web app wasn't very intuitive and it lacked a lot of features and integrations that are supported by other apps on the market.

Visually it has some good features and enables a lot of creative control over the look and feel of your grid. Unum has filters and tools to edit your images in app, as well as some editable templates for creating Instagram stories. You can create multiple versions of your grid and drag drop to arrange the order of your posts. Another feature we liked was the 'grid shift’ which allows you to toggle the view between your upcoming posts and how the grid will look directly after the next one goes live.

Scheduling seemed like a secondary feature to the visual grid planner and there were no options for auto post. Unum has very basic analytics and you can save drafts and captions such as a recent tags feature for remembering hashtags you use regularly.

Post types: Standard ✓   Stories ✓

Media Integrations: Camera Roll ✓   Pexels ✓   Unsplash ✓   Google Drive (web app only) ✓   Drop Box (web app only) ✓

Things we liked:

What could be better:

Summary

Choosing the right app for you is a personal choice and the different features will appeal to different people. All of these apps have the same basic functionality and promote safe posting via notifications, analytics and support multiple Instagram accounts.

Later - Use it if you want a powerful social media scheduling tool for distributing your content across multiple channels.

Planoly - Use it if you want a professional scheduling tool where you can stay organised with a content calendar and visual planner in one.

Plann - Use it if you want a visual planning tool for Instagram that gives you creative control over the visual look of your feed

Preview - Use it if you want a super simple visual planner on your smartphone that gets the job done.

Unum - Use it if you want something that allows you to be a bit more creative and experimental and you don’t mind a bit of a learning curve

Note: This article was originally published in January, 2017 and was updated in May, 2020

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