I’ve found google trends to be an interesting way to see if a keyword (and by extension a niche) is growing or shrinking, and whether it’s seasonal or not. I can’t think of any other tool out there that can reliably tell you this information, so that’s really useful. Also, if you’re building a site, especially an authority site, getting onto something that’s trending upwards is a fantastic idea.
The simplest KW research tool is google. Type in your topic and scroll to the bottom to see what related results show up. Use those to either write an article or to supplement other articles with some of the keywords. Yes, they are primary phrases so you may not rank for them right away but building your site with these in it will help get rank for them eventually. Also look at what other articles that show up for the keyword use.
Because great content requires a deep understanding of the main idea (e.g., “ac repair houston”) and the supporting subtopics that require coverage (e.g., “central ac vs portable ac systems”) and the common issues that users seek answers for (e.g., “freon,” “refrigeration loops,” “coolant refills,” “troubleshooting”), the effectiveness of a keyword reporting tool is only as strong as the SEO pro using it.
The limit on manual keywords could be higher. I personally wish we could input 10,000 keywords at a time, instead of 200. However, I understand the costs that Long Tail Pro has to maintain each time a new manual keyword is input. Not a deal breaker, I just wish the limit was higher. (To be fair, I don't think most keyword tools have a bulk manual option at all).