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There's a lot to keep track of while you’re a student. Lecture notes, exam dates, essays and group projects -- it's more than most human brains can handle on their own. If you're the type of person that struggles to stay organized or who wants to finesse an already-robust productivity system, read on. We've broken down the best organizational tools that can help you stay on top of academic life, including note-taking apps, calendars and to-do list software. If you have a personal favorite that hasn't made our shortlist, let us know in the comments.
Microsoft OneNote© Provided by Engadget
If you're on a tight budget, Microsoft OneNote is an obvious choice. The service is available on every major platform, including the web and doesn't cost a dime to use. Well, almost: OneNote requires OneDrive to store and sync your work. Thankfully, every Microsoft account comes with a 5GB OneDrive plan, and many school email addresses unlock Office 365 Education, which comes with virtually unlimited OneDrive storage. If your institution supports the latter, there's a good chance your teachers and classmates are using OneNote too, making it easier to submit assignments and collaborate on group projects.
OneNote revolves around colorful Notebooks, which are then divided into Sections and individual Pages. The latter is a flexible canvas that can include any number of text boxes, pictures, tables, and PDF print-outs. OneNote also has decent, if not industry-leading handwriting support, which is useful if you own an iPad and Apple Pencil, a Surface device, or any Windows laptop or Chromebook that plays nice with a stylus. You can also record your lecture from inside the app and, if you have a Microsoft 365 subscription, access some advanced Windows 10 features including a built-in Researcher tool and Math Assistant.
Notion is pioneering a new kind of note-taking app. Every page is composed of Blocks, which can take the form of text, headers, numbered lists, quotes, and oh-so-much more. In addition, text can link to pages that exist in a completely different part of your Notion hierarchy, helping your brain understand how complex topics relate to each other.
The app truly shines, however, when you start making to-do lists, calendars, tables and project management boards. These features, which you would normally need a separate app for, can exist as a full-screen page or a movable Block alongside other types of media.
Notion's flexibility can be daunting, especially when you first launch the app and discover nothing but white space. Thankfully, the company has built some handy page templates that replicate a simple notebook, reading list, travel planner and more. It's on you, however, to build a sensible page structure and decide what the app should be used for. Notion can easily work as a simple OneNote or Evernote replacement. But if you have the time and patience, it can also serve as a shareable Wiki for your after-school clubs, or a private hub for managing every aspect of your life including health, finances and summer vacations.
If you want to take all of your lecture notes with an iPad and Apple Pencil, you have two options: Notability and Goodnotes 5. The internet is awash with blog posts and comparison videos that debate their near-identical feature sets. Both are fantastic, honestly, and have decent Mac applications if you want to review or edit your work on a larger screen at home. If we had to choose one, though, it would probably be Notability. The iPad app does a fantastic job of tracking and, through some clever software processing, tidying up your Pencil strokes to match your real-life handwriting style. The organization system, which lets you sort notes into dividers and color-coded subjects, is dead simple to grasp and navigate, too.
Beyond Goodnotes 5, we would also recommend Evernote, which many consider to the grandfather of note-taking apps. It's still a great option for creating and retrieving notes across a wealth of different devices. The company is working on a major redesign, too, that will supposedly deliver 'a more consistent [and] coherent Evernote' later this year.
Bear is another fantastic alternative, though it's limited to Mac, iPhone and iPad at the moment. Quick and dirty notes, meanwhile, are best stored in a service like Google Keep. If you're rocking an iPhone or Apple Watch, however, you might want to consider Agile Tortoise’s Drafts instead. Launching the app will immediately open a new document, ensuring you never miss important information from a fleeting commercial, road sign or lecture slide.
To-do list apps
Todoist© Provided by Engadget
Todoist has a modern design and some of the best natural language processing in the industry. That means if you write something like 'review chemistry flashcards every Sunday at 11AM,' the app will know to add a weekly task with the title 'review chemistry flashcards.' Tasks can be added to a straightforward Inbox or custom lists, known as Projects. They can have any number of sub-tasks, too, and one of four eye-catching priority levels. The app has a number of views to help you prioritize your work, including Today and Upcoming, and a dizzying number of integrations with services like Slack, PomoDone and Google Calendar.
Some seemingly basic features are locked behind a paywall, however. You need Premium to access notification-based reminders, for instance, as well as organizational labels and filters. Want to add some comments and file attachments? Or have more than five people working on a single project? You'll need to pay for those features, too. At $36 per year, Todoist Premium isn't an impulse purchase. We think it's worth the money, though, and you can always experiment with the free version first to see if you like the UI and general workflow.
Microsoft To Do
I know, I know, nothing will ever replace Wunderlist. Microsoft's replacement for the now-discontinued service, however, is slowly becoming a worthy successor. And, just like OneNote, it's completely free to use. Microsoft To Do doesn't have TickTick’s pomodoro timer, Todoist’s third-party app integrations, or natural language processing that understands what to do when you type 'every Tuesday at 11AM.' Still, it's a nice-looking app that covers most of the basics. You can add tasks to My Day -- a list of quick turnaround items -- a generic inbox or any number of custom lists. Tasks can also be starred and given specific due dates, which will sort them into the app’s Important and Planned (i.e. upcoming) sections respectively.
Items can be broken down into smaller Steps, which are useful if you're working on a large project that can't be completed in a single sitting. The app also supports reminders, repeat deadlines, and -- provided everyone you know has a Microsoft account -- collaborative lists. Oh, and unlike Todoist, you don't need a subscription to add explanatory notes and file attachments. (Both are useful for jogging your future self's memory with, say, a classroom location or book title.) Right now, though, there's no grid-like calendar view or built-in syncing with Apple and Google Calendar -- at least, not without a third-party service like Zapier.
Is Ticktick Free
Just like Goodnotes 5 and Notability, there's a never-ending debate online about the merits of Todoist and TickTick. At first glance, it feels like the latter is a better option. TickTick has a built-in pomodoro timer, for instance, and lets you view lists as a kanban-style project management board. The premium version is also a tad cheaper -- $28 per year, rather than $36 -- and offers a couple of exclusive features, such as the ability to set start and end times. TickTick's free plan only supports nine lists, though -- Todoist offers up to 80 list-based projects straight away -- and the app's language processing isn't quite as smart, which means you'll occasionally need to dive in and manually set complex task schedules.
Google Tasks is free, but it doesn't have an official desktop app at the moment. Any.do is another functional alternative that, like Todoist, has an app for every platform including Apple Watch and Wear OS. Unfortunately, the design is a tad dated and both the web and desktop apps don't have natural language processing. If you exclusively use Apple products, Cultured Code’s Things is also worth checking out. There's no subscription plan, but you have to buy each platform's app individually (at the time of writing, purchasing the Mac and iPhone apps will set you back $60.) If you have cash to burn, though, Omnifocus and relative newcomer Dynalist, which offers infinite sub-task nesting, are also excellent.
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Google Calendar© Provided by Engadget
Google Calendar is the industry default — for good reason. It's free to use and, like most Google products, has robust web and mobile apps. The service is reliable, regularly updated and compatible with countless third-party clients such as Fantastical and BusyCal. A single account can have multiple color-coded calendars, which can help to visually separate your chores, class schedule and part-time work. User-created calendars are also shareable, which is great if you want to quickly distribute a practice schedule for your ultimate frisbee team. You can also add 'guests' to any event, which will send them a handy invite via email. Is Google Calendar an imaginative choice? No, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't use it.
My Study Life
Google Calendar is brilliant, but you might be wondering if there's something a little more tailor-made for the world of academia. One option is My Study Life, an all-in-one digital planner that's available on the web, iOS and Android. The sidebar has a Schedule option that lets you set the start and end date of the academic year, individual semesters, holidays, and every class that you need to attend. You can also use the platform to log your upcoming exams and school-related 'tasks,' which covers assignments, revision sessions and generic reminders through a drop-down.
All of this information then feeds into the calendar view. Subjects are color-coded, which makes it easy to assess and prioritize your workload week-to-week. Finally, there's a productivity-focused dashboard that summarizes your day and any upcoming exams and assignment due dates. Unfortunately, there's no way to sync My Study Life with an external calendar or to-do list app. That can be frustrating if you want to tick off tasks in Todoist or use another service like Google Calendar for managing your part-time work and social obligations. It's a relatively small nitpick, though, given the app’s nonexistent price tag.
Please, don't be put off by the name. iStudiez Pro is a slick calendar alternative that, just like My Study Life, is geared toward students and their unique schedules. The Planner tab lets you add any number of color-coded classes, exams and assignments. You can also create teacher-specific contact cards that include their email address and telephone number. iStudiez Pro has a space for creating and managing assignments, too, and an overview that includes a daily schedule and traditional calendar interface. Unlike My Study Life, this app can also show events created with Apple or Google's calendar apps. If you want to sync any data, though -- or use more than one device -- you'll need to buy the full version of each app.
Microsoft and Apple both offer applications similar to Google Calendar. They're perfectly usable, but we like Google's interpretation the best. If you own any Apple hardware, we also recommend Fantastical, which has a superb interface and natural language processing. It's free to use, though some of the more advanced calendar views and productivity integrations are locked behind a paywall. A solid iPhone alternative is Timepage by notebook-maker Moleskine, and Readdle's Calendars 5, which doubles as a task manager and can also generate a Zoom, Google Meet or GoToMeeting call link whenever you send an event invite.
Apps to keep you focused
Just Focus© Provided by Engadget
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The internet is littered with services that will help you block distracting apps and websites. You don’t need to go with a paid or overly-complicated option like Freedom, though. Instead, opt for something free and simple like Just Focus. The Chrome extension, developed by a few friends in their spare time, has a single text field for adding URLs that you want to block. Then, when you really want to concentrate, hit the purple Start Focusing button and get to work. You can select the toolbar icon to see how much time has passed and, once you've completed the task, hit the Stop Focusing button to peruse YouTube and Reddit once more.
Even the most disciplined students have to pull all-nighters sometimes. If you’re preparing to burn the metaphorical midnight oil, install a little app called F.lux before you do so. The utility will subtly adjust the color of your display to match the time of day. Just check your location and preferred color profile (F.lux’s “recommended colors” are fine for most) and the app will do the rest. You should notice that your machine’s screen is slightly warmer at night, minimizing eye strain and possibly improving your sleep (that’s assuming you complete your assignment before the sun rises, of course). Every major platform has a built-in alternative these days (Windows 10 has a Night Light setting, for instance, and Mac OS offers Night Shift mode) but F.lux is the original and, in our opinion, still the best.
The Pomodoro Technique is like interval training for the mind. Developed by Francesco Cirillo, it's a simple tactic that forces you to work for long periods -- typically 25 minutes -- with only short breaks in between. You'll find countless Pomodoro timers in the App Store and Google Play, but we think the most imaginative is Forest. The software will plant a tree that, if you manage to complete the pomodoro session, joins your virtual woodland permanently. Leave the app at any time, though, and the sapling will wither and die. Over time, you'll collect coins that can unlock new species and ambient background music. It's like a bite-sized version of Animal Crossing that helps you get real work done.
If you think Forest is overkill, try PomoDoneApp instead. It's a simpler service that integrates with third-party apps such as Todoist, Slack and Evernote. If you're still not satisfied, we recommend giving Focus Keeper and Focus To-Do a shot. My personal favorite is Tide, a mindfulness app that also helps you sleep, nap and reflect with an assortment of natural 'sound scenes,' which include lapping waves and light rainfall. If you're working on a Mac, consider an app like HazeOver, too. The utility will automatically dim inactive windows, ensuring that your mind is laser-focused on a single application.
Engadget’s 2020 Back-to-school buying guide© Provided by Engadget
Going to college is a scary but exciting prospect. Students need to manage their time between classes, internships and assignments whilst maintaining a social life. Today we will be looking at apps that are essential for college students and will help make their journey easier.
Google Docs, Slides and Sheets
Definitely, one of the easiest apps to recommend is Google’s suite of productivity apps including Google Docs, Slides and Sheets. Docs is a simple word processing app, Slides allows you to make those last-minute presentations and Sheets lets you create and format spreadsheets. Multiple people can work on the same doc, make and see edits in real-time making these ideal tools for group projects. Your work is saved in real-time and being Google Products they offer seamless integration with Google Drive so you can pull them up whenever you want on whichever device you sign in to. Each of these apps is available on both Android and iOS.
As a college student, you will be writing almost every day: writing your thesis, applying for internships or simply submitting assignments, which makes Grammarly essential. Grammarly is a writing assistant which looks out for spelling errors and grammatical errors and suggests alternate words which fit the tone well. You can use Grammarly across many different apps and websites including Google Docs, Microsoft Word, LinkedIn, Gmail and Twitter. Click here to check Grammarly out. There is a free version and a paid version of the app.
Google Keep is a note-taking application. It enjoys all the benefits previously mentioned for Docs, Slides and Sheets and has much more. You can add voice recordings and images whilst taking notes. It also features stylus or finger input which makes it easier and faster to make rough notes. Users also get the ability to add different colours to different notes and add customised labels to differentiate them from one another. Like any other Google application, this is available on both iOS and Android.
If you wish to stay in the Apple ecosystem and utilize iCloud an easy recommendation will also be Apple’s stock Notes app.
Adobe Creative Cloud
This is not essential for every student but is strongly recommended for those who are enrolled in programs like web designing or photography. The Adobe Creative Cloud is also ideal for any student who wishes to express their creativity through audio, video or animations. It includes everything from UI/UX designing, photo editing, video editing to 3D, Augmented Reality and Graphic designing. You can store your creations in the cloud and can access them from any of your devices. Having the ability to use the Adobe Creative Cloud can also be considered as an advantage for certain jobs and can help bolster your resume. For students, the Creative Cloud is available at a discounted price of Rs.1353/month. Many colleges also have tie-ups with Adobe and offer specific software to students, so definitely contact your college for more information. Click here to check out Adobe Creative Cloud.
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Mathematics is a very popular subject in college and is often quite challenging too. Using a good calculator doesn’t help solve all your problems (or maybe it does?) but it is a huge help. So we recommend using RealCalc which is a free to use scientific calculator which means it can handle trigonometry, unit conversions, permutations and combinations and hyperbolic functions amongst many more. This app comes with one caveat which is that it is only available on Android. Click here to download it.
A great iOS alternative is Mathway or Microsoft’s Math Solver. Click to check it out on iOS and Android.
MyHomework is a digital student planner that lets you easily track your classes, homework, tests and projects so you never forget an assignment again. You can choose class and homework type from a list of presets and set a submission date. You can also set up priority from High to Low and sort your list in that manner. You can set reminders to complete your work and can view your schedule in their easy to view calendar menu. This app is free to use on both iOS and Android and supports cross-platform synchronisation, so you can check up on classes from whichever device you have near you.
Being a college student means you are in a bubble and are so busy with work and studies that you forget to check up on the outside world. Inshorts is a news app which helps you do exactly that. It gathers articles from the world’s leading newspapers and summarises them in 60 words, making it a quick and easy read. You can also choose from topics you are interested in and Inshorts creates a feed specially curated for you. You can download this amazing app on both iOS and Android.
TickTick not to be confused with TikTok, is a To-Do list app filled with features to the brim. It has voice input, the ability to turn emails into tasks and reminders. It sorts the tasks by deadline and/or priority and keeps track of the duration it takes. This app is available on iOS and Android and you can view your tasks for the day on any device as it has cross-platform support too. The app also has a satisfying bell sound once you complete a task. Also, the name is just addicting to say!
This is essential not just for students but for every smartphone user out there. You are probably already using it if you own an Android phone. Google Drive is one of the best Cloud Storage apps out there. You can upload and view files in the cloud, whilst creating them from within the app. This app also lets you scan images and upload them directly to the cloud, taking notes and copying homework has never been easier. It also has a feature which smartly shows you files which it might think you need at a specific time or a specific location. As mentioned earlier, it works in close conjunction with Google’s suite of apps including Photos, Docs, Slides and Sheets. Google Drive is available on both iOS and Android.
For those of you who wish to stay in the Apple ecosystem, the iCloud Drive is an obvious recommendation.
An obvious essential, Youtube has a plethora of content. Students can watch tutorials and explanatory videos which can help them with studies, stand up comedy for a good laugh or a chimpanzee trying to drive a car. The possibilities are endless! YouTube also offers its Premium service which lets you watch ad-free videos, background play and offers YouTube content in the form of YouTube Originals and YouTube Music. For students, this service is available at a discounted cost of Rs.59/month.
As a college student, you spend a lot of your time listening to music and Spotify lets you listen to almost any song you want, curate playlists and see what your friends are listening to. Its algorithms are highly specific which helps it recommend music to you. Why I think Spotify has an edge over its competitors is Spotify Connect which lets you manage your music from multiple devices at a time and lets you switch from one device to another seamlessly. Spotify also lets you stream podcasts which are on the up. Students can subscribe to Spotify at a discounted cost of Rs.59/month, which is a steal.
For our typical Apple fanboys, Apple Music is also a great choice (but give Spotify a chance, you won’t regret it.)
Students also need a break. They need time to put their feet up, relax and watch some TV. Honestly, any OTT/streaming platform can be an easy recommendation, but we chose Disney+ Hotstar for its amazing catalogue of content. The OTT platform already boasts HBO shows including Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley and The Sopranos. Since Disney’s takeover, all Disney content and Marvel TV shows will be streaming exclusively on Hotstar. Outside the TV and movie realm, Disney+ Hotstar also live streams all IPL and English Premier League matches. All of this for just Rs.1499 annually is a bargain!
If you are going to college, you can be rest assured there will be sleepless nights with you preparing for a test till the last minutes or partying hard after the above mentioned test and in moments like those Swiggy will come in clutch. You can place your food order on the application in easy steps and the food shall arrive at your doorstep, or rather the hostel gate, ASAP. You can choose to pay for your order using cash or digital payments including debit and credit cards, AmazonPay and Paytm. Swiggy often has coupon codes and discount offers which makes it cheaper to order from outside than preparing a meal in your room.
Zoom or Google Meet
No essential list, especially in 2020, can finish without talking about video conferencing. Though there may be better options than Zoom and Google Meet nobody can question the popularity of both applications. Zoom and Google Meet allow a few hundred people to attend meetings at once, which means many of your classes taking place online will probably be on either of the two platforms. Using your university account to sign in to Zoom means you will not need to worry about that 40-minute time limit. This just goes to show how important a role these video conferencing platforms will play in your lives in the upcoming months, if not years…
If you will be attending university this year, we congratulate you and wish you the best of luck!