Whether you're continuing your own education, or sending kids back to school, now is a good time to check out the apps and utilities that can help students prepare for the classroom. There are scores of useful tools in the App Store that can help you study for that big exam, stay organized, track your progress, and even have a little fun. Available for both Mac and iOS, you can even carry them around in your pocket, depending on your device of choice. Here are some of my recommendations to aid you in your educational endeavors - and you may also find other work-related uses for many of these handy apps.
Tons of Apps to choose from
With literally thousands of Apps to choose from and an ever-growing online marketplace, the Mac App Store and iTunes App Store have a wide variety of educational tools to choose from. I've provided a few of my favorites, sure to be a great resources, along with some additional references to help you find Apps that may be more specific to your field of study or needs.
#1 Dragon Dictate ($129.99 Student/Teacher Edition)
Dragon Dictate from Nuance is a powerful dictation application, great for taking notes in class. Dragon Dictate takes the recorded voice and converts it to the written word allowing you to capture those long lectures that would otherwise be a pain to type by hand. That's not all it can do; you can use it to give voice commands to your Mac, directing your Mac to open applications, send emails, and dictate to multiple applications, all at the sound of your voice. It's available for iOS as well but is significantly pared down to just text conversion — good for capturing short conversations or important snippets of information.
#2 Remote Microphone (Free)
Nuance also offers this iPhone app called that allows your iOS device to act as a field microphone for the desktop software. If you're not a the front-of-the-class type, or can never seem to get an optimal seat, this application can be a real life saver as it allows you to use the iPhone as a wireless Mic, providing the flexibility to sit most anywhere in your class while recording the lecture from a distance. The App is free, although it does require Dragon Dictate desktop software for the Mac.
#3 Evernote (Free)
Evernote, or as I like to refer to it — my second brain — is a fantastic application for storing loads of information. Use it to take notes, store images, save links to useful websites, create to-dos, even record audio, and then store all this information in a way that makes sense. Evernote does require an online account but it's free, easy to set up, and allows you to sync your data seamlessly across multiple devices.
#4 Microsoft Office ($149 Student/Teacher Edition)
Microsoft Office is the uncontested productivity suite from our friends at Microsoft used today by millions for creating documents, presentations, and spread sheets. It's highly unlikely that through the course of your education you will not find a need for Office and may even be a requirement of certain classes. Not to mention, once it's time to move on to the workplace, it's a crucial application to many organizations.
#5 iWork (Approximately $60 from the Mac App Store)
If you're looking for an inexpensive alternative to Office, Apple's own iWork is an excellent substitution, offering much of the same functionality as Office while providing Apple's legendary ease of use and at a significant cost savings.
#6 1Password ($39.99 Single user license)
There is a fairly good chance that you'll have lots new accounts you'll be logging into this semester, such as your online curriculum, email, calendars, and so on. 1Password is the perfect application for not only managing all your passwords but it also makes it easy to access your passwords from multiple devices and applications when you need them. 1Password allows you to create and store all your passwords in an encrypted database granting you access to them when needed using a single master password. This allows you to never have to remember a password again. Your passwords can easily be synced across multiple computers using ever-useful Dropbox (Free for up to 5 GB) and synced to iOS devices using the iOS application. It's also available for Windows and Android.
#7 Blow off some Steam (Free to download, pay per transaction)
When the pressures of school or work are raising your stress meter, it's time to grab your favorite cola of choice and relax with some Steam from Valve. Steam is an online marketplace that provides a vast game selection of both popular and indie titles from a plethora of well established game studios, allows try-before-you-buy demos, and great deals on stellar games. Steam also provides an online network available for the games you buy so if you are a fan of online co-op or like to frag some fellow classmates, Steam delivers. FYI: If you haven't played Portal, it's the perfect game to pick up in between classes and study sessions, not requiring hours of investment. Who knows, you might even learn a thing or two about portal physics.
#8 Grades 2 (Free)
Grades 2 allows you know where you stand in class, allowing you to track your scores and see what you need to score on tests and assignments to maintain your target GPA. With the new version you can even set due dates and it has a handy little GPA calculator.
I spend far more time on iTunes U and iBooks then any normal human should, but there is so much useful information to be found it's truly difficult to ignore. Here are some links to other great resources that will help you out in the classroom or at work:
If you have favorite apps that could be helpful to students of any age, or do double-duty at work, share them in the comments below.
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Wil Limoges is a Louisville, KY freelance web designer and Digital Savant at the vimarc group. He has had the pleasure of working for Apple as a Genius, loves science, and aspires to make great things!