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samiam

Best apps for grad school?

51 posts in this topic

Inspired by this post  does anyone feel like sharing the phone and tablet apps that they find most useful for school?

 

(I finished my undergrad ten years ago, when smartphones didn't exist, so I'm sure there's all sorts of fantastic things out there I have no idea about.)

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If you have Office 365 (U of Washington gave it to us for free) on your laptop, you can download Office Mobile on your phone or tablet. It probably works with Office 2013 too. Not sure about older versions of Office. Office Mobile is free. It comes with Word, Excel and PowerPoint. You can also get OneNote for free on any device. You can sync them all up to the Cloud with OneDrive. All these are free on mobile devices. 

 

Let's see. What else? EverNote is really popular. I have it on my phone but I've never used it so I can't really give you much advice. It's supposed to be very popular though. It's like a college organizer. 

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I find Dropbox on the phone really useful. I find it handy to save PDF confirmations of hotel bookings, flight reservations, eTickets, etc so I can easily access them when I travel (just "favourite" the document on your phone while connected to WiFi or in an area with reception and you can have offline access too). Sometimes when I know I need to go somewhere and wait (e.g. the DMV) and I want to just read a PDF related to coursework or research, I can quickly move the file to my Dropbox on my computer and then it's also on my phone. As I wrote somewhere else, I find it tough to regularly read academic PDFs on a small screen (two columns, figures etc are tough), it's pretty handy for once in a while.

 

I use Google Calendar as my main organizer and basically everything is sync'ed up with my laptop through Google Apps (documents, email, calendar etc.)

 

Not directly related to school, but apps for getting coupons for the grocery store etc. can save you some money on a grad student budget too. And PayPal is a handy one to pay your friends back when you all chip in for pizza or drinks or whatever. 

 

My campus is really well mapped on Google Maps, so I find that really handy when I need to go to a new building (grad students don't get around campus much!). 

 

Finally, ConnectBot is a really handy app that lets me use ssh to log into my work computer. I can then check that status of any programs I'm writing etc. In theory, you can use it to work on your computer as if you had a full keyboard but it's not very easy to write code on a phone! I use it when I need to check the status of my code while I'm away from a computer. Although I've really only done this a handful of times--it's rare that I need to know the status of something so urgently that it cannot wait until I get back to my desk.

 

That's all I can think of on my phone for now!

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Not directly related to school, but apps for getting coupons for the grocery store etc. can save you some money on a grad student budget too. And PayPal is a handy one to pay your friends back when you all chip in for pizza or drinks or whatever. 

 

 

I haven't used the paypal app so maybe it's the same, but I'm a big fan of Venmo. My friends and I use it all the time to pay each other back for splitting meals, drinks, etc, and some even use it for paying rent if your landlord has it. SO easy. 

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I haven't used the paypal app so maybe it's the same, but I'm a big fan of Venmo. My friends and I use it all the time to pay each other back for splitting meals, drinks, etc, and some even use it for paying rent if your landlord has it. SO easy. 

 

I haven't heard of Venmo but looking it up, I see that it's only available in the US! I started using PayPal when I was in Canada so I just stuck with it when I moved south :) (Although you still need to have separate accounts for the two countries--cannot link US bank accounts to a Canadian PayPal account and vice versa!)

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If you have Office 365 (U of Washington gave it to us for free) on your laptop, you can download Office Mobile on your phone or tablet. It probably works with Office 2013 too. Not sure about older versions of Office. Office Mobile is free. It comes with Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

 Unfortunately, Office Mobile does not work with Office 2013. Without an Office 365 subscription Office mobile is read-only.

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I second Evernote, I use it to take class notes on my laptop and quick notes on my mobile. When you save an article or website, you can clip part of it, or convert it to an easy-to-read format that you can highlight while you read (they make a separate browser app called Evernote Clearly that just makes online articles easy to read).

 

I haven't used the mobile version of Mendeley, because it's not on Android yet, but I dig the desktop and web components. It's like iTunes for references, mostly journal articles and PDFs.

 

Any.do is my favorite to-do list. It semi-aggressively reminds me of things I'd probably forget otherwise. Pretty good integration with other apps.

 

I'm using Google Drive more than Office Mobile and Dropbox; the features get better and better.

 

IFTTT can be great when you want to do something across platforms, devices, or websites that may be difficult to do otherwise. I use it to automatically set my phone to silent when I get to campus, turn it back on at home. You can have it send you notifications by SMS if you get an important email or back up photos and files across platforms.

 

I just got an Android app called Aviate, it changes your homescreen based on where you are (so when I'm at work/campus I only see icons for work or study apps, when I'm on the move I get appropriate apps as well, etc.). So far it's pretty useful, it automatically decides what category an app belongs in and when to show it to you based on your own usage, so you don't need to spend time organizing your home screen.

 

I use Feedly to stay updated with news in the world, and blogs/feeds related to my field (but also personal interests as well). If I see something I like on Feedly or anywhere else on the web, I save it to Pocket to read later on my phone, computer, or tablet. Too bad they don't allow highlighting.

 

Google Goggles may be useful, but I haven't used it too much. You can take pictures of stuff, it will recognize barcodes and those QR codes that everyone is putting on everything, but also will read text. Apparently you can do the same thing with the Amazon app - take a picture of a book or its barcode and see what their price is.

 

Google Translate's app is surprisingly useful - you can also take a picture of something in a foreign language and will translate it, or pass the phone back and forth to a friend and it will translate from one language to the other (haven't been in a situation where I could use this, but it's neat anyways).

 

I use Memrise a lot on the desktop to quickly remember important terms and foreign language vocabulary, their mobile app is improved. There's also Duolingo if you want free language lessons in the top 5 most commonly taught languages (German, Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish, French, I think).

 

And, of course, no grad life would be complete without helpful free time apps: Untappd (for finding and rating beers), Vivino (same thing for wine, you can take a picture of the label to see if it's good or rate it), and Happy Hours (find happy hours right now in your area - what better way to use a phone?).

Edited by bakalamba

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I also agree Evernote is really cool and useful.

 

Oh and Dropbox.

Edited by MakeYourself

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So, would most people here say that Evernote is the best for archiving, references, etc? It seems like there are a lot of similar programs out there. I mainly want something that I can save quotes, articles, etc...and hopefully be able to easily do citations/references.

 

Thanks!

 

Edit: Oops, maybe I am looking for something more like Endnote? Does Evernote do the same things as Endnote plus more?

Edited by tenguru

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The only drawback to Evernote is the fact that you can't efficiently draw/handwrite your notes. They have some sort of third-party app where you can draw/write and then you have the option to sync that to Evernote. It's really inconvenient for reasons not worth mentioning.

 

Otherwise, Evernote does virtually EVERYTHING. I love a feature/ well-integrated-third-party app called "peek" which works like flashcards. It's what I used to study all that GRE vocab! :D

 

They have a plethora of features that makes it a really handy tool. In one app, you can do what you would otherwise need 4 apps to do.

Edited by paolaplease

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I like Noteability for taking notes or annotating articles on my iPad. I also like Evernote, Dropbox, and Google Drive.

For to do lists and a calendar, I still use pen and paper. I couldn't live without my Moleskin daytimer.

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Edit: Oops, maybe I am looking for something more like Endnote? Does Evernote do the same things as Endnote plus more?

 

Endnote handles references and citations. Evernote, despite the similar name, is a non-academic tool where you can save notes, quotes, ideas, pictures of books, highlight articles while you read them, and have all of these notes synced across devices. I haven't used Endnote, but use Zotero and Mendeley (these two can work together, I believe). Zotero is like a bookmarking tool for references.

 

I'm not convinced Endnote has enough features for it to cost $110 more than Mendeley and Zotero (which are free). But I haven't used it to compare the three. I'm sure there are good comparisons out there.

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Thanks, Bakalamba.

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I'm not convinced Endnote has enough features for it to cost $110 more than Mendeley and Zotero (which are free). But I haven't used it to compare the three. I'm sure there are good comparisons out there.

 

Or you could just find a pirated version or download it from you university's server for free.

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GoodReader is the most useful app for me - they are having a sale and selling it for $2.99 instead of the normal price of $9.99, so you may want to snap it up now.  It's a document-reading app, essentially - you can read PDFs and Word docs along with other file types.  But what makes it worth it is the markup tools - OCR'ed and text-based PDFs give you the option to highlight, and with all kinds of files you can add drawings (ovals, lines, squiggles, whatever) and annotate with pop-up notes.  It's what I use to read all of my journal articles.  You can also connect it to cloud servers like Dropbox or Google Drive and use it to either download directly from the cloud or you can sync it to the cloud to update all of your documents as you change them on your computer.  Available for both iPhone and iPad; buy it once and use it on both devices.

I'm still trying to figure out whether I want to settle on Zotero or Papers2 as my citations manager.  Right now I am using Zotero, but because I like to write in Scrivener (a writing app for Mac and Windows) I need something that will play nice with it, so I'm contemplating moving to Papers2 (which I have).  Anyway, there are mobile versions of both, but the mobile version of Papers is better.  For Zotero, there's ZotPad, a third-party mobile client which allows you to access your Zotero library on your mobile device.  For Papers, there's the Papers mobile app.  I'm leaning towards Papers for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the mobile app is better and you can cite in any writing application.  (I tried Mendeley and I didn't like it.)

I use Popmoney to send money to my friends and family who don't have the same bank when divvying stuff up.  There's a $0.95 fee but that's better than my bank's fee, which is like $3.

Google Drive is also a useful app - Google has improved it by a lot.  There are also new Docs and Sheets apps to allow editing documents and spreadsheets on the go.  (I'm not a fan of Dropbox.)

I love feedly (an RSS feed basically) but I also use Newsify.  I use them mostly for fun though, lol.

I think I am the only grad student who doesn't like Evernote.  I used to use it more, but I kept having issues with it crashing and losing my stuff, and it moves slowly for me.  I prefer OneNote, personally.  (And tenguru, no - Evernote is not a reference/citation management app.  It's a note-taking application.)

 

Not all universities offer free versions of Endnote for all users (mine, for example, only offers it free for students in certain schools).  I haven't used the newer versions of Endnote - the last time I used it was probably in 2009 - but I remember it having the same functionality as Zotero and Mendeley for a lot more money.  I actually prefer the way Zotero works, and another thing is that Endnote messed up my citations SOOOO many times.  I spent more time fixing my references in Endnote-generated lists than Endnote actually saved me, especially for shorter lists.  So I used Zotero.  I used Zotero for my dissertation.  I literally had 50 pages' worth of references and I would say about 5-10% were done incorrectly, and in that case, it was because they were downloaded incorrectly in Zotero.  And then I could just fix them and hit "refresh" and voila, it's perfect.

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Not all universities offer free versions of Endnote for all users (mine, for example, only offers it free for students in certain schools).  I haven't used the newer versions of Endnote - the last time I used it was probably in 2009 - but I remember it having the same functionality as Zotero and Mendeley for a lot more money.  I actually prefer the way Zotero works, and another thing is that Endnote messed up my citations SOOOO many times.  I spent more time fixing my references in Endnote-generated lists than Endnote actually saved me, especially for shorter lists.  So I used Zotero.  I used Zotero for my dissertation.  I literally had 50 pages' worth of references and I would say about 5-10% were done incorrectly, and in that case, it was because they were downloaded incorrectly in Zotero.  And then I could just fix them and hit "refresh" and voila, it's perfect.

 

I'm going to second your remarks on EndNote. After my horrible experiences with it during my undergrad thesis I will never ever ever use it again. I found out after submitting my paper to the department that EndNote had botched some citations and my entire bibliography (it changed the format after I saved and sent it to the printer) so I had to quickly do it all again without the program, reprint (the entire 95 pages), and sprint across campus. Needless to say, it caused unnecessary amounts of stress on top of everything else.

 

At this point, I'm considering buying EasyBib so I can use all of their citation formats. I've been using it with no issues since middle school so it's that or typing it all out myself (which really isn't that bad). 

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I also do not like Evernote! Just saying :P I don't really have a use for an app that just allows me to jot down notes since for research purposes, I prefer to do that in my lab notebooks and keep everything in one place. I take notes for courses in paper notebooks because there are lots of diagrams and equations that I can't replicate digitally fast enough without a tablet. Even for shopping lists I prefer paper because it's annoying to have to constantly turn the screen on on my phone and it's much faster to just glance down at my paper. I can also write faster than I can type on my phone!

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I played with both Zotero and Endnote and in the end, decided Zotero was better.

 

I am not a fan of drop box, simply because the amount of space they have is too small. Instead, I use Google Drive. It works in much the same way, and if your university uses a Gmail-based email system, you probably have a lot of free Google Drive space as well. Regardless, cloud storage space is vital, IMO. 

 

I also use Livescribe for taking research notes... it's a good backup system. I have the notes written on paper but if I ever lose the journal, I will have them automatically backed up electronically... I can't describe how much of a relief that is.

 

Depending on the type of research you do, a good PDF reader and writer might be useful. My research involves a lot of text (newspapers, magazines, etc.), so having a top-of-the-line OCR program has been super important. I use ABBYY Finereader for that. For PDF markups, PDF X-Change Viewer is great. Acrobat Reader is okay but PDF X-Change does OCR if you don't need anything too drastic... and Adobe Acrobat Professional is crap for OCR compared to ABBYY.

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I have evernote, mostly for to-do lists right now (like my school supply list, weekly to-do list, a list of classes to use as a basis for independent study, etc). I also have a local bus tracker app on my phone, which is much better than the guessing game of which bus is on time or running late.  

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When my dad started using Evernote for work (he's an entrepreneur) I was skeptical; but I actually don't think I could live without it now. I used it throughout my masters, for my lab work and personal stuff. It is very easy to compartmentalize/personalize your info and it is also so easy to search for stuff. For instance, I keep track of key research papers, and Endnote lets you search your entire directory -- even through the PDFs. Also the fact that you can access anything from anywhere is very cool and convenient.The downside is that, if you're using it to a large extent like me, it is $5/month. But I found it worth it...

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Does Evernote allow you to record lectures and type notes at the same time? If not, does anyone know of an android app that can do this? Thanks!

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Does Evernote allow you to record lectures and type notes at the same time? If not, does anyone know of an android app that can do this? Thanks!

 

Yes, you can type notes and record simultaneously. The only issue there is that if your keyboard types loudly, you'll hear your keystrokes in the background of your recording.

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Some additions to the suggestions already made:

 

I use iStudiez Pro religiously. It allows you to keep track of all of your assignments, major deadlines, courses, and schedule really seamlessly. It will pull your iOS calendar (and I think probably Android ones if you're on that) to populate events in addition to whatever you have in-app. It syncs across all of your mobile devices and on your laptop/desktop. What I love most about it is that keeps notifications for a certain number of days out what due dates you have coming up, so I can always look down at my phone or in my dock and see that I have X number of things coming up in the Y days. You also can keep track of grades (I think that part of it was more designed for undergrads, but it could still be helpful).

 

See if your university's library subscribes to Press Reader and get it if they do. It allows you to download 5 newspapers daily in print format--unfortunately some of the big names (NYTimes, Boston Globe, etc.) are not included, but it does have some other big US ones too. It also has a massive range of international papers, so I was able to read Le Monde when I wanted to. It has a great feature too, especially if you're trying to learn a language or keep up with one, that it will read select newspaper articles to you.

 

If you're in a city with public transit Transit is the best app I've found (and I've tried basically all of them) for planning trips, tracking trains and buses, etc. 

 

For PDF reading, I use iAnnotate Pro. Again, I've tried all of the rest, and iAnnotate stands head and shoulders above any of the others. The big perks of it are a wide range of tools, Dropbox integration, the easy ability of sharing (it will email annotated, flattened annotations, or unannotated versions of your PDFs). Because of how easy it is to keep things organized using folders in-app, I have not printed off PDF readings in years. I use a stylus on my iPad to keep the tactile aspect of reading PDFs that I need. That said, I don't like having books on my iPad or other devices unless they're downloaded from the library.

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I use Drawboard PDF from the Microsoft app store to read and annotate pdfs/powerpoint slides/ etc. If you have a tablet or pc with active digitizer, it's a pretty slick app for highlighting, making notes, and drawing. I think it cost like 5 bucks maybe, but it has been worth it for sure. There is a trial period as well.

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