Resources for the student
And aren’t we all students, in a sense? Dustin Wax created a great compilation at Lifehack.org, including:
- Free Applications Every Student Needs (see below)
- Online Tools Students Should Check Out (see below)
- Websites for Students (Aside from Lifehack) (see at the link above)
- Advice for Students from Lifehack.org (see at the link above)
- Online Research Resources (see at the link above)
Free Applications Every Student Needs
Unless you have money coming out of your ears, you probably won’t want to shell out the cash you’ll need to get Office, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, EndNote, and so on — even with your student discount. These free apps do the job well enough, and sometimes even better than their paid or otherwise limited alternatives.
- OpenOffice.org: A top-quality, full-featured office productivity suite — word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software, graphics editor, database, the works! Can save and open most Microsoft Office formats. If you have MS Works on your PC, ditch it and get OpenOffice.org instead. Available for most operating systems.
- GIMP: A powerful, full-featured photo editing program, comparable to Photoshop. Available for Linux, Mac, and Windows.
- KeyNote: Even after 2 1/2 years of being abandoned by its developer, KeyNote (not the Mac presentation software) remains the best free outlining software, with support for rich text formatting, plugins and macros, hotkeys, and a lot more. Can be run from a flash drive, too.
- FreeMind: Great mindmapping program, useful for brainstorming, outlining projects, and keeping notes.
- Mozy Backup: An Internet-based backup system, Mozy’s free plan allows you to store up to 2GB of files. The software runs in your system tray and automatically backs up the folders and files you’ve selected. I have it set to backup my documents folder and my email, which comes in just under 2GB. To backup photos, music, and other big files, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid version.
- Zotero: A bibliography manager that integrates with Firefox, allowing you to automatically add webpages and, more usefully, resources from academic databases like J-Stor and AnthroSource to your bibliography. You can attach PDFs and images to your entries, as well as add your own notes. And all without leaving Firefox.
- NVU: Mozilla’s web editor, NVU allows you to write webpages either in raw code or using the WYSIWYG interface, making webpage creation simple. UPDATE: NVU is no longer in development; the current version is called Kompozer.
- VLC: The VideoLan Client isn’t pretty, but it will play just about any audio or video file you throw at it.
- Pidgin: A single IM client that connects to just about every IM network: AOL, MSN, Yahoo!, MySpace, IRC, and so on. Available for Windows and Linux; Mac users can give Adium a try (I can’t vouch for it, since I haven’t used a Mac for 7 years…).
Online Tools Students Should Check Out
- Email: Gmail
Register for a solid, plain-jane email address from Gmail, something like FirstnameLastname@gmail.com. If your school sends important information only to your school email account, have it forwarded to your Gmail account. When you graduate, you’ll lose that school address — don’t invest too much of your social identity in an address you’ll lose someday. And while that .oOAwesomeChickOo.@goober.com email address seems like fun now, it won’t be much use he you start applying for internships, scholarships, and jobs.
- Word Processor: Google Docs/Zoho Writer/Buzzword
Online word processing offers solid features (minus a few bells and whistles you aren’t likely to need) with the ability to access your work from any web-connected computer. Google and Zoho lead the pack at the moment, though Buzzword’s gorgeous interface makes it a definite contender.
- Spreadsheet: Google Docs/Zoho Sheet/EditGrid
Again, Google and Zoho both offer strong online spreadsheets; if you’re using them for word processing, you might as well stick with them for spreadsheets. EditGrid’s emphasis on collaboration (they even have a FaceBook app) and strong feature-set make it well worth checking out.
- Student Organizer: Notely/MyNoteIt/GradeMate
Online organizers designed with students in mind, these services offer the ability to create, organize, and share notes, create reminders for important assignments, track grades and schedules, and generally keep on top of your student life. Each offers a slightly different feature-set and approach to student organization; pick the one that fits you best.
- Todo List: Toodledo/Remember the Milk
Good, solid general-purpose task lists that allow you to sort tasks by date, priority, project, and just about any other way that strikes your fancy. Send yourself reminders by SMS, email, IM, or RSS. Access on your computer or any web-enabled mobile device, even by voice using Jott. Integrate with GMail (Remember the Milk only), iGoogle, Google Calendar, and various other apps and services.
- Mindmapping: Bubbl.us/Mindomo/Mind42/MindMeister
Release your creativity and organize your thoughts using an online mindmapping tool. Collaborate with others and publish your mindmaps. Use to generate ideas for your papers and export in outline format.
- Textbook Search: BookFinder
Search over a hundred online bookstores for used or cheap copies of your required texts.
- Bookmark Manager: del.icio.us
Still the best place for storing, organizing, sharing, and discovering online resources. Tag bookmarks with the name of each project you’re working on to create an online research reference. Tag by subject to recall possible topics for later papers.
- Notebook: Google Notebook
Use Google Notebook to keep track of pages, pictures, excerpts, and other material for papers and projects. Create a new notebook for each class or essay. Share resources by publishing your notebooks to the web.
- WIki: PBWiki/WikiDot
Another way to build and share resources like notes, collaborative papers, etc. Wikis offer incredible ease of use and are ideal for working with others.
- Bibliography Creator: OttoBib
Enter the ISBNs of all the books you used in a paper; OttoBib returns a perfectly formatted bibliography ready to cut and paste into your paper’s “Works Cited” page.
Websites for Students (Aside from Lifehack)
These sites are in the same vein as lifehack.org, but focus exclusively on student life and the needs of academics.
Advice for Students from Lifehack.org
Lifehack.org authors have published dozens of pieces with advice for students. Here’s a good sampling.
Online Research Resources
To help you get started with all your research projects.
About the Author: Dustin M. Wax is a contributing editor and project manager at lifehack.org. He is also an anthropology and women’s studies professor in Las Vegas, NV where he lives with his partner and three children. His personal site can be found at dwax.org.