10 apps to get you through school

Post by Liz M.

I was in The Coop the other day purchasing some spiffy new notebooks to get organized for class (that’s all it takes, right?), and as I stared at the multitude of academic planners, hemming and hawing over which one would do my homework for me help me do my homework in a timely fashion, I realized that I have not used a planner since Y2K wiped out my non-digital documentation records.

While that last part is not entirely factual, the method to my madness in the last decade has been various post-it-note schemes and, more recently, iCal alerts. Alas, it’s only week 3 and I’m behind in my readings (I’m not the only one, right?). So I turned to the Interwebs to help get me back on track.

The following is a list of mobile apps and online productivity tools to help us conquer our academic challenges this semester. And don’t forget to submit your own suggestions in the comments!


Wunderlist is a free, multi-platform productivity tool that allows you to organize and manage your tasks (big or small), share them with friends, and take them to the cloud. It’s available for Windows, Mac, iPhone, and iPad, and it was just rebuilt and relaunched for Android last week.


Ever have one of those days when you need to buckle down and focus and NOT check Facebook or Twitter for the millionth time? Freedom for Mac and Windows allows you to block out distractions anywhere from 15 minutes to 8 hours at a time by taking your computer offline and locking you away from the Internet. Tempted to cheat? Then you’ll need to reboot.

Notes Plus

While this may be exclusive to the iPad, it deserves a spot on the list. Not only can you use different fonts, colors, and backgrounds, but you can draw and write with your own fingers as opposed to typing. It’s tablet-productivity at its best.


It’s not a search engine, it’s a computational knowledge engine. It’s like a Magic 8 Ball that gives you a real answer, not links. Have you ever wanted to know the average snowfall in Boston? The population of France? Or the equation for gravity? WolframAlpha has the answer. Go ahead, try it on your computer, iPhone or Android.


I use this more than any other tool listed here. There’s not a paper, blog post, or project for which I have not consulted dictionary.com and thesaurus.com for clarification and reference. Few things are worse in academia than perpetuating the cycle of misused words. Plus, the apps for iOS and Android don’t need an Internet connection to search for words, and they’re a lot easier to carry around in your bag than 5-pound dictionaries.


You write a lot of papers over the course of a semester and even more over the course of your degree. What if there was an app that could cut your citation time down by hours? Let’s give credit where credit is due. QuickCite for iOS and Android turns the barcodes on the back of your books into bibliographies. Simply snap a photo and get the citation e-mailed to you instantly. According to this Fast Company article, it could save you 2 weeks on that physics dissertation.

Deluxe Moon

What is this doing here, you may ask? Deluxe Moon’s creators, Lifeware Solutions, claim that the moon strongly influences many aspects of our life. With the app, you can chart its phases, age, and your emotional well-being, among many other features. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover the moon cycle has something to do with your procrastination cycle? Regardless, it’s a neat (and free) educational app for iOS and Android.


You rush out of work to get to class on time, but there’s nowhere to park in Harvard Square. While this app won’t magically create parking spots, it will tell you which parking meters are open or about to be open with a minute-by-minute countdown. It even has a “driving mode” that updates your location via GPS. Just keep 2 hands on the wheel and 2 eyes on the road. Biking to campus? PrimoSpot even knows where to park your 2-wheeled whip, and it’s available for iOS and Android.


Long hours at work and school require caffeine. With 4 Starbucks shops in Harvard Square we’re certainly not wanting for cups of joe, but is there another app out there that rewards your purchase with a gold star? It’s like you’re back in second grade and you aced your spelling test. And unlike the pricey drinks, the apps for iOS and Android are free.


Yes, you have your iPod. But Pandora for iOS and Android is great for finding new artists or just mixing it up every once in a while. Plus, depending on your study spot of choice, you may need to block out the chatty Cathy next to you with some Mozart or Chopin.

Now is there an app that will get me to use all of these apps?

Legal jargon:

Please note that Harvard University Extension School does not endorse any of these applications or online resources. And it’s always best for you to human-check your work.

September 14, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , . Hot topic, In the news, Technology. 1 comment.