It’s next to impossible these days to attend school and not use a desktop or laptop computer. While all Mac computers provide essential tools or applications (including Mail, iCal, TextEdit, and Preview) to help students stay organized and get assignments done, there are a slew of free and practical third-party tools that every Mac-owning student should make use of. These Mac tools for students are essential for task management, file sharing and backup, and brainstorming ideas.
Keeping up with tasks and other responsibilities is the key to academic success for all students. There are several task management applications for Mac users with the cost up to $80. But TaskMate is a free, easy-to-use, tool that sits in your Mac menubar. You can quickly add a new task, and review and export your list for printing or sharing.
See our article, 8 Easy Ways To Manage Tasks With Remember the Milk for other tasks management ideas.
For a more elaborate test management tool, the well designed and equally easy-to-use, iProcrastinate looks to be almost perfect for students. iProcrastinate is more than a todo list application like TaskMate; iProcrastinate allows you to break down your academic assignments and tasks into subjects, as well as assign due dates and “Star” tasks that are most important to you.
iProcrastinate includes features for creating steps for accomplishing tasks and linking to related files in your hard drive. An iPhone version of iProcrastinate is also available in the iTunes App Store.
We have written several articles about Evernote, which is a cross-platform application, perfect for keeping class notes, webpages, and related text files.
The best thing about Evernote is that whatever you add to it can be accessed in your online account, Mac computer, or iOS device. Evernote is also supported by other third-party applications and iOS apps.
Brainstorming ideas and drawing connections between various concepts and facts is what is done by all students in most academic courses. Using what is called mindmapping may be a better way to develop and visualize ideas and related concepts than making simple lists.
Jeffrey’s article on mind mapping explains more about the process. If this appeals to you, you should check out and download the free version of MindNode from the Mac App Store.
While Mac computers are well known for being very stable, regularly backing up your hard drive is nevertheless essential for unexpected crashes and failures. Apple’s Time Machine is pretty sufficient for retrieving previously deleted documents, but a full-blown backup application called backup Carbon Copy Cloner will make a bootable copy of your entire hard drive.
You can set up Carbon Copy Cloner to run in duplicate your hard drive on a scheduled basis—daily, weekly, monthly, etc. Cloner makes incremental backups (only copying files that have been changed since the last clone) of your hard drive to an external drive so it can be booted whenever needed.
If you have fifty or more applications installed on your Mac, it can be a painful waste of time to open your applications folder in order to launch a program that you might not use very often, and does not reside in your Dock. There are several tools for launching Mac applications, but hardly none are easy to use than Namely.
You call up this tool using a keyboard shortcut (the search box will pop up under your menubar), and then simply type the name of application you want to launch.
I have reviewed Skim before as the best PDF reader and annotation tool for Mac users. While Apple provides a free PDF reader (Preview) as part of OS X, Skim is much better for students who do lots of research. Skim includes features for not only annotating documents, but also for bookmarking pages of individual PDFs and exporting notes to a plain text format. Skim is also a free Mac tool.
Apple’s TextEdit may be the only word processing application that most students need. However, if TextEdit seems somewhat limited, but you don’t want to use a larger application like Microsoft Word or Pages, you might want to give Bean a try. While Bean doesn’t do footnotes or predefined text styles, it does include features like live word count, auto saving, a floating Windows option (like Stickies has), built-in dictionary, word completion, and date stamped backups.
When you use the computer a lot, it’s often easy to get distracted by other applications and Internet browsing. Think is a Mac tool that may help you get more focused by blocking out other running applications and Finder windows on your Mac, so you can concentrate on a single application you’re using for homework or a specific course assignment.
When you launch Think, it presents you with a familiar application switcher of your opened applications. After you select one, Think darkens everything else on your desktop except for the selected application. You can adjust the opacity of the dark backdrop to your liking.
Similar to Evernote, the cross-platform application called Dropbox is another essential tool for any student who wants to access files from his or her desktop, online account, and/or iOS device. For the most part, Dropbox has replaced the Documents folder on my Mac—simply because it enables me to access my documents from anywhere I have Wi-Fi connection. Dropbox is also supported by many third-party applications, and has several uses that we have previously written about.
Let us know about other free Mac tools you recommend for academic success. And for more ideas about free Mac tools check out this article.