10 Mac Tools That Every Student Should Make Use Of

Bakari Chavanu 19-10-2011

mac tools for studentsIt’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.

mac tools for students

See our article, 8 Easy Ways To Manage Tasks With Remember the Milk 8 Easy Ways To Manage Tasks With Remember The Milk Read More for other tasks management ideas.

iProcrastinate [Broken Link Removed]

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.


mac tools for studying

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.

mac tools for studying


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.

MindNode [Broken Link Removed]

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.

mac tools for studying

Jeffrey’s article MindMapping: 3 Simple Idea Mapping Software for Mac Read More 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.


Carbon Copy Cloner

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.

mac student apps

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.


mac student apps

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 Make Skim Your Ultimate Reading & Study Tool For PDF Files [Mac] Though Apple's PDF reader and image correction application, Preview, is a highly used default program on the Mac, a third-party alternative reader, Skim, pushes Preview to the side when it comes to advanced study and... Read More 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.

10 Mac Tools That Every Student Should Make Use Of screenshot881

Bean Text Editor

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.

mac student apps


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.

10 Mac Tools That Every Student Should Make Use Of screenshot1370

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.

mac tools for students

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 Students: Free Apps To Help You Excel at School [Mac only] Read More .

Related topics: Education Technology, Organization Software, Study Tips.

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  1. TabgripforIpad
    November 8, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    I wish I had these applications growing up. The fact that we used to lug around a typewriter back then makes me cry at the thought of carrying something so heavy. And now kids are just toting tablets and netbooks.

  2. Giovanni Garinian
    October 29, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    You should try Wunderlist for Task Management... it's a bit new app but is totally awesome because of his great design, almost all platforms compatible (OSX, Windows, iPhone, Android, Web), robust syncing acroos all devices, you can work offline, easy to use, Mail2Task, different subjects, etc... etc... etc...

    You'll love it!
    Ah, it's totally FREE!(and i have try a lot)... but again, for me is perfect.. it just depends of each person, but it's very likely to fit the needs of most of the people.

    • Tina
      November 2, 2011 at 11:23 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation, Giovanni.

  3. Anonymous
    October 19, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    @aa710c4ef8ce103d10b04965b5cf72f2:disqus  I use Minus for a while, it's very instable now..... Incomparable to Dropbox.

  4. AlexS
    October 19, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Instead of Dropbox, go with Minus- you get much more space. You start with 10gb, then get an extra 1gb for each person you refer.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      October 24, 2011 at 1:38 am

      Alex, I never heard of Minus. I'll check it out. thanx

      • Bakari Chavanu
        October 24, 2011 at 1:41 am

        Alex, I haven't checked out Minus yet, but I would probably stay with Dropbox mainly because of the support it gets from mobile applications. 

        • AlexS
          October 25, 2011 at 12:30 pm

          Fair enough, I don't really use online storage with my phone so I guess that never mattered to me.

        • Ngarvey
          November 1, 2011 at 8:40 pm

          Minus now has an app for the iphone!  Even thought I love Dropbox.  I am starting to love Minus more and more.

  5. Anonymous
    October 19, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    I disagree with Namely and Think. First though, I think I should mention that the Preview app allows annotations too, so that's not an extra Skim feature. Also, Preview allows signatures, which I don't know if Skim has, so Preview may still be useful for signing documents.

    Namely is not something I would recommend. First of all, it takes up space in the menu bar, which is precious little space if you're a MacBook-toting student. MacBooks are common with students. Also, you can just rearrange the order of Spotlight results to show apps first. Or just download something way better, like QuickSilver or Alfred, both free.

    Think is also something I would not recommend. I cannot think of an assignment that requires only one application. Unless you don't need to research because you know everything, - in which case, why are you at school/uni? - Think just blocks everything out. I would say something that blocks certain sites/apps forcefully. Make sure you have one way of keeping in contact with friends, in case they have something you need. I am forced to use FB sometimes to ask for homework I missed in school. I saw a post here on MUO, not too long ago, talking about a tool that blocks the Internet or specific sites for a period of time and the only way of stopping it is to shutdown your computer. It would be cool if it was just specific sites, but I can't remember.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      October 24, 2011 at 1:40 am

      Nutz, I agree with your critique. However, MUO mainly focuses on free apps and internet services, so I tried to recommend apps in that area. Most of the time it depends on great your needs are for a particular application. Thanks for your feedback.