Technology is an integral part of education. To kick start your school year, you need to be using the right hardware and software. You’d be surprised how much you’re missing out on.
Common logic says that the most popular choice must be the best. But that’s not always true. For example, everyone might tell you to get on the Dropbox train, but Google Drive might be better. And no matter which laptop you use, it’s time to dump Chrome and Firefox for Opera.
So here’s what you should load up on before you go back to school.
And you might be able to load up on a new $1,299 MacBook, because we’re giving one away!
You’re going to need a laptop. But the right laptop depends on several different factors. I still think the MacBook Air is a great value , but there are other options too.
If you’re happy with your existing laptop, maybe give it a performance boost. Install Linux to become a better student this year and make your old laptop sing.
The right smartphone for you pretty much comes down to choosing between Android and iOS.
For iPhones, it’s pretty simple. It’s matter of finding out if you should iPhone 7 Plus works for you .
If you like the idea of Windows 10 Mobile and new features like our review of the Lumia 950 , you might just like it too.
3. LiveScribe Smartpen 3
It looks and acts like a regular pen, but it also has some smart technology inside. The Smartpen 3 can record audio whenever you write something. So even if you don’t capture the professor’s words verbatim on paper, you’ll get it as a recorded MP3 file. Whatever you write and record is sent to its app, which transcribes the audio into text. Cool, eh?
No wonder this was one of our best back-to-school gadgets in 2016 .
4. Evernote or OneNote
There is always a debate about which note-taking app is better, Evernote or OneNote . To be fair, both have their advantages.
Sandy recently showed you how to start the school year right with Evernote . It can set reminders, create notes, annotate PDFs, and much more.
But you can also do most of that on OneNote . Plus, OneNote has other cool featuers, like its built-in document scanner and whiteboard reader. I’d favor OneNote, but it’s really your call. Both these tools are excellent.
5. Google Drive
For any student, Google Drive is an invaluable tool. Almost everyone you meet will have a Google account, and several universities even use Google Apps officially.
You’d be amazed on how Google Drive can keep you organized in school. Its search feature alone makes it worth having. Considering how well it hooks into your Gmail, that’s just an added bonus.
Google Drive also comes with its own built-in office suite. Honestly, it’s the best. If you aren’t convinced, read the only guide to Google Drive you’ll ever need .
Get over your love-hate relationship with Chrome and switch to Opera. It’s the best browser for students going back to school.
Opera lets you access blocked sites with its built-in free VPN (virtual private network) . Using this VPN is also a secure way to connect to public Wi-Fi networks, like the one on your campus. Read our detailed review of Opera VPN to find out everything about it.
Opera’s built-in Power Save mode will boost your laptop’s battery life. Once on, it will reduce battery consumption without affecting your performance. When you’re out at class all day, you certainly want your laptop to make it through.
You don’t need to install ad blocking extensions in Opera. That too is built in, stopping useless elements of a web page to load it faster. Plus, it’s safer, lighter, and faster than third-party extensions. We do request that you whitelist MakeUseOf in your ad blocker .
Make the most of your widescreen by activating sidebar extensions in Opera. Go to Menu > View > Show Sidebar to turn it on. Here are a few cool sidebar extensions that’ll help you this school year:
- Classic Notes [No Longer Available] — A simple scribble pad to write notes quickly.
- Google Keep Sidebar — Access the best to-do list app in your sidebar.
- Side Calculator — A quick calculator so you don’t need to open another.
- Web Panel — Access the mobile version of any site in your sidebar.
- Skype Sidebar — Chat with friends with a simple, always-on messenger.
So what are you waiting for? Get the latest version of Opera right away for a better school year with less ads, safer browsing on your school’s network, better battery life, and plenty more that’ll make this the best school year yet!
Download — Opera for Windows, Mac, or Linux
Start With Opera on a Free New MacBook
In case you thought that the above features are only going to help on Windows, think again. All of them apply on Mac too, and there are three unmissable reasons Opera is best on Mac .
In fact, Opera is giving away a free MacBook to a lucky reader of this post! Participate in the contest above to go back to school with a shiny new Apple, running the best browser and the best tools.
Image Credits: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock