Must-Have Software for College Students
Another summer has gone by, and students are setting off to college. When faced with the abundance of awesome tools available for students today, part of me wishes I were staking out a library carrel along with them.
Wed, August 14, 2013
PC World — Another summer has gone by, and students are setting off to college. When faced with the abundance of awesome tools available for students today, part of me wishes I were staking out a library carrel along with them.
If you're lucky enough to be a student in this golden age of tech, don't miss these great finds. Most of them are free, and all of them are bound to make the start of the new school year smoother than the last.
For college students, the old "reading, writing, and 'rithmetic" morphs into writing papers, doing basic stats, and creating presentations (and yes, still lots of reading). No matter what you're studying or where, you're going to have to perform these tasks from time to time. Even with student discounts, Microsoft Office Suite can cost anywhere between $80 and $140. But if you think there's no alternative, you have a little research to do.
With its powerful Writer, Calc, and Impress programs, LibreOffice 4 offers a free and capable alternative to Microsoft's Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. LibreOffice covers almost every feature you'll find in Microsoft's tools, and it can open and save as any Microsoft document with a minimal learning curve. LibreOffice's free suite also includes Base (an Access alternative), Draw, and Math.
Unless you're a real Microsoft addict, you'll be surprised at how easily you can get used to LibreOffice. It's available in Linux, Mac, and PC editions.
Every student knows the pain of collecting articles, managing a library, and, worst of all, creating citations. Zotero is a veteran (and free) tool that solves all these problems. Originally a Firefox add-on, Zotero has recently become available for Chrome and Safari as well as via its standalone desktop version. It works on Linux, Mac, and PC.
Zotero makes it easy to collect research papers off the Web, attach PDFs, find relevant articles in your library, and sync it across PCs. With the help of a Microsoft Word or LibreOffice plug-in, Zotero takes the pain out of citations and bibliography, doing all the heavy lifting for you, using any of the major citation styles. Zotero helped me complete my graduate degree, and it's a must-have tool for any higher-education student.
There's more to your PDF library than organization and citations, though. Students and scholars alike have to skim through dozens of articles, examining figures, highlighting important parts, and adding notes of their own. Ideally, you should also be able to quickly refer back to these articles and notes.