6 Free Back-to-School Apps That Make College Life Easier

By Jake Barach  AUG 01, 2013 2:45 PM

There's a lot to handle on campus, but smart devices can help manage it all.

 


This week Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) debuted Office Mobile for Android (NASDAQ:GOOG) mobile devices, though only those who own Office 365 may take advantage of it.

The app, which has been available to Office 365 users with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) devices since June 14, offers access to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint via smartphone or tablet.

Though preparing entire projects would be rather tedious on a smartphone, the app is intended to enable users to make last-minute edits on-the-go, a nice perk for college students across the nation who have already spent the $100 on Office 365 and are now preparing to head back for the fall semester. 

With presentations, essays, and long hours in the library on the horizon, here are six free apps that any student can use to make life on campus a little easier.

Dropbox

One of the only things worse than having to write a 20-page paper is permanently losing a 20-page paper because it hasn’t been backed up.

Dropbox, which is the creation of two MIT students, is a file hosting service that will save any student from the tragedy of document loss. After installing the service onto a computer, videos, photos and documents added to Dropbox are saved and accessible from the computer and via the Dropbox app, which is compatible with Windows, iOS, Android, BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) and other operating systems.

The app's services follow a freemium model, granting users 2 GB of storage space for free and enabling them to acquire as much as 18 GB at no cost by referring friends to the service. This should be more than enough to ensure the safety of the most irreplaceable documents, though Dropbox’s Pro packages offer 100 GB, 200 GB, or 500 GB of space for $99, $199, and $499, respectively.

Google Drive is a similar alternative for those more comfortable with a big-name brand keeping their documents secure, although it isn't compatible with BlackBerry devices.

Evernote

Between running to classes, extracurricular activities, and jobs, the college lifestyle is often fast-paced. With Evernote, created by Stepan Pachikov of Azerbaijan, students can be sure that their notes keep up with them.

Text, Web pages, photographs, audio recordings, and handwritten notes can all be uploaded to the application, which can sync across computers, phones, and tablets on most popular platforms.

Uploaded information can then be organized into folders, annotated, and searched for. Evernote recognizes words that may appear on a sign in a user's uploaded photograph, or on a product, or in a handwritten note. This enables users to use keywords to search through photographs as well as typed notes, which is a useful time-saving feature.

"It's easily the best note-taking app you'll find, in part because it integrates with so many other programs and services, but also because of its thoughtful features and excellent search tools," wrote PC Mag in its review of the application.

The free version of Evernote allows for 60 MB of monthly data usage. For $5 per month, or $45 for the year, the data cap rises to 1024 MB per month, which might be more than most students need. 

Wunderlist

Once school starts up, there will be plenty of deadlines, meetings, assignments, parties, and games to keep on the radar. That’s where Wunderlist comes in.

Lists, reminders, and tasks can all be organized with Wunderlist. Larger tasks can be broken down into subtasks and friends can be added to lists through Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) or email when a group effort is needed to take care of something. Whether it’s an essay deadline, movies that must be watched before the semester ends, or the items necessary to throw the best party the school has ever seen, Wunderlist has got it covered.

Wunderlist also syncs across devices, so as tasks gets added or crossed off, the list will update seamlessly across all platforms.

For $5 per month, Wunderlist’s Pro features enable users to upload documents, delegate specific tasks to individuals, customize notifications, and more in order to make group projects a breeze, though the free version should suffice in most situations.

WiFi Finder

Boasting over 825,000 free and paid wireless hotspots across 144 countries, WiFi Finder, created by San Francisco-based JiWire Inc., can keep you connected anywhere.

Sometimes a change of scenery is the best way to reenergize and ramp up productivity. Whether it’s a local Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) or a nearby park, WiFi Finder shows users free or paid Wi-Fi locations on a map to let them get out of the office without sacrificing their ability to work.

Available on Apple and Android devices, WiFi Finder is entirely free to use.

Mint

College is often the first time students must rely upon themselves to keep track of their spending and budget accordingly. By translating spending information into visuals, the Mint app makes the task of keeping track of cash a little easier.

Mint can sync with checking and savings accounts as well as credit cards. It then automatically keeps track of how much is spent and what it is spent on, breaking it down into categories like “shopping,” “travel,” and “home.” 

Users may also create their own budget with Mint, which can then keep track of purchases to prevent overspending. Over time, the application can also warn the user when they’ve spent an unusual amount based on their general purchasing trends.

A Mint account can be synchronized across tablets, smartphones, and personal computers, making it an easy-to-access and completely cost-free assistant for anyone trying to keep an eye on their spending.

The app has been popular with users, which isn't surprising considering that the Mint.com website has been around since 2006. It is now a subsidiary of Intuit (NASDAQ:INTU) and it is headquartered in Mountain View, California.

"Mint is hands down the best-looking, most user-friendly, and useful app on my tablet! They took an amazing service and created an app around it that delivers on all levels," writes one reviewer in the Google Play store.

Flashcard Apps

As long as there is information to be memorized, flashcards will hold their place in students' study routines. There are plenty of flashcard apps to be found in app stores, but Chegg Flashcards is the safest bet, given the Santa Clara company's specialization in academics. The only drawback here is that the flashcards are only available on Apple products.

Chegg Flashcards enables users to make their own card sets, add photos to cards, and keep track of wrong and right answers.

For those seeking an application that is compatible across various operating systems, StudyBlue Flashcards offers similar features to Chegg, but to Android and iOS users alike. Additionally, with this application, users can add classes and connect with classmates to ask questions and make studying a collaborative effort.

The basic model is free and should provide most students with what they need, but StudyBlue Pro memberships are available starting at $8.99 per month. The paid option enables the ability to hide already mastered cards, type equations, and customize text. 
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