Productive Macs bundle: TextExpander and data management apps for 30 bucks (review)

Productive MacsProductive Macs is back with another app bundle, this time offering 9 apps for 30 bucks! That’s a steep saving compared to the $239 you would have to spend for buying all these apps individually, no doubt, but lets be honest: who would do this? In my opinion, huge savings (87%!) look great on the screen, but they don’t say anything about whether or not a bundle is “worth it”. For this you have to ask: How many apps in a bundle will help you in your workflow?

When it comes to bundles, I would say that the Productive Macs bundles are among the better ones you will find online. I liked the previous Productive Macs bundle, which focused on information management, a lot. The current bundle is a little less amazing and a little more difficult to describe – but also ten dollar cheaper. This is the lineup: [Read more...]

The 30 Best iPad apps for college students and academics (part 3)

Best iPad apps for universityWelcome to the grand finale of my personally favorite 30 iPad apps for everybody in academia, university and college. This time, I am focusing on the best iPad apps for Organizing and Enjoying life in academia.

This series is different from most collections you will find online. Often, the usual iPad apps everybody knows are thrown together with some apps targeted at particular niches in higher education (e.g., Elements for chemistry students). Nothing wrong with that, except that you might not hear anything new or useful for your own academic workflows (okay, in this case there would be something wrong with that).

This list is different: I only focus on high quality, productivity-boosting iPad apps that improve the workflows across all subjects and levels of academia. Whether you are a college freshman in art history, a post-doc in life sciences, or a seasoned professor in business: I am sure you will find something here that helps you super-charging your academic life. [Read more...]

The 30 Best iPad apps for university students and academics (part 2)

Best iPad apps for university students and academicsThis is the second part of my list of the 30 best iPad apps for university students, postdocs, lecturers and professors. The idea of this list is to really focus on core workflows in academia, and to see what iPad apps can improve our productivity in these workflows. You heard right: This list is about boosting your productivty.

The first part covered 12 great apps for Writing and Reading on the iPad, so be sure to check it out if you haven’t done yet. The current article covers 10 apps that are true gems for Thinking through (a.k.a. conceptualizing) and Presenting your ideas. The third part concludes this list by focusing on apps that help you to Organize and Enjoy university life.

 

iPad apps for University Students and Academics: Conceptualizing Ideas

Structured conceptual maps: MindNode ($10, iTunes Link) has been one of my favorite apps for conceptualizing research and projects for a long time. Mindnode is such an important part in my “Thinking workflow” that it lives in my iPad’s dock.

There are a couple of things that make Mindnode a great choice for people in university. Its minimalistic style – Mindnode is basically a huge canvas – lets you focus on your ideas. Yet, it is powerful enough to manage even large research projects. One feature that is, I believe, unique among mindmapping apps is that you can have more than one main node on each canvas. This is great, because it lets you structure your ideas much better than with only one central node.

Mindnode: The best mind mapping map for college students

MindNode is my preferred mindmapping app for university work because of its clean design, support for more than one main node, and its iCloud integration with MindNode Pro on the Mac.

Last, Mindnode lets you access your mindnode from every Apple device you can think of. It also works on your iPhone, and there is also a Mindnode Pro version for your Mac ($10, App Store Link). Both apps sync via iCloud.

More flexible conceptual maps: Mindmaps are great to organize your thoughts, but they are not really good for developing a story line or sketching out the flow of an argument. For this, you need apps that give you more flexibility in arranging your thoughts. Popplet ($5, iTunes link) lets you create and draw connections between little bubbles of text, photos and drawings. By zooming in and out of the canvas you can quickly change between a bird’s-eye view on your project and the nitty-gritty details of the narrative.

I have always liked Popplet a lot, and it was the subject of my very first post on academiPad. However, I am a little disappointed that, even after more than 2 years, Popplet still lacks some basic things such as the standard iOS spell checker. The developer has made some improvements though (e.g., you can select more than one bubble by tapping with two fingers) and there is an online collaboration feature now on the web, so its definitely a great app for people in university.

Bonus Tip: Start with the free version of Popplet and see if you want to get the full version with unlimited canvases.

Free-hand sketching and drawing: Although Popplet gives you more flexibility in arranging your ideas, it might be still too rigid if you are a fan of sketching out ideas by hand. Sketchbook Ink ($5, iTunes link) is the best app if you want to draw huge, free-flowing conceptual maps with a stylus. This app is targeted at artists and lacks keyboard text entry that would be nice for university related workflows.

Nonetheless, when it comes to “thinking by drawing,” I think it is the best app out there (and I have tried many). The canvas size is huge, and because Ink uses a resolution independent drawing engine, your strokes and handwritten letters look smooth at every zoom level. This app comes as close to pen and paper as possible, but you need an iPad 2 or later to run it properly.

Sketchbook Ink

This is just a tiny part of the canvas available to you in Sketchbook ink. Being targeted at artists, Sketchbook Ink lacks a couple of features that would be nice to have when conceptualizing ideas (e.g., keyboard input, fixed pen sizes), but its huge canvas and the resolution independent inking engine make it the best app to conceptualize ideas in free-drawing mode.

Bonus tip: For conceptualizing your thoughts with free-hand sketching apps, a good stylus is a must. Check out this post on how to find a stylus that is optimized for handwriting and conceptualizing ideas. I am using an Adonit’s Jot for my handwriting and sketching sessions and I think its great. You can read more about this stylus in my in-depth review of the Jot here.

The apps above adopt a canvas metaphor to give your ideas a lot of room to roam freely. Another way to conceptualize ideas is to utilize the (more familiar) notebook metaphor.

Notebooks: Apps like Penultimate, Notability and Noteshelf are a frequent sight among university students. Penultimate ($1, iTunes link) is the most bare bone app that only has a few pen options. However, its super smooth inking engine makes this app still a great choice for quickly jotting down your ideas. The problem is that you are going to run out of space soon, because Penultimate does not let you zoom in and out of the page. Not really cool if you are working on large ideas that are typical for university projects.

handwriting comparison between notability and noteshelfNotability ($1, iTunes link) is a more powerful app that adds more color and pen options, zooming, a fine handwriting mode and keyboard text entry to the mix. You can check out a much more detailed review of Notability here. In my opinion, Noteshelf’s ($6, iTunes link) inking engine is a little nicer than Notability’s, but otherwise both apps are quite similar. Noteshelf is rather expensive when compared to Notability, but if you are picky when it comes to the inking engine, try to pick up Noteshelf the next time is goes on a discount.

As you see, all these different apps are specialized for slightly different things. I personally like the canvas metaphor a lot and I use notebook apps only for sketching out short writing projects. While you are thinking what apps fit your university workflows best, why don’t you tell the world about these cool apps? Thanks for the Retweet!

 

iPad apps for Presenting

Giving (and practicing) a presentation: Keynote ($10, iTunes link) is Apple’s popular take on presentation apps. To be quite honest, I find it easier to create visually appealing presentations on the Mac. Nonetheless, I am glad to have Keynote on my iPad, because it allows me to review (and maybe slightly edit) my presentations without having to carry my laptop around university or the conference centre. In other words: nice to have, but Keynote on the Mac would be enough for me.

presentation clock for university talksCharing a session: Presentation Clock ($1, iTunes link) is your secret weapon for giving a class presentation or chairing a conference session. How often do we see session chairs holding up “3 minutes” signs to the presenter, just to be ignored? Presentation Clock is more authoritative: It countdowns the time you have left for your presentation – by the second! The color of the digits changes at pre-defined intervals from green to yellow to red. When the time is up, the colors invert (black numbers on red background) and the clock starts counting up. This app is about as subtle as a construction side next to your office, and it works! I have seen how speakers who never end on time suddenly start to panic when the clock turns red.

Making an impression: Adding photos is a great way of improving the visual appeal of your presentation, especially if these photos are part of your data or visualize your narrative. Snapseed ($5, iTunes link) is an intuitive photo enhancement app that will make even dull-looking snapshots look like they were taken by a pro photographer. What I like about this app is that you don’t have to know anything about color curves or other expert settings. With Snapseed, you simply define what area of the photo you would like to touch up, and then you can play around with the brightness, contrast and saturation levels of the surrounding area. Of course, this app is not only great for presentations, but for other aspects of your (university) life as well.

Snapseed

Snapseed is a great app to polish your photos without any experience necessary. Except for making your presentation a stunner, this app also comes in handy to share photos from your last vacation or the beginning-of-term party.

To further improve the personal touch of your presentation, you can use iFontMaker ($7, iTunes link) to create your own, unique typeset. Once created, your typeset can be exported into a TFF file and installed on any Mac or Windows computer. Again, this trick is not limited to presentations. You can also use your unique font for letters or your university / research blog.

 

What’s next?

This has been the second part of a three-part series discussing my favorite iPad apps for university students and academics (see part 1 here). The final part of this series discusses the best iPad apps for organizing and enjoying university life.

Please feel free to check out the other content on academiPad, and don’t forget to join academiPad’s twitter, RSS and email channels to stay up-to-date on how to improve your university workflows with iPad, Mac and the web.

If you enjoyed this list, please share it with people you love and your colleagues and peers (these groups may overlap). By Retweeting the tweet below you can let your twitter friends know about the first part of this series. This way they can start right from the top.

And of course, you can always use the other share buttons on the left and below. Thanks for sharing!

Disclaimer: Notability vs. Noteshelf handwriting sample from imore. Presentation Clock and Snapseed images by respective developers. All other images by academiPad. This article contains affiliate links.

The 30 Best iPad apps for college students and academics

Best iPad apps for college students and academicsIt is this special time of the year again: We are going back to school. And whether you are a college student or a tenured professor, or anything in between (yay Grad students!), you might be asking yourself what iPad apps you could download to get the most out of your iPad.

This is my personal list of the 30 best iPad apps for college / grad students and professors. It is not one of these countless posts that list a bunch of generic apps like Safari, Facebook and iBooks. Those are not really specific to people in university, and I also bet you knew those already. I am also not going to throw a list at you filled with niche iPad apps targeted at one particular subject or at earlier years of education. So what will you find here?

This is a list of my favorite iPad apps that are useful for everybody in academia – college students, grad students, postdocs, lecturers and professors – because they help us excel in our core workflows: Writing, Reading, Thinking, Presenting and Organizing our academic lives.

The iPad apps I am listing here are all high quality, paid apps. For some of these you might be able to find free alternatives, no doubt. However, you get what you pay for, and I think that it doesn’t hurt to invest a little money in quality paid apps that boost our core workflows.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that all free iPad apps are worthless! There are great ones for academics out there, and I will publish a post of my favorite free apps very soon (so sign up for academiPad’s RSS or twitter streams).

But back to the current post: For each of the core workflows (Writing, Reading, Thinking, Presenting and Organizing our academic lives), I am discussing a couple of iPad apps and how they fit into that workflow. Sometimes I am listing more than one app for a particular use case, so be sure to check out the links to more in-depth discussion of these apps. [Read more...]

30 online resources for academic life, writing, and technology

Online Resources for academic lifeThe web is full of great resources for academics, and this is a list of my personal favourites. They offer great advice on writing, productivity, creativity and managing your career. Although they are a great inspiration, they not always go into the nuts and bolts what technology is available for researchers and students. Luckily, thats what academiPad is for. [Read more...]

Why “iPad or laptop?” is the wrong question for knowledge workers

Should you buy an iPad or laptop? Although iPads have become a frequent sight on university campuses, many are still unsure what role the iPad has in our professional lives: Will it replace conventional laptops? Or is it a toy for procrastination and media consumption? In my opinion, both sides of the argument got it totally wrong. For professor and students alike, the question is not about whether iPad or laptop will become the dominant tool, but how both can be integrated into a seamless workflow. [Read more...]

Content creation on the iPad

Lifehacker recently published an article about the iPad as a creative tool. While their article mostly focuses on creatives in the areas of design, music, and film, it is worth reading it as it busts the myth that the iPad is for content consumption only. I also share the link here because it relates to an article for academiPad which discusses the role of the iPad as a creative tool for academics. Hint: The iPad is one of our tools for content creation, and it is all about integrating the iPad into our workflows.

The Lifehacker article gives a little glimpse on how the iPad can be used for content creation for academic-type creatives:

[Read more...]

OS X Mountain Lion will streamline your workflow

OS X Mountain LionAre you still sporting the lion photo as your wallpaper on your Mac? Yes? Go on, you can leave it just a little bit longer. Until summer rolls around, and it is time to say ‘Goodbye Lion’ and shout out a warm welcome to Apple’s new OS 10.8: Mountain Lion.

Apple has announced that their new Mac OS will be released sometimes this coming summer, just a year after the release of its current OS, Lion. [Read more...]

“What can I do with my iPad?” (part 2)

This is the second part of a very brief overview how you can make good use of your iPad. This time, we are looking into what I find are the core uses of the iPad in academia: getting organized, acquiring information, and conceptualizing ideas.

 

Things where your iPad shines: organize, read, conceptualize

Your new iPad really excels when it comes to some core aspects of your academic life: organize, read, and conceptualize. If you want to organize your time and tasks across research, classes, and meetings, you can look into installing a Getting Things Done app. I admit: I haven’t done this yet. This seems to be one of the most competitive fields of app development, and I decided to wait it out until one or a few clear leaders emerge. You can check out this comparison (although it does not discuss the very popular Things app), if you like, and I promise I will post my solution as soon as I found it.

[Read more...]

“What can I do with my iPad?” (part 1)

A couple of schools are giving out iPads for their incoming students, and that means that the iPad will get into the hands of quite a few people who maybe would not have bought one by themselves. So now you have an iPad (and if you are a faculty members you maybe even got it for free): What are you doing with it? This blog gives you, over two parts, a very brief overview how you can make good use of your iPad. Sadly, the discussion has to remain at the surface level for now, but stay tuned for more in-depth discussions about particular apps, tips, and tricks.

 

The basics: home screen, dock, search, appstore

You navigate through the various applications on your iPad via your home screen. Every app (short for application) on your iPad has an icon either on the home screen, which can consist out of several pages filled with apps, or in the dock at the bottom. The icons in the dock stay the same even when you swipe left and right to visit the various pages of your home screen. [Read more...]