These days a tablet or smartphone is as essential for college students as a backpack, a meal plan, and extra long twin sheets. But it's not the hardware that's so important—it's the apps. Load up your mobile device with handy apps for taking notes, sharing files, recording lectures, managing your tasks, and (of course) reading books, and your road to the Dean's list will be a little less bumpy.
Google Play Books
Did you know you could rent textbooks on Google Play, instead of buying them? You get to keep them for 180 days, and you don't even need an Android tablet to read them and take notes—Google Play Books is available for iPhone and iPads as well as Android devices.
With their convenient size and long battery life, tablets and phones are perfect for reading your books—and think of how much lighter your backpack will be. If you desperately need to read a textbook on your laptop, you can even download a PDF, although restrictions make this less than ideal. Not having to spend hundreds of dollars on books you might read once—or worse, expensive books that the professor only assigns one chapter of—is the very definition of "ideal." A definition you can even get inside the Google Play Books app.
The ultimate note-taking app, Evernote is perfect for students. You can digitize and search notes you took on paper. It's fully cross-platform, with an app for every device and an extension for every browser. And it's incredibly powerful.
The Evernote apps for the iPhone, Windows Phone, and Android have some unique skills, too. You can use the device's camera to create a new note by snapping a picture, say, of a classmate's notes, or the office hours posted on your professor's door. Any text visible in those images becomes searchable, and Evernote can also keep track of where each picture was taken, too. Tons and tons of other apps let you save things to your Evernote account—a few of our favorites include Drafts for iOS, the cross-platform image-annotation tool Skitch, and the wildly flexible IFTTT.
Dragon NaturallySpeaking for PC and Dragon Dictate for Mac are extremely powerful speech-to-text tools that will let you dictate your notes and research papers instead of typing them word by word. They learn your voice to improve accuracy over time, and handy transcription features can even attempt to turn an audio file of a recorded lecture into text.
The free companion app, Dragon Remote Microphone for iOS and Android turns your phone into a wireless microphone, perfect for pacing circles around your tiny dorm room muttering about 19th century French literature. If you can stammer out a first draft at least, you'll avoid the dread of staring at a blank page trying not to think of the term "writer's block."
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