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5 Cheap Must-Have Apps for Back to School

posted by K.T. Bradford on August 20, 2014 in Back to School, Computers and Software, Phones and Mobile, Guides & Reviews :: 4 comments

Ready for the school year to begin? Once you’ve picked out a tablet or laptop for your student, it's time to grab the software that will make it the most useful. We’ve found the best cheap apps and programs to help kids study, work more efficiently, and keep up with their assignments.

YouCam Snap

Pictures of whiteboards, projector slides and book pages are great for notes. However, the camera apps that come with them can't always handle these tasks well, especially if it's not possible to take pictures head on.

YouCam Snap solves this problem. It can straighten out the curve of book pages, whiteboard text taken at an angle, and even correct the brightness and contrast to capture usable images of bright projector screens in a dark room. And the ability to output the captures as PDFs that can be annotated and shared is a big plus.

Price: Free at iTunes and Google Play

iStudiez Pro

A digital student planner can be just as useful as its paper counterpart, especially if it syncs data across devices. iStudiez helps students keep track of class schedules and manage homework assignments, including pop-up notifications around due dates. Students can even keep track of their grades.

Price: $9.99 at the Mac App Store and $1.99 at iTunes

Looking for an Android alternative? Check out Class Buddy Student Planner for $1.99 on Google Play

Zotero

Zotero make it easy to collect and organize information on the web as source material for research papers. When the software is installed, it detects usable content pulled up on your computer—text, images, video files, screen shots of web pages or documents, like PDF files—and gives the option to save with one click.

All of the text is searchable and tags can be assigned to each piece of content for easy organization. Once it’s paper-writing time, Zotero will create accurate citations for each item.

There are two versions of Zotero: a Firefox add-on that works across operating systems, and a standalone download for PC and Mac that plugs in to browsers. There are also plugins for MS Word and Libreoffice to make citing easier. All for free.

Price: free at zotero.org

LibreOffice

If you want a full-featured free office suite, LibreOffice is the best choice. It can do everything that Word, Excel, and PowerPoint can do (except a very few functions which only business/power users need) and can save to all the Microsoft office file types as well as export to PDF.

The only things missing from the suite are Outlook and OneNote equivalents. If desktop email is a must-have, Thunderbird works well and has a great associated calendar app called Lightning. For notes, I suggest Evernote.

Price: free for Windows and Mac at libreoffice.org

Looking for a good (free) mobile office suite? Check out WPS Office on Google Play and iTunes.

ezPDF Reader

PDFs are one of the most common file types students will encounter and having an app that can read and edit them is a must. With ezPDF, students can add highlights, notes as comments, scribbles and written annotations, plus add, crop, rotate, and delete pages.

Price: $2.99 on iTunes and Google Play, Free for Windows 8 at unidocs.com

Bonus: Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium Edition

Dragon NaturallySpeaking is not inexpensive, but it's so useful for students that it's worth the price.

Why? The top-notch voice recognition engine is able to easily to distinguish a voice from background noise, which makes it possible to get transcriptions of lectures. All a student needs is a good recording device or a smartphone with an external mic.

Price: $199 at nuance.com

[students with tablet image via Shutterstock]

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Discussion loading

Great list

From Robyn Wright on August 20, 2014 :: 12:46 pm

Great list of apps - most were new to me and I will check them out!

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!!!

From Laurel Sheffield on August 20, 2014 :: 7:34 pm

Zotero needs to get into my computer right now. Thank you for telling me about it! And for the h/t to Dragon, I have friends who use it as assistive tech and speak very highly of it.

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Free PDF Reader

From Killian Lori on August 22, 2014 :: 5:47 pm

Adobe offers a free PDF reader, and so does QuickOffice for Android!

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Love Libre

From Mary on August 26, 2014 :: 11:19 am

I’ve used LibreOffice.  It’s really good - thumbs up!

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