Blog

100 Free Productivity Tools to Get You Through School

by Staff Writers

Students of previous generations had to go to great lengths and pay big prices to find the tools and resources they needed during college. Fortunately for today’s undergrad, almost everything we need to know about the world is at our fingertips. Use these links and tips, and your university years are sure to end happily, healthily, and successfully.

Class Helpers

Your studies should remain your top priority through school, which will often be as difficult as it sounds. Exploit these sites and download the software to make homework, essays, and exams exciting and fun.

  1. Gutenberg.org: Find thousands of full-text novels at this site. Great for American and British literature classes, Gutenberg is faster than going to the library and much cheaper than the bookstore.
     
  2. MyNoteit: Take notes, edit them online, review them with peers, and share them with friends. With MyNoteit, users can also manage calendars and to-do lists.
     
  3. Online Conversion Tool: This online conversion calculator is essential for every university science class.
     
  4. Free Translation: Although the literal translations generated here are not always accurate or acceptable on class assignments, Free Translation is the perfect tool to help foreign language students grasp the gist of a passage.
     
  5. Bartleby Reference: Good reference material that will save you from making an extra trip to the library or using Wikipedia for research projects.
     
  6. Students’ Grades 1.0: Don’t let your grade point average take you by surprise. This software will help you manage your grades, set academic goals, and calculate the steps you need to take to reach them.
     
  7. Pick-a-Prof: Colleges and universities around the nation are enrolling in Pick-a-Prof, which allows students to post professor and class reviews for other students to check out before enrolling in those classes.
     
  8. Cliffs Notes: Downloading free Cliffs Notes for literature classes will surely save you at least once in your college career. The site offers character analysis, plot synopsis, and chapter summaries.
     
  9. MindGenius: A mind-mapping software that serves as a jumping-off point for creative projects. It can be used by students for essays, projects, reports, studying, and to undergo electronic mind mapping to help with brainstorming.
     
  10. yWriter5: Great writing and brainstorming assistant for thesis papers or other long writing assignments.
     

Time Management

There is no better time to learn about time management than college. Nobody is hovering over you to make sure you complete your daily tasks; you are now being held accountable for your own actions. Take these tools with you wherever you go, because the days don’t get any longer and the projects don’t get any shorter after graduation.

  1. Dartmouth Academic Skills Center: Ivy League advice about effective time management. There’s also a short video and time management quiz that will help you identify your weaknesses and take control of your daily routine.
     
  2. MIT Weekly Planner: This free printable planner is useful for students who prefer paper and pencil to digital methods of time management.
     
  3. Procrastination Help by Psychology Today: Psychology Today’s interactive section on procrastination, why it’s tempting, and how to end it. As a bonus, the articles are short and won’t keep readers away from their studies for long!
     
  4. University of Minnesota Assignment Calculator: This easy-to-use calculator allows users to input assignment due dates, then it automatically develops a schedule of work that should be done daily to complete the assignment on time.
     
  5. My Daily Schedule: My Daily Schedule breaks down a single day into 12 categories. A student who wants to spend two extra hours sleeping will be able to see the effects on the rest of his or her schedule for that day.
     
  6. Todoist: A fast and easy task manager. It features heirarchies, which allow the user to collapse sub-tasks and sub-categories to conquer complexity.
     
  7. Remember the Milk: A great program through which you can access your daily tasks. Use your PC or mobile phone to receive reminders and keep track of your to-do list. You can also share tasks with others (like your roommate), in case you need a little help with grocery shopping.
     
  8. Online Alarm Clock: Today’s college students are beginning to rely on their cell phones for everything, including waking up on time. If something ever happens to your mobile alarm clock, onlineclock.net promises not to let you oversleep.
     
  9. My Hours: A time management, timesheet, time tracking solution. It enables you to track your work time, projects you must complete and tasks you perform. It is Web-based and can be used from any location at any time.
     
  10. 30 Boxes: With this calendar application, you’ll never forget about an exam, miss a birthday, or show up late to a meeting.
     

Shortcuts

Right click, scroll to "copy," left click "copy." Right click, scroll to "paste," left click "paste." Learn the art of Ctrl+c and Ctrl+v, and seemingly painless tasks become even easier.

  1. Form Auto Fill 2.5: Input contact and résumé information into this software program, and it will automatically fill out online forms and applications.
     
  2. Microsoft User Support: Microsoft keyboard shortcuts.
     
  3. Mac Central: Mac keyboard shortcuts.
     
  4. SEM Consultants: Firefox and Internet Explorer shortcuts.
     
  5. Auto Hotkey: Create hotkeys or mouse clicks to automate anything from expanding abbreviations to creating custom menu bars.
     
  6. LastPass:This password manager will remember computer and online passwords, making signing in to personal and educational sites fast and easy.
     
  7. Agrata: Another password keeper. This one allows you to store unencrypted passwords securely, so you can access them at later dates. Or, forget them entirely, and let Agrata do the work.
     
  8. MemoKeys II: This tool allows you to create shortcuts with hotkeys to help speed up composing email messages, signing into Web sites, and opening documents.
     
  9. Hyperwords: If you use Firefox for your web browser, then check out Hyperwords. This add-on allows you to select a word on any page and perform any number of tasks with it, such as look up the definition, translate it, tag it, email it, send it to Twitter or Facebook, and more.
     

Organization

You never know how multi-faceted life is until college. Now, there’s school, work, managing relationships, cooking, and cleaning up after yourself. You’ve got a lot going on, so here are a few ways to keep each aspect of your life under control.

  1. Google Reader: Tracks and organizes favorite sites to make the World Wide Web a little closer to home.
     
  2. Evernote: A note taker that allows you to capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at any time, from anywhere. Beats walking around with Post-it notes.
     
  3. AquaMinds: A cool note taker, but for Mac OSX only.
     
  4. ZuluPad:ZuluPad is a place to jot down class notes, appointments, to-do lists, favorite websites, and annotated bookmarks. Reviews call it "a notepad on crack."
     
  5. HGTV Home: These are the gurus of organization, and their tips can help clean even the messiest abode.
     
  6. Organized Home: A site completely dedicated of breaking bad organizational habits. It even features a section on how to organize your social life.
     
  7. HipCal: This free tool features calendars, to-do lists, an address book, and provides mobile and email alerts to remind users about scheduled events.
     
  8. Donating to charities: Places like Goodwill accept clothing donations that will help minimize closet clutter. A good rule to follow: articles of clothing that have not been worn in the last twelve months are probably worth giving away to others who need them more.
     
  9. Shoe boxes: If you throw away the boxes when you get new shoes, stop! They stack much easier than the shoes themselves, and keeping them is cheaper than buying a shoe organizer. You can also use them as photo boxes for pictures that aren’t hung in frames. Whatever the use, they will come in handy.
     
  10. Your trash can: If you feel overwhelmed by clutter, take a quick study break to sort it all out. Don’t forget to recycle!
     

Networking

The links below contain some common networks you may have heard of before. Advice: if you do not have an account with one of these sites, create one. Today.

  1. LinkedIn: A business-oriented social networking site that allows you to search for the who’s who in your chosen profession.
     
  2. MySpace: The pioneer of social media Web sites. College students seem to have migrated to facebook.com, but Myspace is still a great place to find friends and listen to up-and-coming musicians. Also, it offers a customizable profile, which might appeal to left-brainers more than other networking options.
     
  3. Facebook: Facebook is like an all-inclusive resort for college students, and its developers are always making improvements. For example, more than two million Facebook users are now part of the marketplace application, where students can buy, sell, and trade sports tickets, furniture, electronics, etc. Professors are also starting to join Facebook, making networking with them easier and more personal.
     
  4. Twitter: Follow or be followed. This site mirrors the status application first seen on Facebook. Your “tweets” are short updates about what you are doing, where you are going, or how you are feeling. After signing up, you can tweet online or via mobile phone by texting your status to 40404.
     
  5. Ning: Ning (Chinese for peace) gives users the opportunity to create and manage their own network and design their own pages based on a particular interest or need.
     
  6. Office Hours: Especially if you are in a large classroom setting, you will either be one of a hundred, or one in a hundred. Never pass up an opportunity to get to know your professor; going to office hours shows you care about class and makes a lasting impression on the person who might be writing a letter of recommendation for you in the future.
     
  7. Squidoo: Squidoo is a community Web site that allows users to create pages (called lenses) for subjects of interest. Squidoo is in the top 500 most visited sites in the world, and in the top 300 most viewed in the United States. It’s a good way to network with colleagues and professionals in your area of study.
     
  8. Networking Assistant 1.0: Organize and manage your contacts without having to pay for a little black book, and it’s much easier than toting around a Rolodex.
     
  9. Alumwire: A career network for college students and alumni.
     
  10. Blogspot: Blogspot might require a little more effort than other networking sites, but it provides the unique opportunity to be heard while remaining anonymous. Read others’ blogs or establish one of your own. Better yet, do both.
     

Workplace Success

University life is good for nothing if it doesn’t prepare you for the so-called real world. Unfortunately, your professors will be more interested in your test scores than your readiness for the workforce, so you might have to take the initiative. Check these out for guidance:

  1. Mindtools: A site that provides “essential skills for an excellent career,” including decision making, problem solving, memory improvement, communication, and stress management.
     
  2. Quint Careers: Offers online career assessments and free career newsletters.
     
  3. collegegrad.com: This site is designed for recent college graduate and offers advice on an array of topics, from interviewing strategies to negotiating your salary.
     
  4. Career Planning: A fun resource with career planning quizzes and links to job search Web sites.
     
  5. Resume Help: Offers guidance in résumé building, writing and layouts. A must-read before submitting job applications.
     
  6. CraigsList: Find employers looking for full-time, part-time, and temporary help.
     
  7. Career How-To’s: Members ask and answer questions like “how to ask for a promotion” and “how to know when to quit your job.”
     
  8. Employer-Employee.com: Offers tips on how to communicate with managers, coworkers and employers.
     
  9. American Psychological Association Help Center: The American Psychological Association dedicated an area of its site to workplace success. Many of the helpful tips here deal with the transition from college to career.
     
  10. Basecamp: Basecamp is project managing software for businesses and employees. Many businesses use Basecamp daily for email, team collaboration and other communication, but it’s worth downloading even if your employer doesn’t require it.
     

Useful Blogs

These blogs will remind you you’re not alone in the boat. Real people, real problems, real advice.

  1. Life Hack: Life advice every student (and adult) should take to heart.
     
  2. College Student Blog: This blog encompasses nearly every issue a student will face: beating the Freshman 15, finding volunteer work, apartment renting, and dealing with homesickness.
     
  3. Study Grand Master: Bloggers’ Choice Awards named this one of the best education blogs in 2009. Recent blogs include How to be Happy and Getting the Most Out of Studying.
     
  4. 2 Birds 1 Blog: Funny commentary and advice from two post-graduates in their twenties. The posts will have you laughing but also prepare you for some of life’s great challenges.
     
  5. Mashable: The social media guide that offers how-to and reviews of the latest media trends.
     
  6. College Humor: Jokes, life stories and embarrassing moments only college students could understand. Great to share with friends or to visit during downtime.
     
  7. Survivng College Life: How to survive college, from maximizing space in a tiny dorm room to financial advice and loan information.
     
  8. Study Hacks: This blog focuses primarily on avoiding overload. The writer’s mantra is “Do less, do better, and know why.”
     
  9. College Candy: Relationships, fitness, current events, gossip, comics and style. This blog covers every extra-curricular issue today’s college student needs to find happiness, health and success.
     

Money Matters

The "poor college student" moniker might be excusable, but it doesn’t have to be true. Take charge of your finances to enjoy a better experience in school and after.

  1. Mint.com: A free tool that makes it easy to budget and manage money online. Link this to your bank accounts, and it will track finances, handle bookkeeping and offers suggestions on how to save money.
     
  2. My Spending Report: This software is great for students who want to take control of their finances. You can make savings goals, develop a spending plan, sign up for bill alerts, and more.
     
  3. Buddi: Buddi is an easy-to-use personal finance and budgeting program compatible with all operating systems. It comes with tutorials for the budgeting-challenged.
     
  4. My Financial House: Provided by the Insurance Information Institute, My Financial House is free software designed to help you complete a financial inventory that can be shared with an accountant or financial planner.
     
  5. Consumerist: Consumer reviews on businesses, products and services around the country.
     
  6. Retail Me Not: Coupon codes for more than 30,000 online stores.
     
  7. XE: This currency website offers a universal converter, a currency update service, a personal currency assistant and an expenses calculator (great for students who plan on traveling or studying abroad.)
     
  8. Student Budgeting: This tool calculates the difference between your expenses and income, identifying when you are spending beyond your means.
     
  9. Student Loan Calculator: This calculator shows interest accruement and repayment plans for subsidized and unsubsidized government loans, as well as private student loans.
     
  10. Loan Consolidation: Federal Direct Consolidation Loan Calculator from the Department of Education helps students who are considering consolidation.
     
  11. Salary Calculator: This free tool helps students calculate salary range based on job, title, location and the current job market.
     
  12. Cost of Living Calculator: CNN Money’s cost of living calculator shows you how far your money will go in other cities around the world.
     

Unwinding

You do a lot of hard work these days; you pull all-nighters, show up for 8 a.m. classes, and face that little demon professors call "finals week." Everybody needs a break, so put your books and guilt to the side, and have some fun.

  1. Fantastic Contraption: A fun online game that stays surprisingly true to the laws of physics. Create a contraption with wheels, rods and chains to get an object from point A to point B. Sound too easy? Play at your own risk!
     
  2. Pogo: Mute your computer and play your favorite online game during a boring lecture. The site features word games, card games, Sudoku and more.
     
  3. Boatload Puzzles: This site offers puzzles that range in difficulty level and provides immediate feedback for puzzle answers.
     
  4. Pandora: A free music site that allows you to generate playlists based on your favorite artists, songs and genres. Great way to expand musical horizons and relax during downtime.
     
  5. Hulu: a must-visit for college students. Hulu features the most talked about Saturday Night Live skits and episodes from popular shows like the Office and Arrested Development.
     
  6. Apple Movie Trailers: See trailers for upcoming movie releases and those showing in theaters. Great tool to help plan the perfect date.
     
  7. Second Life: Second Life is an online 3D virtual world imagined and designed by you. Create an avatar that represents you, meet people, shop, work, learn and play. Just try not to get addicted.
     
  8. Exploratorium: The official Web site of San Francisco’s Exploratorium. More than 24 million people visit the site ever y year, which is full of science games how-to’s for fun, at-home experiments.
     
  9. Studentnow: Laughter is great medicine. This site’s comic strips are sure to help out during stressful times.
     
  10. TMZ: Celebrity gossip and entertainment news. In small doses, TMZ is a great way to put life into perspective.
     

Personal Wellness

You simply cannot make it through college without a little perseverence. Getting your degree might not be easy, but it will be worth it. During the tough times, head to these great sites for advice on life, fitness, and mental health.

  1. Horse’s Mouth: Free online life coaching and mentoring. Search through frequently asked questions or contact a mentor anonymously to ask one of your own.
     
  2. Marc and Angel Hack Life: Two practical thinkers help give perspective to tough situations.
     
  3. Finding Your Marbles: This mental health site examines the process of stress and how to overcome it.
     
  4. Studenttools.com: If tragedy strikes, or you find yourself in the middle of a crisis, being away from family could be harder than ever. Read this site’s suggestions for coping and recovery.
     
  5. College Student Health Tips: Advice for beating depression, preventing weight gain, maintaining healthy relationships, and much more.
     
  6. Wikihow: During college, students learn how to learn, how to study, how to take exams, and how to make good grades. Wikihow takes care of the rest: how to cook, how to wash laundry, and how to ask someone on a date. Brilliant.
     
  7. BrainSync: Free ten-minute guided meditation by Brain Sync founder Kelly Howell.
     
  8. Online Yoga Class: Online yoga videos and pictures that demonstrate relaxation and exercise moves.
     
  9. Campus Calm: Updated almost daily with new tips, topics and guidance about handling college stress. The site also offers a free stress-less kit that includes four valuable tools.
     
  10. RN Central: 101 health and wellness tips for students, from diet and exercise to sleep and mental health.