25 Superb Mac Apps for College Students

This post is part of a series that revisits some of our readers’ favorite articles from the past that still contain awesome and relevant information that you might find useful. This post was originally published on May 24th, 2011.

Macs are becoming much more popular with college students nowadays, owing to Apple’s generous student discount (around 15%) upon purchase. But once you’ve bought your shiny new computer, you’ll be wanting to know which are the best Mac apps aimed at college students and which ones to download or buy.

Up until a few years ago, Mac users had very little choice of software as they were seen mostly as a niche platform and therefore only ran specialist software.

As I was in exactly the same position when I bought my Mac, I’ve now created – for all the students out there – a list of 25 superb applications recommended for you. I’ve tried to keep this list relevant to any major and, in order to save on costs, I have tried to include free software wherever I can.

All applications featured in the list run on PowerPC and Intel architectures unless otherwise stated.

LyX

LyX is one of a few word processors that uses the idea of WYSIWYM (What You See Is What You Mean), as opposed to WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) employed by word processors such as Microsoft Work and Apple’s Pages.

It allows you to type documents without worrying about the layout as the program does this for you – processing is done using the TeX system via the click of a button. For those of you who haven’t heard about it, TeX is a typesetting system that is used widely in academia as it produces standard, professional looking documents.

LyX

The LyX interface with a document being edited

LyX is also especially useful for anyone who uses a significant amount of maths in their degree as it renders mathematical equations very well and features an advanced equation editor – a definite advantage for anyone using a Mac seeing as it doesn’t feature an in-built equation editor (unlike Windows).

I use LyX mostly for university work such as writing essays as it means I can type without worrying how it will look on the page. The program is slightly more complicated to use than other word processors but it will save you time in the long run – it allows you to just write freely.

There are several templates available and the website features lots of useful help videos for anyone starting to use it. For anyone who is looking for an alternative to their word processor, LyX is definitely worth considering.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 and above and a TeX system for document processing (MacTeX is the best one available for Mac, available here)

iWork

iWork is, in my opinion, one of the best word processors available for Mac and although I use LyX for most things, having a proper word processor which can read Word documents is a necessity. iWork features three programs, Pages (word processing), Numbers (spreadsheets) and Keynote (presentations).

iWork

Numbers '09, with a spreadsheet open.

All offer full Office support, meaning you can open and save documents in Office format so there are no compatibility issues. The clean, uncluttered interface is very easy to use and the in-built templates are well-designed and useful for all situations.

iWork is also priced very favorably against Microsoft Office 2011 for students ($59.97 if purchased off the App Store vs $149.99) so it is more within a student’s budget. Although there are free office suites out there, they just don’t cut it when it comes to functionality and looks, and although it is a slight price to pay, iWork is certainly worth it in the long run.

Price: $19.99 per application (Pages, Numbers and Keynote) if purchased off the App Store.
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4.11/10.5.6 or later

Postbox

Postbox has already been reviewed separately all the way back in 2009, but it’s worth mentioning once again here. As a student, I want all my e-mails in one place and Postbox is one of the most functional and best-looking mail clients out there for Mac at the moment.

Postbox

The inbox view in Postbox

Postbox combines all the messages from your different accounts into one mailbox and you can organize your messages into different folders (for those of you who like to keep your studies and social life separate). It supports all major mail protocols and integrates well with your Address Book and even Facebook (if you want your contacts’ pictures showing up in messages). The features are too great to go into detail here but you certainly don’t mind paying $30 for such a feature-rich application. A necessity for all students.

Price: $29.95
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 above. Intel only.

Adium

As a student, I like to keep in touch with all my mates, mostly via Facebook Chat. Unfortunately, the stock Chat application is utter garbage and crashes, freezes or just doesn’t send messages (come on Facebook, sort it out!).

Adium is a free instant messaging program exclusively for Mac which supports several chat protocols, including AIM, Facebook Chat, ICQ, MSN and Yahoo Messenger.

Adium

The main screen for Adium. All accounts are listed in seperate lists.

The user interface is clean and really ties in well with the overall Mac user interface. The app integrates with your Address Book and there are plenty of extras to be had including custom emoticons, sound sets and message styles (all of them free of course).

Finally, the icon is a sheer pleasure to look at and when you get a message, the little green (or whatever colour you choose him to be) duck flaps his little wings up and down! Cute and practical – a must have.

Price: Free
Requires: Adium 1.4 or later requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or newer. Older versions of the program support Mac OS X 10.4 and downwards.

iStudiez Pro

Is anyone like me and forgets certain “important” deadlines like handing in essays and exams? Well, iStudiez Pro is a program designed specifically for students to prevent just this. It was already reviewed separately but I thought I’d just mention it here because it is so relevant.

iStudiez Pro

The assignments view of iStudiez Pro.

iStudiez Pro keeps track of your homework, class schedules and your grades and can even sync with your iPhone/iPad, a definite necessity for students. You can color-code different things according to pretty much anything you like, and the interface is drop-dead handsome. It beats iCal hands down for practicality and is well worth the small price tag.

Price: $9.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later. Intel only.

Evernote

If you haven’t yet heard about Evernote, then you must be living in the Dark Ages, as it is probably one of the most useful apps of all time, not just for students. Evernote is a cloud-based note-making application which syncs across all platforms. The application is also available for Windows, Android, iOS, Blackberry, Palm and Windows Mobile.

Evernote

The main interface of Evernote, showing a list of notes down the left-hand side.

As well as text notes, you can also clip web pages and make voice and iSight notes. Evernote avoids the need for having loads of little scraps of paper with bits of info scrawled all over them lying around and makes organization a lot easier. I like to have everything in one place and seeing as all your notes are hosted on the cloud, it makes accessing them from different places a lot easier – an absolute must at university.

Evernote is free, however there are some restrictions: the application is ad-supported (however these are quite non-instrusive) and you can only upload 60 MB of data a month (this equates to about 30,000 notes and 400 web pages), which is usually more than enough.

Price: Free (restricted, ad-supported)
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5.8 onwards.

OmniGraphSketcher

There’s going to be a time whilst you’re at university that you need to draw a graph or two. Unfortunately, drawing graphs on Word or a drawing program can be a nightmare and a particularly fiddly task – not something you want when it’s 2 AM and you’re finishing off the graphs in that essay due in in 7 hours. OmniGraphSketcher is one of the only programs that is designed to draw graphs on Mac OS X.

CPD

OmniGraphSketcher, featuring a graph I drew myself.

You can import data in from Excel or even draw your own and the application allows you to customize everything, including the axes, shading and points. The app will allow you to export your graphs in PDF, PNG, JPG and EPS format and it is very simple to use. The results are professional-looking graphs which look good in any situation, whether it’d be a presentation, essay or dissertation. The developers offer an academic license for students so go ahead and grab it whilst it’s hot.

Price: $29.95
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 onwards.

Caffeine

Caffeine is a discreet little program that runs in your Menu bar which stops your Mac automatically dimming or starting the screen saver whilst you’re working on it (one of my pet hates!). Although it won’t do wonders for your battery life, it will certainly stop you throwing your computer out of the window every time the screen goes black whilst you’re slaving away on that essay…

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 onwards (a version for Mac OS X 10.4 is available here)

iStumbler

iStumbler is a useful little utility which allows you to view all Wi-Fi networks in the local vicinity – very useful if you’ve got your Mac with you on campus or in the library and there is a load of different Wi-Fi networks knocking about.

iStumbler

iStumbler, showing a number of different Wi-Fi networks.

The app can even detect any Bluetooth devices in the vicinity as well and any Bonjour-enabled devices if you are wanting to share anything over the local network. iStumbler is a useful little accessory that saves you hunting around and makes WiFi connectivity that little bit easier.

Price: Free
Requires: iStumbler 99 requires Mac OS X 10.6 and above. Other versions of Mac OS X are supported via previous releases (see their website)

MindNode

Brainstorming is vital for any student, whether it’s for a research project, an essay or your final year thesis. MindNode is a great brainstorming program which allows you create professional-looking mindmaps – without any fuss – that suit any situation.

MindNode

MindNode, showing several main nodes and sub-nodes

You can create them in a few seconds and export/print them as you wish. Mindmaps really help you get organised and help you focus on the task in hand, and MindNode makes it easy to create them with minimum fuss. A highly-recommended app.

Price: $19.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 and above.

Twitterrific

Whether you use it to keep the world up to date with your happenings or simply to keep up to date with the world, Twitter has seen an explosion in recent years, with celebrities, companies and even university lecturers jumping onto the Twitter bandwagon.

There are a wealth of Twitter clients out there for the Mac but I find Twitterrific the most useable and feature rich.

Twitterific

The timeline of tweets in Twitterific

The free, ad-supported version only supports one account (how many Twitter accounts do you have?) but supports the standard Twitter toolbox, like link shortening, image/video uploading and retweeting. To preserve your sanity (and your Mac), just make sure you turn off the notification sound if you follow lots of people, as that twittering bird notification every 2 seconds a new tweet comes in does tend to grate slightly…

Price: $9.95
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 and onwards. Intel only.

Skype

Instead of shelling out your precious money to the greedy mobile phone companies, get a cheap contract, encourage all your mates to sign up to Skype and talk to them there. Skype allows you to make unlimited calls to any other Skype user (whether voice or video) for absolutely nothing, no matter where they are in the world.

Skype

The main window in Skype

You can even buy Skype credit to call landlines and mobiles from around 2 cents per minute, far cheaper than any deal you’ll get with your mobile. The Mac version is good for everything (including video calling) however it is a little awkward to navigate around though (especially if you were used to the Windows version). Skype is the future of telephone calls can save you a surprising amount on your phone bill, both locally and internationally.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5.8 or newer and a Skype account (free – sign up for one here)

Dropbox

Dropbox is a cloud-based storage solution which allows you to upload files onto an online drive, thereby allowing access from anywhere. The service is web-based, however you can download clients for Mac, Windows and all the major smartphones (Android, iOS and Blackberry).

Your Dropbox folder integrates seamlessly with the Finder, meaning it shows up and you can save things onto it easily without having to upload each individual file.

You can even share your folders with other Dropbox users with just a few clicks.

I find this application very useful for transferring things from home to university, meaning I don’t have to e-mail documents back and forth. It’s a real timesaver and if you refer some mates, both of you get extra storage space – always a plus!

Price: Free (for 2 GB storage. Extra storage is available from $9.99 per month for 50 GB or via referrals).
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 and above.

Alfred

If there’s any app that’s going to save you time, it’s Alfred. The developers of the little known company – Running with Crayons Ltd – based near Cambridge, UK have designed an app that almost every Mac user has been waiting for. Simply hit a hotkey (mine’s Command and Space) and a little box comes up, which you type in the first few letters of your application and hit Enter – hey presto! Your application starts running.

Alfred

A search in Alfred

Alfred is far quicker than Spotlight as it caches your applications and picks out your most used ones depending on past searches. It also saves you hunting around for applications as when you install a new one, Alfred automatically recognises it and adds it to the list.

You can even use it as a file browser and as a controller for iTunes. If you’re going to download and install just one application from this list, make it this one!

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 and above and an Intel processor. A PowerPC version is available here (though no longer updated/supported)

Time Out Free

Picture the scene: you’re on your Mac, it’s 2 AM, you’ve drunk enough energy drink to actually be sweating the stuff, and you still have 2,000 words left of that essay to write. Your eyes start to droop but you keep on working, despite the fact you desperately want to take a break.

Well, Time Out Free has that covered. Whilst you’re working on your Mac, it’ll grey out the screen at regular intervals and remind you to take a quick break.

Time Out Free

Time for a break!

You can set two kinds of break: a ‘normal’ break which is typically 10 minutes long every 50 minutes and a ‘micro’ break, which is usually 10 seconds long every 10 minutes. Not only does it help you preserve your sanity, it also helps you concentrate for longer so as not to let your mind wander……where was I? Oh yes: it’s a must for all students.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or later.

Grisbi

Although it won’t win any awards for looks, Grisbi is a very feature-rich free personal finance application available for Mac (it’s been ported across from Linux). I know how important managing your finances is for college students, and I like to know exactly how much I’ve got before I go out and buy something. Grisbi lets you do this without having to log on to your internet banking website every time.

Grisbi

The transactions view of Grisbi

Grisbi allows you to set up multiple accounts as well as schedule any bill payments (such as utility or credit card bills) so you don’t forget them. There is also a useful credit simulator, which calculates the interest and repayments due on any credit borrowed and the total cost due. The program is extremely easy to use and is highly recommended for anyone trying to budget prudently.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 above (separate versions for Intel and PowerPC)

Parallels Desktop

I thought I’d seen the last of Windows when I bought my Mac, but there are times that you really do need to use it (particularly for specialist software). Macs now do offer the option of Boot Camp, meaning you can install Windows on a separate disk partition and boot your Mac into either Mac OS X or Windows but personally I do find it rather annoying having to reboot my Mac every time I have to use Windows for one application.

Parallels Desktop means you can use Mac and Windows side-by-side without having to reboot your computer. It creates a virtual machine onto which you can install any operating system you want (not necessarily Windows – you can also other compatible operating systems such as Linux).

Windows 7

Windows 7 running virtually using Parallels Desktop

Unlike other virtualization applications, Parallels Desktop features a useful Coherence mode, which allows you to get rid of the Windows background and run all your Windows programs natively under Mac OS X (Parallels Desktop needs to be running though) instead of in a separate window.

You can even copy your files from Mac to Windows and vice-versa by simply dragging and dropping, and all your folders on Mac are shared and viewable in Windows.

You’ll need a fast host to run Parallels Desktop (at least 2 GB of RAM is recommended) otherwise the program won’t run very well. It also does slow down your computer quite a lot due to the amount of resources it uses so it’s not recommended for long-term use (use Boot Camp instead).

For anyone who needs to run Windows applications on their Mac, Parallels is highly recommended and the developers do offer an academic license, meaning that it is more affordable for students.

Price: $39.99 (academic license)
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5.8/10.6.3 or later and a full copy of Windows (or the operating system you are going to run). Intel only.

Isolator

Isolator helps you concentrate more by cutting out distractions. When you are working on your Mac, Isolator will blur out all the background windows, leaving the one you are working with in the foreground.

Isolator

Isolator blurring out everything apart from the window you are working with

You can even set Isolator to hide the dock, giving you a distraction-free screen, or instead of blurring out the background, Isolator can hide it altogether, allowing you to focus on one window completely. It’s a very useful application and teamed along with a few other apps featured here (e.g. Time Out Free), it can really help you keep your concentration up.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 and above.

MathType

One of the complaints I had when I migrated from Windows is that Macs do not have an in-built equation editor (unless you splash out on Microsoft Office). This is a slight inconvenience if you use a lot of math in your degree and you’re having to type out a lot of equations. MathType renders this a thing of the past. It’s a fully-featured, easy to use equation editor for Mac allowing you to write and edit equations quickly and easily.

MathType

The editing window for MathType, showing an equation

One of the most useful things about MathType is the ability to simply copy and paste your formulas into different programs. The website has a list of all the programs supported (including iWork ’09) and a list of all the features, which are too detailed to list them all here! Although it is quite pricy, the developers do offer an academic license and for such a feature-rich program, the price is worth it.

Price: $57 (academic license)
Requires: Mac OS X 10.3.9 and above

Preview

You’re probably wondering why Preview is in here. It’s a simple little application, available to all users of Mac OS X but don’t underestimate its features. Unlike most other PDF viewers, Preview allows you to annotate PDFs by highlighting, drawing arrows and crossing bits out, all in lots of different colours.

Preview

Preview showing a PDF created in LyX, with various annotations

I find this feature especially useful for highlighting journals and papers, meaning I do not have to print them out and when you save your PDF, your highlights and annotations are saved along with it. You can also delete and add pages to PDFs – useful if you are trying to compile a document together or get rid of unnecessary pages. For a built-in PDF viewer, Preview has a wide range of features and should not be overlooked.

Price: Free
Requires: Included with Mac OS X

Circus Ponies Notebook

One complaint I had about Microsoft’s port of Office to the Mac was that they left out OneNote, a very useful note-taking program. They have to tried to rekindle this with a version for iOS, but as of yet, no version for Mac has been written.

Circus Ponies have, however, written a full note-taking application for Mac with a wealth of features. With Notebook, you can clip text, entire documents, images and movies and you can add diagrams to your notes to make them more understandable.

Circus Ponies Notebook

The notes view of Circus Ponies Notebook

A useful feature for students is the wide range of built-in notebook templates, including one for writing a research paper. This allows you to pull together all your findings into one place, avoiding the need for bits of paper all over your desk. If you take your Mac into college to make notes, or if you just want to get more organised, then Notebook is a really useful program.

Price: $49.95 (academic license)
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later

Yep

Yep pools your hard drive for any PDFs, iWork and Office documents and categorizes them in one place, avoiding the need to search around for a particular file. You can add tags and search for documents using the tags you created.

Yep

The main window of Yep, showing a list of PDF documents

Yep also integrates with your scanner (if you have one), allowing you to scan in all your little bits of paper and categorises them as well, making hunting around in endless folders a thing of the past. Unfortunately, the developers do not (yet) offer an academic license, meaning students have to pay the full price of $39 for the application, but it does help you keep organised and saves a bit of time. The other applications by the developer, Ironic Software, are worth a look as well.

Price: $19.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5.7 or later

Anxiety

Anxiety is a lightweight, To-Do list that syncs with iCal and Mail. The program sits quietly and unobtrusively on your desktop and helps you keep track of what you’ve still got to do, great for students who’ve got tonnes of deadlines looming on the horizon. It’s very small, but very effective.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 and above

Fluid App

Fluid is a small utility that allows you to create standalone “applications” from websites, meaning you can simply launch them from Finder instead of having to open your browser all the time.

Fluid

A Facebook stand-alone application, created using Fluid

This is especially useful for websites that you visit a lot as it saves you from having to use your browser all the time. The paid version ($4.99) adds a few more features, such as the ability to pin your created applications to the Dock, but when you’ve got Alfred, who really needs this?

Price: Free/$4.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 and above. Intel only.

Timeline 3D

There will almost certainly be times during your studies when you need to use a timeline to display information either for a presentation, or just to help you keep on top of all your deadlines. Timeline 3D helps you create professional looking timelines in a variety of designs.

Timeline 3D

Timeline 3D, with a sample timeline created using events from iCal

The app integrates with iCal, meaning you can import your own deadlines, or you can create them using the program itself. Most importantly, Timeline 3D can export your timelines in a variety of formats, including via email, the web, YouTube and, most importantly, Keynote.

The timeline is saved as a QuickTime movie and can be played from within your presentation, which looks extremely cool and slick and can really spice it up. Timeline 3D avoids the need for spending time drawing timelines and with the developers offering an academic license ($39 instead of $65), it makes it that little bit more affordable for such a useful program.

Price: $65
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 onwards.

Conclusion

I hope this list will help any students out there with their studies. I certainly found that the applications in this list will really complement your Mac and your university degree, making life just that little bit easier as well as ensuring you get the full functionality out of your computer.

I would appreciate any comments, including suggestions for other programs that you find useful, as I am always on the lookout for new applications that may be really useful. Now I better get back to my own revision….

In the meantime, best of luck with your studies!


  • http://www.memonic.com keren

    We also have an app which we have found is very popular with students (and anyone else doing research, or researching in groups, on a regular basis). We’d love you to check it out at http://www.memonic.com. Thanks! – Keren

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/james.cull James Cull

      Cheers for that – I’ll definitely have a play around with it!

  • edoooo

    Wow great list!

    I’ll admit I already have most of them, but you convinced me to give another try to Alfred and Postbox.

    Although I very strongly prefer iWork, you still need Microsoft Office if you have a minimum amount of teamwork.

    Also, I would recommend DEVONthink Pro (Office) / DEVONagent (with education pricing) for advanced document management and searching instead of Evernote.

    Finally, I would recommend NetworkLocation which basically sets some parameters based on the Wi-Fi network you’re on. I use it to set the system volume and bluetooth differently when I’m at school/home. (You don’t want this high volume when you’re in class.)

    Cheers!

    • http://jejohaneman.com Joe

      I’ll second that endorsement of DevonThink Pro and DevonAgent, especially now that you can carry the documents around with you on an iOS device with DevonThink to Go.

      If your major requires a lot of brainstorming (and what major doesn’t), then Curio is also a good program to have. It’s pricey, by definitely a must have in my opinion. For writing long, organized documents, Scrivener is great (yes, you can do the same with an word processor, but Scrivener really does lend itself to longer projects.)

      It would be nice to see 25 Superb iPad Apps for College Students and 25 Superb Web Apps for College Students. :-)

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/james.cull James Cull

        Thanks for those comments.

        I haven’t really had a chance to look at Scrivener, but I’ve heard it’s pretty good. Maybe if I had a top 50 it would go on there :)

        Personally I prefer LyX for essays and the such, mostly because you can just type without worrying about layout. But I agree with you, Scrivener is good in the way it integrates a bibliography and such, something which you usually can’t do on a Mac without buying separate software (unless you fork out for MS Office 2011).

  • Tim

    Instead of Preview, I prefer to use Skim. And for finance software, while it’s not an actual app, I prefer to use Mint. Otherwise, nice article :)

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/james.cull James Cull

      Skim’s pretty good too, I’ll have to have a proper explore of it. And I would use Mint but unfortunately it doesn’t work in the UK where I live.

      And thanks for your comment :)

      • Josh Guerette

        Funny thing, Mint is the only service that works in Canada, where I live. I would love to use some other syncing finance service that has nice mobile apps (or even a desktop app).

        But a great roundup of student apps, I use at least half of them.

    • http://jejohaneman.com Joe

      Skim is pretty awesome. I’m trying to find a replacement for preview for images as well. I’m thinking of using Xee, though I haven’t decided yet.

  • http://pe-ter.nl Peter Somhorst

    Nice list!! I myself use a lot of these apps daily as a student.

    The first post, LyX, actually is a WYSIWYG implementation of the WYSIWYM-LaTeX typesetting language. LyX is good, but a true LaTeX-editor is better. I use texmaker (http://www.xm1math.net/texmaker/) which is a great editor with easy-to-use wizards and automisations, and an built-in PDF-viewer, so you can compare the LaTeX-code tot the PDF-result.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/james.cull James Cull

      I agree – LyX is lacking in functions and obviously you’ll get the full experience of learning LaTeX but it does make it easier to use, especially for people who don’t want to learn LaTeX.

      And thanks for the comment :)

    • http://denbeke.be MathiasB

      Indeed, I think it’s better to use real latex code instead of a WYSIWYG-editor.
      I’m using Texpad (http://itunes.apple.com/be/app/texpad-latex-editor/id458866234?l=nl&mt=12), which is a very handy and good Latex-editor for Mac.
      I also use Brisk (http://itunes.apple.com/be/app/brisk/id433471800?l=nl&mt=12) for typing my formulas in Latex…

      But it’s really a nice article!

  • http://azimutjobs.ca Mathieu Allaire

    Nice list! Some apps in there are going to help me with university next year for sure!

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/james.cull James Cull

      Thanks and good luck at uni!

  • Stewart Thomas

    I would suggest installing the MacTeX distribution instead of LyX and MathType. Yes, you have to learn LaTeX, but just like LyX — it pays off HUGE in the long run. TeXShop is an awesome tex editor, and LaTeXIT is a really cool program just for doing math equations and supports drag & drop to different applications using pdfs. Between TeXShop and Pages, I have not had to even touch Word in a year or two and my life is much better off.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/james.cull James Cull

      I agree with you. LaTeX is far more powerful than LyX but as I mentioned above, a lot of people won’t want to learn LaTeX and LyX makes it that bit easier to produce professional-looking documents without too much effort.

      I have TeXShop as it came with the MacTeX distribution and up till now I haven’t really had time to learn LaTeX (I’ve cheated slightly and used LyX…) but I’m probably going to learn it as you can do so much more with it.

      And like you, I hardly use Word – it’s lying dormant on my computer.

      Thanks for your comment as well :)

  • Taylor

    Well, this list is well done, and I’ll bookmark it for later use, I’ll need this in 2 years when I enter college.

    I already use some of the apps, such as Evernote, Alfred (my savior), iStudiez, Preview, Adium, and Skype. Also, you should mention things for anyone who likes to have a GTD app. Also, the Microsoft Suite for Mac is pretty decent, if you are just switching to a Mac, and have worked with Office a lot, I’d recommend it over iWork just for familiarity, I have it on my Macbook and it does its job well. Also, OmmWriter is good if you need something that isn’t fancy or distracting.

    But again, great list, these apps all seem great.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/james.cull James Cull

      Cheers for your comment :)

      You are right: Microsoft Office for Mac does mirror the Windows version and is more useful if you’ve just migrated from Windows (like I did in October last year) as it’s more familiar.

      I was thinking more in terms of the price – obviously iWork isn’t as feature-rich as Office but it is less than half the price of Office and this would obviously appeal to students. And OmmWriter is good if you need a distraction-free environment, but that’s why I included Isolate on this list ;)

  • http://apres.me Aaron

    Wha? You guys forgot to include either a decent essay writing app (e.g. Scrivener or Ulyssees) or a journal article manager (e.g. Papers, Bookends, or Mendeley). If it wasn’t for Scrivener and Papers my academic life would have been so much harder!

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/james.cull James Cull

      Ahh shoot – I did forget a bibliography software. Sorry….

      I use RefWorks because I get a free subscription to it through my university so I never have really had to use any Mac reference software (and the ones available are quite pricey, unless you’ve got Word where it’s built in…).

      And yes, I did forget Scrivener. I haven’t really had a proper look at it because I mainly use LyX and Pages, but you are right – Scrivener is really useful for writing essays.

  • mark

    This list needs Schoolhouse! http://www.schoolhouseapp.com/

    • edoooo

      Schoolhouse is nothing compared to iStudiez. Unless they make an awesome iOS app, I can’t see how it would compare.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/james.cull James Cull

      I agree with edoooo – iStudiez beats Schoolhouse hands down. I find the interface far easier on the eye and it’s more powerful. Yes, it costs more than Schoolhouse, but I think that for the quality of program you get, $10 is peanuts.

  • http://www.argyle-software.com Andy

    I’d just like to put in a plug for Mindful, an app that is wicked helpful for remembering what’s on the to-do list for today, displaying your day’s iCal events on the desktop. And, for just $1.99 on the App Store, it’s a great deal, too!

  • Dev

    Every time I see Skype 5 I lol so hard :) thanks for the list of apps !

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/james.cull James Cull

      How come? Enlighten me :)

  • http://samcater.com Sam Cater

    Got myself iStumbler, and Alfred. Nice Roundup!

  • Althalos

    “This is a slight inconvenience if you use a lot of math in your degree and you’re having to type out a lot of equations.”

    Anyone who has a decent amount of mathematics in his/her degree would be retarded not to use LaTeX, not even Lyx will do. And that sketch program is superflous since we can already create graphs using Grapher, which comes with OS X.

    • Althalos

      Well, Lyx will do for LaTeX but really all you need is a text editor, such as a code editor, preferably one that can properly highlight LaTeX code. You should put one of those on this list, I use Coda because I also do a lot of web development. But there are others, I know of some that have been reviewed by this site, that can work just as well or better.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/james.cull James Cull

      I agree to a certain extent. MathType, although expensive, is far more user-friendly for writing equations than just in LaTeX in my opinion. What’s more is that you can write your equations in MathType then paste them into your LaTeX document in LaTeX code – something which I find very useful.

      The math editor is basic on LyX to say the least, but for writing down a quick equation it’s not too difficult to use.

      And regarding Grapher – because I do economics I find that Grapher isn’t ideal for me, seeing we are drawing graphs based on theory, not based on data. But I agree: Grapher is very good, especially seeing as it comes bundled with Mac OS X.

  • Ed Ramsey

    For a OneNote replacement the closest I have come is Growley Notes (http://www.growlybird.com/GrowlyBird/Notes.html)

    Scrivener with Sente makes a good reports and paper creation environment.

    -Ed

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/james.cull James Cull

      Cheers for that :) I’ll have to have a look at Growley.

  • http://jejohaneman.com Joe

    Oh, and what about Mendeley or Papers (personally, I like Mendeley because of the free price tag, but many people rave about Papers).

  • Chris

    For money management, I use YNAB — it’s literally saved me thousands of dollars in wasted expenditures just by making budgeting easy and logical. A lifesaver for sure!

    http://www.youneedabudget.com/

  • Anna Kim

    I’d add Quiet (http://wireload.net/products/quiet/) to the list too. It’s really useful when you want to stay focused on a single task (like when you’re writing a paper).

    • Adam

      +1 for Quiet. Works a lot better than Isolator.

  • KentMD

    How could you forget PearNote? Simple the best class note taking app on any platform (nearly all my mac wielding classmates use it). http://mac.appstorm.net/reviews/office-review/pear-note-combining-audio-video-text-notes/ (This is appstorm review is of the old version the new one is greatly improved and has a beautiful UI).

  • Vlad

    Thanks for the article.

    I cannot agree with some of those apps like Twitterrific, Facebook, Skype… since those can be really distractive while doing something important. Also I’m pretty satisfied with standard Mail (can’t wait for Mail 5.0), and I like CloudApp a bit more than Dropbox…

    On the other hand, some apps from the list are really great. I like ISOLATOR (helps to concentrate and it’s free, while a lot of apps on the Mac App Store offer the same functionality and they’re not free), PREVIEW (is great for reading pdfs, and allows you to annotate them, and it’s gonna be so much better in Mac OS X Lion), and some others.

    By the way, for students I would recommend Smartr/Smartr Lite. It’s a good app and can actually help you to study better unlike most of those apps.

  • Henrique

    I would also check out Scrivener. Best money I’ve spent on an App this year.

  • http://www.ethicalwebsites.com Cikub

    You mentioned that Parallels can slow down your Mac. Here’s a tip if you have limited system RAM: try reducing the amount of RAM assigned to the Windows VM. Not only does this mean more system resources are available for your Mac but oddly it seems (in my experience) that this can increase the speed of the Windows VM… strange but it seems to work. I think that this is because a VM with lots of RAM as a percentage of the total available to the Mac uses virtual memory often causing everything to slow down.

    Case in point: with 3GB RAM and 1GB assigned to Parallels for WinXP everything grinds. Dropping the XP install to 512MB and the Mac and the VM fly.

  • http://www.postbox-inc.com Sherman Dickman

    Thanks for including Postbox!

    Our Student Discount Program lets students purchase Postbox for just $19.95, details can be found here:
    http://www.postbox-inc.com/support/student_discount

    Any Postbox 2 purchase also comes with a free update to Postbox 2.5, which is shaping up to be a terrific release.

  • Elisa Jaime

    Wow! Very useful. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • http://www.blog.gerbers.ch Niklaus Gerber

    One of the most used tools for studying was: http://genius.softonic.de/mac It is free and does a perfect job. Give it a try.

  • http://www.spelert.nl Spelletjes

    Great apps, thanks for sharing!

  • http://tinyurl.com/pro8for30 kyd

    While not strictly related to college studies, I think that TextExpander (list price: $35) would work great for citations in papers. The link below is a referral for the Productive Macs bundle (expires May 31); please use the referral if you’re going to buy. This bundle includes TextExpander and 7 other productivity applications (altogether $221 at list price) for Macs for $30.

    http://tinyurl.com/pro8for30

  • Josh

    Google SelfControl — website blocker that is a must-have for procrastinators!

  • Whilsty Meadows

    Hey, have you ever tried using whilst INSTEAD of while?

  • Melvin Abundo

    Great list. Well written and thought through. :-) I’d add MacJournal to the list.

  • Koke

    I personally would ad the app concentrate, blocks web pages like facebook & Co, so you can focus on your work!!!

  • Justin

    Which app is better for note taking in college, notebook or evernote??

  • Enture

    Thanks for that great list of apps, and thanks for all the comments completing it! I’m about to move to Berlin to study physics, and this is just what I needed!

  • John

    Does Postbox still not have support for .edu mail addresses?

    • Jose

      What do you mean support for .edu addresses? I add my school account through POP. Just look for your school’s email server settings.

    • http://www.wikitsune.com hdofu

      If it supports pop3 or imap, postbox will cover it. If it ps exchange and is set up to support one of those 2 protocols it should also work.

      Check out your University’s website for help with setting up email (the should have a section on that explaining how to use it)

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  • Paul C.

    Thanks for this list! It’s been very helpful.

  • Joe

    The app “Journler” needs to be added to this list!

    • Joe

      I forgot to mention, this it far better than Evernote, pages, etc.
      Its interface is awesome and it’s free!

  • http://hdofu.me hdofu

    I’d also like to recommend grammarian pro by Linguisoft (http://linguisoft.com/) as it offers grammar checking on par with Microsoft Offices system wide.

  • Timeline

    I would reccomend this Timeline Eons app, a graphic representation of the entire natural and human history:
    http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/timeline-eons/id433352152?mt=8&ls=1

    http://www.maani.us/app_timeline/

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  • iodevlab

    You should check out sideNote. Its a quick/simple note app I developed. It’s available at the mac app-store.

  • http://rtcamp.com/rtpanel/ Rakshit Thakker

    Nice list, though have few recommendations.

    IMHO, Sparrow Mail is better than Postbox.

    I personally use Wunderlist App daily – It’s nice, and have clean interface.

  • Ha

    ehhh mathtype is horrible, use latex instead :D

  • Nath

    I have to disagree with the Circus Ponies Notebook (and a few others, but I’ll stick with this one). First off, I think it’s hideous, but I understand that form should follow function. Secondly, OmniOutliner (24.99 student price on OmniGroup’s site), feels so much more powerful than Notebook. It’s ability to quickly take notes, important links and slap in a diagram are what, I feel set it apart.

    Also, you can get OmniGraphSketcher from the Omni site for 19.99 (student price).

    • Nath

      Sorry that I’m replying to myself, but, as a Math/Physics student who does a lot of research, I find that typing in my equations to Wolfram | Alpha will spit out nice equations that I can copy for use in research papers and reports.

      If I really need to get complex, I use Mathematica (115 for students). If you’re going to be a maths major or are in any related science field, purchasing Mathematica should be a no brainer.

      Lastly, MathType is highly overpriced. Brisk (15.99 on the MAS) is much cheaper and does the same thing. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you spend some time you’ll find that it really is a great little product.

  • http://www.seominded.nl Albert

    Twitterrific and OmniGraph is what i use the most, but im not an student anymore =)

  • MMNW

    Nice list. Didn’t know all the Apps listed, definitely going to check the out.

    I definitely missed a Bibliography suite. In my opinion, Papers is the best on the Mac, and they also have a iPad/iPod app to go along with it. Very worth while. They also offer significant student discounts. (btw: did the prices you list include student discounts? Cause’, I know that many of those publishers offer them)

    Then, MathType is pretty damn expensive (btw, is the equation program in MS Office a scaled down version?). If you are in college and have the need to set equations, chance is high you are in scientific/engineering program. So you probably learn TeX anyway. With the MacTex Package comes LatexIt, which is TeX based, but also offers compatibility with iWorks, Office, etc. And it’s free.

    My final thought: although it might seem obvious, not including MS Office seems a bit off. And it’s not that expensive (compared to other software you posted, which gives less value for the price) if you buy the Home/Student version. But a word of advice for would be students, don’t buy just yet. Many colleges have exclusive deals with Microsoft, offering heavily subsidized student versions. Sometimes even for free.

    The same goes for basically every software (ok, probably not for most on this list). Check out your colleges software programs, many have special deals with software vendors.

  • http://wpgiant.co.uk Josh

    This list is missing:

    MS Office
    Scrivener
    DevonThink Pro/Office
    Mendeley

  • EGT

    I recently discovered Wunderkit and started using it for assignments and projects that require a number of people to work on it. I think it’s a really good app for college students given all the groupwork we get. :)

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  • Lilys

    For the Circus Ponies Notebook, Office 2011 does have a OneNote feature – it is just built into Word. In the bottom left corner of word there are different layout options. The second from the right gives you the notebook version. It’s a fantastic layout and I use it for all my classes!

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  • Keny

    The most commonly used software I used in the college is LaTeX. I used MacVim as its editor. Coded a couple of script myself so that I don’t have to leave MacVim to compile the LaTeX file.

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  • Tuan Loc

    Thank you so so so much for this list. :)

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