Best mac software for academic research

There are lots of handy apps for academics out there like PaperCrowd and Google Scholar. But what about the apps that can boost your focus, squash distractions or cut down on the endless march of admin in academe? Working at a software company, you learn a thing or two about the useful do-dahs out there.

Keeping projects on track takes a world of organisation; sometimes you need a few visual aids to help. Trello is a hyper-visual free productivity app that can help you keep on keeping on. You can also add colleagues or committee members to your boards, so you can see where people are on each project. At Ex Ordo we use Trello for everything from app testing to customer support and content planning.


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Trello has are a barrel-load of inspiration boards to choose from. Choose one that works for you, and use it to help you balance your work and life admin. The best productivity app for academics who: Are you a Chrome user who wants crystal-clear focus at the beginning of each day? Momentum transforms each tab you open into a personal daily dashboard highlighting your main focus for the day.

At least half of us in the office use Momentum to make sure we give our most important tasks priority each day.


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Mendeley is a free reference manager that captures info like authors, title and publisher any time you import PDFs from your desktop, existing libraries or from websites. As apps for academics go, Mendeley is the holy grail. And as a bonus, your library lives on the cloud. Thankfully, you can now avoid having a neverending list of open tabs by getting switched on to free productivity app Pocket. Pocket is a distraction-busting plugin that lets you save interesting stories for later.

It works across multiple browsers, and on your phone. Plus, you can quickly tag content as you add it, so no more wading through convoluted bookmark-folder architecture. Read anything about the difficulties of academic writing and the theme of procrastination crops up time and again. If your academic writing has hit a wall recently, commit to writing words each day. You might surprise yourself. Find yourself getting distracted by chatty colleagues or noisy housemates? Partly because our HQ is bang smack on the Irish coast.

This nifty app is great for academics who want a true reveal of how much time they spend on different tasks. And it can help you quantify your productivity — which is helpful for validating your suspicions around how much time your current academic workload costs you. Freedom is a handy app that will block the internet, social media and apps to give you space to focus. At the high end, OmniOutliner tends to get most votes — it is hard to argue with that.

Mind mapping is an entirely visual thought process, so you have to like what you are looking at. Mindnode is a very clean, slick app — iThoughts is more customisable.

We found the best productivity apps for academics

A third option is the very tidy Lighten. Day One — I am a late comer to this, but I have come to accept the value of journalling on the development of a writing practice. Writing as close to everyday as possible is one of the best things you can do to improve your writing, and the journal format is liberating. I am yet to find a better app for keeping a digital journal than this. Day One has balanced all the necessary features with nice interface design, but the Markdown support clinches it for me.

This one of many apps to take up a subscription model lately, but you can access all the functionality you need to get started without throwing down more coin. This is another area I have already covered in relative detail. Despite that being a fairly recent post I have made some changes since it went up. There are also interesting changes on the horizon with Appple Notes in iOS 11 , most notably with searchable handwriting. Otherwise, the following options remain worthy alternatives. GoodNotes — For a straight up handwriting app that works well no matter what kind of iPad you are running — pro, standard, or mini — GoodNotes is going to be up there.

I prefer the design of Notability on the whole, but functionality matters when your notes are as crucial as they are for academic work, and GoodNotes has the killer feature for handwriting — searchable notes. Not only does Nebo use a contextual engine to correct word choice and spelling on the fly, but it will render diagrams, manage LaTex calculations, and even export text as HTML.

The MySCript folks who make the app are the masters of handwriting recognotion, and the app can read 59 different languages. Drafts — Keeping with the plain text rule, Drafts is usually my first point of capture for text, especially on the iPhone.

Communication, Administration and Planning

If you are an Apple Watch user, Drafts has an excellent complication for dictation. The screencasts on the Agile Tortoise website can get you started. Just Press Record — The native iPhone Voice Memos app does a great job of capturing audio on the fly, but accessing it on other devices can be a nuisance [3]. Just press record solves that problem with an added bonus. It can also do some on-the-fly audio to text transcription. Notability — If it had optical character recognition for searching your handwriting, Notability would be the killer app for lecture notes. It gets pretty close with the ability to capture audio while note-taking; thus its appearance in this section.

For students especially, the utility you can get from this one app will make it easier to bump a couple of others of your list. Handritten and typewritten notes, PDF annotation, and audio recording all rolled into one. Last I check it was still pretty cheap too. Ferrite — If you ever need to record interviews, this is hands down the best, most feature rich app available on iOS for the job.

Designed specifically for voice recording and editing, it can manage anything from capturing audio presentations to producing podcasts and other broadcasts. There are some truly excellent audio recording tools on iOS these days, but most of them are aimed at musicians. With features like ducking, and silence removal Ferrite stands out as the singular app for audio voice work. There is nothing it cannot play, and unlike its aforementioned rival, it is free. Pixelmator has stood out for some time as an app that goes beyond many of the filter and fix apps designed as mobile only utilities.

If your needs are modest in this area, and you want an easy to learn, no nonsense app, this is it — and it is cheap. Affinity is next level stuff. Workflow is the singular automation utility for iPhone and iPad. Workflow — Acquired by Apple, Workflow is not only the singular automation utility on iOS, but one of the biggest leaps forward in the evolution of iOS as an operating system for serious productivity. No programming required. Stay tuned for more on this app in future. Yet, the Text Expander Keyboard is still well worth installing. The real value to installing TextExpander on iOS is to be found in the apps that include built-in support [4].

Smile maintains a list of TextExpander enhanced apps here. Elsewhere snippets can still be expanded with the third-party keyboard. Not only is it the best user experience, but features like Travel Mode make it an ideal choice for travelling researchers. Password management should be a no-brainer for anyone working on a university network, really it should be a no-brainer for for anyone period.

Soulver is part scratchpad part calculator.

Workshop Recording

Soulver — Part scratch pad, part calculator, Soulver is a uniquely useful utility. The interface operates is a text editor that parses numbers for multiple mathematical operations, including currency conversion. This means you can work things out like you might on the back of a napkin.

If you need a powerful, more traditional calculator that includes scientific notation, then Pcalc is what you need. Copied — Advanced, cross platform, clipboard management. Copied can do all kinds of neat things, including customisable text transformation, and synchronised clipboard history across devices. A comprehensive URL scheme opens up all kinds of automation possibilities, and a keyboard extension provides easy access to media rich clippings.

Other clipboard managers exist, but nothing comes close to Copied for functionality. Prizmo to Go — There are times when you need to grab a section of text from a book, a journal article, or some random document. There are two apps that I know of that do this well, the other is Textgrabber.

Essential iOS Apps for Research and Study

It can seem like magic when they save you serious time. Weather Underground — Weather apps are something of an iOS playground for user interface design, but where the actual weather data comes from is another story. I also know of at least one sea captain who uses Weather Underground, so it must be good, right? I decided not to get too crazy here by starting into categories like entertainment, although I may revisit that at some point. One area I intend to delve into is audio production on iOS, but that can wait. For now, I would wager you will find on this list everything you need, and more to get serious work done.

I have already said I believe there is no question the iPad can be a primary device for study or research, this should serve as sufficient evidence to support that claim. As ever, if you have any questions, if I can help in any way, hit me up via the contact details over on the left. Pinboard has a basic bookmarking service, or for a little more it can save web archives of the pages you bookmark. Native support makes the previous comment moot. Communication, Administration and Planning Airmail has unrivalled integration with third-party apps and services Airmail — My preferred email client, for the simple reason that it includes an unrivalled list of integrations.

Fantastical's unrivalled Natural Language Processing Fantastical — My favourite calendar app across all platforms. The markup tools are not as comprehensive as something like PDF Oxford Dictionary — This should be self explanatory, but there are choices to make here.

Notes and Research Apps: An overview of the best and most popular

Pinner is the third-party app I use as a front end to the service on iOS Pocket — Eagle-eyed readers will probably notice I have both Instapaper and Pocket on this list, it is true that you only really need one of these apps. Writing I recently covered writing on iOS, in terms of word processors and text editors, but as you know there is much more to writing than where you put the words.


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Outlinely is one of the best available outlining apps for the iPad Outlinely — A purpose built outliner creates structured documents, and by design helps in the organisation and planning of writing. Notes This is another area I have already covered in relative detail. Goodnotes on the iPad Mini 4 GoodNotes — For a straight up handwriting app that works well no matter what kind of iPad you are running — pro, standard, or mini — GoodNotes is going to be up there.