Back to School: Apps to Help You Work Well

School is back in session, and it is time to consider the most beneficial apps for productivity. Many of us now have access to apps that can help us work hard and play hard during term time. Here are five of my favorites in no particular order. I will offer another five next week.

1. f.lux—We all know how uncomfortable our eyes feel when we stare at a computer screen in the dark. Research has shown that the glow from a screen can even interfere with the natural rhythms of our bodies and cause us to have an inability to sleep. F.lux automatically adjusts your screen when the sun begins to set. In short, it allows you to work late without getting a headache or bloodshot eyes. This app is especially helpful to those us of who live in Scotland during the winter season. The sun begins to set here a little after 3:30pm!

2. Duet—Research has shown that people who work with two monitors are typically more productive than those who only use one. There have been several times in which I have wished that I had two monitors. This desire usually occurs when I want to look at a large PDF file and a Word Doc simultaneously; it has also occurred when I want to have Apple Music of Facebook running on one side of the screen and my work on the other. 😉 Duet is a poor man’s second monitor. If you plug your iPad into your Mac, it will transform your iPad instantly into a second desktop. It is very helpful when you are working with many files at one time.

3. EverNote-I am quite the Evernote fanatic. Yes, the company raised its prices recently. Yes, apps like OneNote from Microsoft are nipping at its heels. And, yes, EverNote as an organization has experienced a crisis of leadership as of late. Still, in my mind, there is no better app for document storage and organization. I happily pay the annual fee—even with the price increase. I wrote a blog on my use of EverNote as a Ph.D. student here. Do give this app a careful look; even the free version is very powerful. I quite honestly cannot imagine doing my work without it.

4. OmniFocus-I greatly appreciate David Allen’s Getting Things Done program. I wrote a blog on its value for Ph.D. students here. The popularity of Allen’s approach has led to the creation of a large number of productivity apps built around the insights featured in his system. OmniFocus is the most powerful of these. It can manage multiple projects, different due dates and deferral dates, track the various contexts in which you perform your work, and even offer a weekly review so that you can monitor your progress. It has a steep learning curve; if you are looking for just a simple to-do list then you will probably want to try a different app. If you have a lot on your plate, though, then you will find this app tremendously helpful.

5. Grammarly—This software can perform sophisticated proofreading and even plagiarism detection. It is much more advanced than the grammar tools built into Microsoft Office. I use it mainly for the quick pieces that I write—emails, blog posts, messages that I send out as an adjunct professor—and prefer to take a more old-fashioned approach with my thesis. I do find it helpful, though. Even the free version will offer quality advice concerning your writing.

Do you have any favorite apps that you wish to recommend? What helps you with your work (or play)?

About David Rathel

Husband to April; Baptist Minister; Student at St. Mary's Divinity School at the University of St. Andrews
This entry was posted in PhD Productivity. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Back to School: Apps to Help You Work Well

  1. Pingback: Back to School: Apps to Help You Work Well (Part 2) | David Rathel's Research Page

  2. Pingback: My Five Productivity Hacks for Online Professors | David Rathel's Research Page

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