Something a bit different for this post…
These days we scholars and students spend a great deal of time working with software and web services of various kinds. These are important tools. I’m a strong believer that they affect not only how efficiently we work but also how we come to think about the researching, learning, and writing that are essential to our daily creativity.
I use a lot of different software, but to be included on this list a tool needs to be something I use several times every day. There will be no surprises for many of you here, but these are things that have become essential to my work over the last five years or so. Recently, I’ve become more circumspect about the whole idea of “the cloud,” but old habits die hard…
And, here they are, in, you guessed it… list format.
1. Evernote. Good for quick notes and for storing, tagging, and marking up PDFs. Syncs with the iOS version. I’ve been using this since 2009, though I tend to annotate PDFs in the Mac Preview app because the notes show up when I share the PDFs by email. Nevertheless, you can store the annotated PDFs in Evernote and easily see the notes and highlights in the desktop version.
2. Dropkick. A much nimbler, minimalist alternative to the built-in task manager in iOS. Has a Mac desktop version that syncs. I’ve tried many different to-do list apps over the years but this one is by far the best. I’ve been using this for ages.
3. Scrivener, for writing. Particularly good for long projects like, er… books, but also good for articles. The learning curve is steep but it is well worth it if you’re starting a big new project from scratch and you don’t need to worry too much about file compatibility when sharing documents with co-authors. I used this for my hybrid media system book.
4. Endnote, for referencing. It’s ugly and horrible to use and it’s been around for years. But I cannot find a better alternative that is as robust and as widely used. Now there is an iPad version, too, which looks okay, but I don’t have an iPad so I can’t vouch for it.
5. Mindnode, for mind maps and planning books and articles. Mac desktop. There is an iOS version that looks good but I don’t use it. Mindnode forms an important part of my teaching these days, though there are several other useful mind mapping apps. On May 1 I’ll be talking about live mind mapping in classes at a symposium featuring the 2013 Royal Holloway Teaching Excellence Award winners.
6. Bittorrent Sync, for sync without the cloud. I’ve been using this since picking up an early beta version following my decision to delete my Dropbox account. It’s not quite a Dropbox replacement so do your research before trying it. But it’s rock solid for me, so far. Now also available in a mobile app version.