Not surprisingly, online students sometimes have special requirements when it comes to tools, Web sites, mobile apps and resources.
The fact is, there are loads of options out there, to find what you need. So we’ve compiled a list of 50 of the best such tools, etc. Where available, we’ve included a link to the Apple iTunes and Google Play Web profile pages for a given entry, along with the main Web site (available by clicking the name of the tool). If other platforms are supported, we have tried to make a note of that.
Most of the items in this list have at least a free basic version. A few have either or both of a paid version or paid upgrades/ subscriptions. Make sure that your computer, tablet or other mobile device has the minimum version of operating system as necessary for an app.
Communication and Collaboration
- Google Hangouts — Suggest Google Hangouts to your professor as a way for classmates and teaching assistants to communicate en masse.
- Google Translate — Google Translate offers quick, non-colloquial translations between 90 languages – useful for translating foreign novels and journal articles, or conversing with a distant classmate. [iOS, Android]
- Skype — Use Skype for when you need to chat or share files with remote classmates or your course’s teaching assistant. (Paid options for Skype-to-phone completion and real phone number) [iOS, Android]
Notetaking and Diagramming
- Dragon Dictation — Why type notes and course work when you can speak and let Dragon Dictation’s highly accurate speech recognition engine transcribe for you? [iOS]
- Evernote — Evernote is arguably the top dog in the broad spectrum of note-taking, with features that spill over into planning. [iOS, Android]
- GistBox — Typically used for saving snippets of programming code, GistBox can also be used to save lists of Web page references or any form of flat text you prefer. (Requires free GitHub.com account.)
- Gliffy — Draw a variety of diagram types in your Web browser with Gliffy (5 free diagrams with basic account).
- Google Drive — Google Drive hosts a set of features including an MS Office-like word processor, a spreadsheet, diagramming, presentation and more. [iOS, Android]
- Grafio — If you can’t or won’t pay $49.99 for Omnigraffle (plus paid templates), Grafio offers reasonably sophisticated diagramming and prototyping with extra (paid) features to match many needs. iPhone and iPad (free Lite version; Pro is $8.99 plus In-App Purchases). [iOS]
- MyScript SmartNote — MyScript’s SmartNote mobile app makes it easy to take handwritten notes on your mobile device – notes which can be edited after the fact – as well as write/edit equations, annotations, make drawings and more. [iOS, Android]
- Pearltrees — Pearltrees gives mind map-like organization of content with collaborative features. (Paid version removes ads in browser and mobile apps.) [iOS, Android]
- Penultimate — Penultimate lets you take handwritten notes on your tablet and makes them searchable in Evernote. [iOS, Android]
- Quip — Quip combines tasks lists, spreadsheets, documents and chat into one package. Mobile and desktop versions supported. Paid business and enterprise subscriptions available for collaborative features. [iOS, Android]
- Simplenote — Like the name says, Simplenote lets you take simple notes – with collaborative features and syncing. Versions: iOS, Android, Mac, Kindle. [iOS, Android]
- WordPress — The uses of a self-hosted WordPress with suitable plugins are numerous, especially for a student – including private chat, project management, notekeeper, document formatter and more. [iOS, Android]
- Workflowy — Lists help you plan and take notes; Workflowy lets you organize your lists with collapsible outlining. Mobile apps and browser plugin available; free signup required; Web site has demo. [iOS, Android]
Planning and Task Management
- Any.Do — Any.Do is a strong contender in the basic to-do list app sphere, with task repetition option, reminders to return emails, SMS chat feature and more. Mobile and desktop versions available. [iOS, Android]
- Freedcamp — Freedcamp is a free Basecamp alternative with planning/ project management, messaging, email, project templates and collaboration features. Has extra paid features and storage subscriptions.
- IFTTT — IFTTT’s deceptively simple “recipes” hide a powerful Web and mobile tool for organize online activities and collecting information. [iOS, Android]
- iProcrastinate — Free on the Mac App Store, iProcrastinate is a task manager with calendaring features, with auto-sync to iOS mobile version. ($1.99 iPhone/iPad) [iOS, Android]
- iStudiez Pro — The iStudiez Lite app (iOS, free) lets students manage a semester of courses, exams, assignments and has features for parents of students and also teachers. Pro version is $2.99 (iOS). Mac and Windows desktop versions also available. [iOS]
- Listly — Make and share Web browser-based lists with Listly; collaborate with classmates and colleagues.
- Mindly — Using a variation of the mind mapping paradigm, Mindly helps you structure your thoughts while studying or researching. Basic free iOS (iPhone/ iPad) version plus $6.99 pro version (In-App Purchase). [iOS]
- PivotalTracker — Typically used for software planning, PivotalTracker’s free option offers enough features for planning and managing those more complex course projects, even if they’re not for software. (Free for private one-person projects, academic institutions, public projects, qualified nonprofits. Collaborative features require subscription — free 30-day trial.)
- Strike — Strike is a Web-based to-do list app that’s easy to use and free.
- Todoist — Todoist is arguably one of the best to-do list apps – available on multiple platforms including desktop and mobile. [iOS, Android]
- Trello — Trello uses an easy-to-follow card-based paradigm for task/project management, and offers collaborative features ideal for working with other students remotely, or simply organizing your student life. Supported on Web, iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, Windows 8. Paid features available. [iOS, Android]
- Wunderlist — Wunderlist is yet another top contender in the to-do list app arena, with recently added new features including folders. Available on multiple mobile and desktop platforms, and Chrome Web browser plugins [iOS, Android]
- XMind — Of all the available desktop mind mapping tools available, XMind offers the most features for free, with paid upgrade (one-time fee or subscription) offering additional professional features. Ideal for planning your entire student career, studying or even presentations.
- Curator — Use the Curator app to collect, organize and present ideas using Web site, images and text, or as a visual pinboard for your essays and term projects. [iOS]
- EasyBib — EasyBib’s book barcode scanning feature is useful for easily citing references (and sharing) in MLA, APA and other formats, for term papers or other assignments [iOS, Android]
- Grid — Grid’s iPad app gives you an alternative to spreadsheets for layout that combines text, data and images – ideal for organizing a term project. [iOS]
- Prezi — Prezi offers mind mapping style presentation software. Free for students (requires school email address for registration).
- SlideShare — Publish your class presentations on SlideShare or catch up on your reading with existing content published.
- Vidra — Vidra lets you create “explainer” videos with slides and voice recording – ideal for remote presentations for course assignments. [iOS]
Studying and Researching
- Cash4Books — Use the Cash4books app to scan a book’s barcode and offer it for sale — whether textbook or not. [iOS]
- Chegg Textbooks, eTextbooks — Order your physical textbooks through the Chegg mobile app and get access to digital versions while you wait. [iOS, Android]
- Clearly — Clearly is a Web browser plugin from Evernote that is an alternative to Readability, and which also makes Web page content far more gentle on the eyes.
- Coursera — Coursera has a huge collection of curriculum course materials from colleges/ universities worldwide – useful for supplementing your knowledge and getting a free education online. [iOS, Android]
- Flashcards* by Brainscape — Use Flashcards* by Brainscape to study more efficiently by retaining more knowledge faster. Available for iOS and Mac. [iOS]
- Hemingway — Hemingway is a simple but useful Web app that calculates the reading level of text you paste in, and which highlights problem sentences which you can edit and get feedback.
- iTunes University — iTunes University is a great source of college/ university course content which could possibly aid you in your current courses. [iOS]
- Pocket — Curate your Web bookmarks with Pocket — read now or later in an easy-to-read font. [iOS, Android]
- Quizlet — Create flashcard sets for productive studying with Quizlet. (Paid upgrade has extra features in browser and mobile apps.) [iOS, Android]
- Readability — Readability makes Web pages easy to read. Available as browser plugin or mobile app. [iOS, Android]
- Spritz — Whether you’re an online student or not, you probably have a lot of reading to do and apps that use the Spritz engine can help. See site for details. [iOS]
- StudyBlue Flashcards — The popular StudyBlue study platform offers a Flashcards app (Web, mobile) with which you can create your own flash card sets (complete with Evernote import option) and share with classmates — or choose from the many millions of study materials already available (free and paid). [iOS, Android]
- Dictionary.com — Unless you’re a total geek and have memorized the entire English language, Dictionary.com can be a handy reference when you’re working on assignments and term papers. [iOS, Android]
- Dropbox — Dropbox is great for storing and sharing your course documents, assignments, reading material. (Has paid options for more storage and extra features.)
- LastPass — When you’ve signed up for every Web service in this list, look into LastPass to manage your passwords. (Paid premium features available. Supports Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and multiple desktop browser.)