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Tech Talk: Top 10 Must-Have iOS and Android Apps

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Published: Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Updated: Thursday, December 12, 2013 20:12

Ok, so you’ve got your new tablet and because you’re a loyal reader of the Gateway, it’s an Apple iPad Mini or a new Nexus 7, and now you’re combing through the marketplaces looking for the coolest, best apps to load it up. With literally hundreds of thousands of apps out there, picking the ones that suit your needs can be a real challenge. But never fear, that’s why I’m here. I’ve already done some of the legwork (or fingerwork) so you don’t have to.

Because we’re ecu-technical here, I won’t confine my list to just Android or iOS apps. Most of the software listed is available on both platforms, and best of all, a lot of it’s free. So if you’ve blown most of your Fall semester money on Apple products, it won’t break the bank.

But enough banter. Let’s talk tech!

Here’s my top 10 list, in no particular order:

Dropbox: Dropbox lets you keep all your homework “in the cloud” (read: on a server farm somewhere in the Midwest), and lets you share files quickly and easily with just about anyone you need to. put the files in a “Shares” folder, send the recipient an email, and they have a link to the shared file. Plus, you can access your cloud storage anywhere you have a wifi (or 3G, if you’re a smartphone user) connection. Never lose your assignments again. Free for both iOS and Android.

Evernote: This handy cloud service lets you keep track of your work across all your devices. Like Dropbox, Evernote stores your documents and syncs them wirelessly to any device you’ve installed it on. It also includes a suite of office utilities that lets you capture audio recordings, take pictures, and write notes and instantly share or sync them across your network. They also make a handwritten note-taking app, Penultimate, for iOS (reviewed below). Free for Android and iOS.

NoteShelf: This naturalistic notepad app is one of my favorites. With a good stylus, you can take advantage of your tablet’s touchscreen capabilities and replace all your notebooks in one fell swoop. Or skip the stylus and write out your class notes literally by hand, or at least by finger. NoteShelf is one of the best handwriting note-taking apps on the market, featuring a scalable zoom mode so you can maximize your page use, four-digit code-lock options for added privacy, and a wide variety of paper types available as in-app purchases. For iOS only; $5.99.

Amazon: If, like me, you’re frustrated at the prices the campus bookstore charges for textbooks, the free Amazon app puts cheaper books literally at your fingertips. Check out the required reading for your classes, then use the university’s WiFi to order the same books for a heck of a lot less. It’s also integrated with the Kindle app, which you can use to access your required reading without adding weight to your book bag. A must-have for any student.

Kindle Download, organize and read your e-pub library, and keep up with your professors’ interminably long required reading lists. With a little patience and effort you can also add PDF documents to your Kindle library. Free on both platforms.

SimpleMind: I’ve used this mind-mapping app for a few years now, for everything from simple note-taking to organizing topics for term papers and research projects. If you’re not familiar with mind mapping, it’s a system of organizing thoughts by creating clusters of related ideas and topics. SimpleMind lets you do it quickly and easily, adding, deleting and rearranging idea nodes as you need to. Check it out; the demo is free for Android and iOS, $4.99 for the premium version.

Antipaper Notes: Sadly, there’s no app comparable to NoteShelf available yet for Android devices, but Antipaper comes close. It features a zoom mode for people like me whose handwriting sucks, multiple colors and adjustable pen widths, a variety of paper styles, highlighting and many more options. The free demo limits you to five pages per notebook; for $5.49 you can upgrade to Pro and get unlimited pages, more pen colors and paper styles.

Minecraft Pocket Edition: No, really. You’ve spent the day sitting through one lecture after another, possibly a lab or two, and you just want to relax. Why not play with some legos? With Minecraft there’s no need to clean up, and no danger of stepping on a sharp piece of plastic in the middle of the night. Unleash your inner child with the free demo for Android and iOS; $6.99 to upgrade to the full version.

Wolfram Alpha: Unless you’re a math genius already, you need this. Trust me. It covers everything from simple algebra to calculus, discrete math and differential equations. And you’ll never have to carry around one of those TI-89 graphing calculators again. A bargain at $2.99 for Android and iOS.

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