Favorite Apps for Work and Life

ToolsSince ProfHacker first launched, we’ve written several posts about our favorite applications, the most recent being Ryan’s “Back to School: Mac App Pack.” Since I’m currently in school myself, I find that my work patterns have changed a bit, so I’ve been experimenting with a number of applications to see what might work best for my new circumstances.

So here are the applications that I find are working well for me so far, as a student and a writer. I use all of these every week—most of them, every day—and have found them essential to my workflow.

For keeping up with course reading:

  • The Kindle app for iPad. I’m living in Chicago this year, and I want to be able to travel light getting to and from class. I also don’t really want to acquire a bunch of books that I’ll have to cart home in May. I use the app for just about all of my leisure reading right now, and for a lot of my course reading, as well; if a book I need for class is available in Kindle format, that’s the format I buy. Though it’s true that Kindle isn’t great for quickly jumping around in a text, the materials I’m reading this year aren’t the kind that require that, so it works well for me.
  • iAnnotate PDF. Jason and Mark have covered this app before, and I’m finding it indispensable. The majority of the materials I need to read are available in PDF format. This app allows me to mark them up to my heart’s content, and, since it syncs with Dropbox, my annotations are always backed up.
  • Notes Plus. A detailed explanation of what this app can do would make this post far too long. The best way to get acquainted with it is to take a look at the developer’s short explanatory video on the app’s home page. I don’t use all of the app’s features, but I’ve yet to take out pen and paper to take notes in class.

For writing and blogging:

  • Byword. I’ve mentioned this app before, and I find myself using it frequently, on both the Mac and the iPad. If you want to follow up on Lincoln’s ideas about working with plain text and Markdown, this editor makes it very easy (even if you’re not already familiar with Markdown’s syntax—the app will help you out). I do most of my writing for ProfHacker in Byword these days, and just use its export function to get the HTML output I need.
  • Marked. Since I’m new to Markdown, I use this app in conjunction with Byword. It has some more advanced functions, but right now I use it primarily to check whether I’ve formatted my text correctly. While working on a document in Byword, I have a copy of the same document open in Marked, which gives me a live preview of how my text will look. The Marked window updates whenever Byword saves.
  • MarsEdit. I’ve been using this blog editor for well over two years now. When I’ve finished writing a post, I just send the HTML from Byword to the clipboard. I paste it into a new post in MarsEdit, add any images, select appropriate categories and tags, and publish the post as a draft.

For life in general:

  • Transit Stop. Now that I’m living in Chicago, I find myself taking public transportation a lot. This app helps me figure out routes to get to where I’m going, and schedules for the trains or buses to get me there. The app is Chicago-specific, but I’m sure there are similar apps for other cities.
  • Universalis. This one’s a little offbeat for an academic blog, but when the Liturgy of the Hours is part of your daily life, the app is very handy, and much less cumbersome than a large book. Though it’s a little on the expensive side, the developer has a generous license: one license authorizes you to use the application (for your personal use) on every device you own.

Are there applications that you find yourself using all the time? What tools do you find help you most in your work? Please share your favorites in the comments.


[Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo by cogdog]

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