Essential Tools (mostly free)
(Updated, 16 March 2017)
Technological literacy (something I really need to define later) is essential to getting things done in today’s mediated world. There are a lot of useful applications out there that will cut back on the tears or punched walls late in the semester. Below are some of the programs that I use everyday to make my life easier, or at least to make it possible for me to cram in more things to do. For more tips, check out Gina Tripani‘s Upgrade Your Life and/or subscribe to Lifehacker.
If you are a professor and want more tips, also check out the Chronicle column ProfHacker.
This is my collection of everything – and I do mean everything. I use Evernote to clip articles from the web, store downloaded pdf’s that can be easily searched, pictures from the web, receipts from internet purchases, and notes that I take throughout the day. I type my fieldnotes into Evernote, for easy searching and backing up. You can install Evernote on multiple gadgets (I have it on all my PC’s, my tablet, and my smartphone), and sync them between all the gadgets, as well as access them in the cloud. Because of my usage, I did upgrade to the paid version, but you can start off with the free one. One of the best things about Evernote is that it records the URL and date that you clipped the article or picture – this is essential for later citation. I also use tags in Evernote to quickly categorize clippings, but the search feature in Evernote is also pretty powerful.
This is the way that I back up essential files. The best thing about Dropbox is that it requires no thought or effort; once Dropbox is installed on a computer, then it automatically syncs everything in the folders that you choose to add to Dropbox. You can also share folders with other people, and like Evernote, you can access everything in your Dropbox using any web browser. You can also install Dropbox on other gadgets, such as tablets or smartphones, but I use that only to download files from Dropbox (instead of synchronizing folders) because of the more limited storage on gadgets.
Google Reader There’s a lot of stuff to keep up with – for me, news about China, Coastal/Marine Environmental Studies, science fiction, motorcycles, and lots of other subjects that are near to my academic research or dear to my heart. I try to keep up with everything using Google Reader, which I tailored by subscribing to my interests and then dividing into sub-sections by topic. If I find something interesting, I clip the page to Evernote. If you don’t like the look or capabilities of Google Reader, you can actually use many other applications to view your RSS feeds in Google Reader. I use Flipboard on my tablet to zip through new articles. Here’s Prof. Hacker’s take on Google Reader: Using Google Reader to Streamline Your Reading.
Alas, Google Reader was put to pasture by Google on July 1, 2013. Now I use Feedly.
There’s a lot of stuff to keep up with, to be a proper academic. For me, that includes news about China, food and environmental studies, science fiction, motorcycles, productivity tools, and lots of other subjects that are near to my academic research or dear to my heart. I try to keep up with everything using Feedly, which I tailored by subscribing to my interests (using RSS – but just follow the Feedly directions) and then dividing my many feeds into sections by topic. Any new additions to a website (including news sites), Facebook pages, etc. show up on my Feedly app (which I can access on my phone, tablet, or computer); after seeing the headline, it automatically marks it as read, and I can easily scroll through hundreds of new articles. When I find something worth keeping, I save the page to Evernote. You can even add a google search to Feedly – when new items in a Google Search are found, they appear in your Feedly.
When I get a new computer, one of the first things that I load onto the computer is Notepad++. I use it when going through html code, cut-and-paste operations from websites, and any other time when I just want plain text and do not need text formatting.
USB Harddrive and Thumbdrives