Back to School: 10 Great Web Apps for College Students

For a lot of college students, the new semester is just around the corner. Last year, we created a long list of great Web 2.0 tools that we thought would be helpful for college students.

But given how fast things develop on the web, we thought we would revisit this topic again this year and look at some of the most useful Web 2.0 tools that have the potential to help students do better in school, collaborate with their fellow students, and save them time.

Taking Notes

1) Evernote

evernote_college.pngEvernote is a great note taking application, but that only scratches the surface of what it can do. If you are in a lecture, for example, you can also take a picture of the blackboard with your phone, upload it to the Evernote server, and thanks to Evernote's clever OCR algorithms, even pictures of handwritten notes become instantly searchable.

You can also use it to bookmark web pages and write down your own lecture notes. Best of all, you can use a web app, a Windows or Mac desktop app, or a Windows Mobile and iPhone app, all of which seamlessly synch with each other, so that your notes are always up to date.

2) Google Notebook

google_notebook_college.pngThe Google Notebook is one of Google's lesser know products, but, thanks to a very well designed Firefox extension, it's a great tool for when you do most of your work in a browser already. If you do some of your research in Google Books and Google Scholar, you can also easily clip excerpts from books and articles into your Google Notebook.

One additional nice feature is that you can invite collaborators to work on a notebook with you. If you are doing a research project in a group, for example, you can easily share your research with your whole group.

Online Office Suites

3) Google and 4) Zoho

google_apps_college.pngWord processors, spreadsheets, and presentation apps are probably the single most often used tool among college students, and while none of the online offerings can yet beat Microsoft Office (which, for students, now only costs around $60 for the Ultimate Edition), the online office suites from Google and Zoho do have some distinct advantages. Office obviously has a lot more features, but not only are both Google Apps and Zoho free, they also allow easier sharing of documents and working on projects collaboratively.

And while the online tools to create presentations are still a bit crude compared to Powerpoint or Keynote, they are both worthy contenders, especially if you don't feel the need to add lots of fancy transitions to your presentations.

If we had to choose between Google's and Zoho's offering, our vote would probably go to Google, as the Google apps have a slightly more organized and professional feel to them, which, in the end, is going to make it easier to focus on the content of your documents.


5) Zotero

zotero_college.pngThe standard tool for doing extensive bibliographies in academia is Endnote. While that is a great tool if you are writing a dissertation, Zotero is a great choice for less extensive research projects - and it's free. Zotero is a Firefox extension, so it is not technically a web app, but in its next version, the developers are promising the ability to synch your bibliographies to a web version of the tool, so that your books and notes will become available everywhere.

For now, Zotero lives in the status bar of Firefox, and it pops up a little icon in your URL bar every time it recognizes a compatible website. Zotero already supports the databases of a huge amount of libraries worldwide, as well as a lot of standard academic databases such as JSTOR, LexisNexis, InfoTrac, PubMed, or ScienceDirect. Besides curating your citations, you can also add notes, tag items, or add attachments (like pdf files of articles). Once you are done, Zotero will create a bibliography for you in most standard formats, including APA, MLA, or Chicago style.

6) EasyBib

If you just need to create a short bibliography, Zotero might be more than you need. EasyBib will just help you to quickly create a bibliography entry in MLA format - a favorite among literature teachers. It can also handle the APA format, but you will have to subscribe to the pro version of EasyBib.

If you really hate figuring out where to put a comma and where to put a semicolon in your APA style bibliography entries, those $7.99 a year for the pro version might just turn out to be a bargain.

Also, if you only need a quick bibliography entry for a book, check out OttoBib, where you just have to enter the ISBN number and it will give you a fully formatted citation.

Staying Organized

7) Google Calendar

There are lots of great online calendars out there, including 30 Boxes and Yahoo's calendar app, but our favorite is the Google Calendar, simply because it is dead easy to use, integrates nicely with GMail, allows for importing and exporting your calendar, and lets you publish a site with your free/busy information with the click of a button, so that your friends know not to bother you while you are cramming for that test.

8) Remember the Milk

rememberthemilk_college.pngRemember the Milk might just be the tool that will keep you on track. And to make things even easier, Remember the Milk also integrates nicely with Google Calendar, so you can manage everything in one place.

Picking the Right Class

9) Rate My Professors

rateprofessors.pngAs much as teachers don't like sites like these, Professor Performance and Rate my Professors can be useful tools when you decide which class you want to take. While almost every university makes you rate your professor at the end of the semester, schools never make this data public, so whenever you get a choice between professors, you really have no idea who the better teacher is. We like Rate My Professors a bit more than Professor Performance, simply because its search is a lot easier and the site is a bit more up-to-date. The site now also features a Facebook application.

Keeping in Touch

10) Meebo

As much as your teachers would like to think so, college isn't just about classes, papers, and long ours in the library. If you want to stay in touch with your friends no matter what computer you are on, Meebo is a great universal IM client that lives on the web. It supports, AIM, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, ICQ, Jabber, and Google Talk, as well as Meebo's own IM architecture.

What are we missing?

Are there other tools you use in school that we missed here? Let us know in the comments.

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