Sunday, May 06, 2007

Four Free OS X Apps for Students

A while back I wrote about how many Princeton students were using Macs now. One great thing about Macs is all the cool little applications that you can get for free. Here are my top four for students:

1. Voodoo Pad Lite. This program is a hassle-free personal wiki maker. I write all my notes in it, and when I type something that already has a page, it automatically makes a link. When I come across something I've covered before in another context, I can just follow the link and review it. You can even export everything to your iPod or, in the full version, to HTML.

2. WriteRoom. When you're writing papers, do you get distracted by your browser, AIM, games, etc.? Turn them all off. WriteRoom is just a blank screen and text--everything else is gone. Concentrate!

3. For a more full-featured word processor, I use NeoOffice. I used to use OpenOffice on my XP machine before I switched, and NeoOffice works just as well. There is an OO port for OS X, but NeoOffice is supposedly more "Mac-like" and easier to install so I went with it instead. Supposedly a native Mac OpenOffice is in the works, but until then NeoOffice is fine. No compatibility issues with MS Office .doc format, and Chinese/Japanese text has been no problem.

4. Quicksilver. What is it? Hard to explain. That's why it took me so long to get on board with it. I heard people say it's an "application launcher," and I thought, "So it will open apps for me? Who cares when you have the dock?" How wrong I was! Quicksilver totally changes the Mac experience. Basically, you can do anything from anywhere. When I need to email a file to classmates, I just call up Quicksilver, type in the first few letters of the file name, tab, type a few letters of "email," tab again, and type the email address. It only takes a few keystrokes--no navigation through folders, no opening applications. It's also great with iTunes while studying. Use the party shuffle, then while you're studying add songs to it with just a few keystrokes. You don't have to leave your word processor while you're writing to go mess around in iTunes when you think of a song you want to hear. You have to play with it to really see how it works. Merlin Mann of 43 Folders describes Quicksilver as having a grammar--you choose a subject (a file, for example), a verb (such as "email"), and, if needed, an object (""). Apple really should buy this and incorporate it into the OS.

Got any more? (I'd love to hear about a good flashcard-type thing for memorizing vocabulary words, etc.)

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