There are three main facets of being a student. The first is learning and condensing the vast knowledge you’ve been given. Second, is producing your own works – papers, presentations, speeches, and visual data. The third is to be able to do both of those things and attend to your other responsibilities without being suffocated by deadlines and time pressure.
Luckily for you, I have compiled 10 apps, sites and extensions that have allowed me, a final-year student, to get through the last two years without any major crises. These 10 tools directly facilitate productive notetaking, creation and organization in a simple yet satisfying way. Number 10 is my personal favourite!
There are different apps which I recommend based on your style of learning and the device/medium which you use.
- Notion for DESKTOP notetaking
If you take notes on your laptop like I do, Notion is a powerful and all-encompassing site with a FREE education plan for UOM students. I make subpages for each of my classes and display them as a gallery to organize them. In those pages, I like to make one database in which I create my lecture and reading notes. This allows me to filter and sort through my notes, link to them on different pages and organize my learning. I also use Notion to store files, make my to-do list, and share specific subpages with others. Notion is also automatically backed up, keeping your work safe.
I highly recommend taking the time to learn how to use Notion, because not only do I use it for academics, but I also use it for personal projects, organizing work, and more. There are so many Notion templates out there, but I prefer to make my own. However, you can definitely learn from others’ templates and their tutorials.
- Goodnotes 6 for TABLET notetaking
If you like to take notes on your tablet instead of your laptop, you could type notes onto Notion, but for handwritten notes, Goodnotes 6 is the way to go. This notetaking app allows you to create continuous pages, like a regular notebook, and also import pages into your file. With a number of pen strokes, sizes and colours to choose from, Goodnotes 6 is a classic for students. My favourite feature is how it underlines spelling mistakes and rewrites words for you in your handwriting using AI-powered technology! The customizable notebooks also make for a satisfying notetaking experience.
Goodnotes 6 is for you if: you like to work chronologically in continuous notebooks, and if you enjoy an organized “mess.”
- Notability 6 for TABLET notetaking
Notability is another great note-taking app for handwritten notes, uploading files and sheets, and organizing your documents. Notability is really similar to Goodnotes 6, but it allows you to arrange your notes differently from how you would in Goodnotes 6. Notability has so many templates you could use as well as customizable pages from an online Gallery!
****Notability is for you if: you love keeping your files and notes in folders rather than notebooks, organized by themes rather than chronologically.
- SCRIBZEE for PAPER notetaking
If you still like to take notes on paper the old-fashioned way, it is important to keep your notes safe and accessible. One spill in your backpack should not ruin your studies, and forgetting a notebook at home shouldn’t stop you from revising. SCRIBZEE allows you to take scans of your notes and store them on your phone or tablet, allowing you access to them in a safe and backed-up place.
- Beanote for WEBSITE notetaking
I look at a lot of papers and websites for sources when I’m doing research, and I often need to take notes of what I read that could be helpful or that I might want to use in a paper later. It’s a hassle to manually copy-paste passages from sites into a separate document only to mix up what I wrote and what I copied later on. That’s why I recommend this extension. Beanote allows me to highlight passages on a website and add my two cents on a sticky note. Later, when I’m done with that site, I can download my annotations as a Word document, HTML or Evernote file. Beanote is incredibly helpful when I’m doing research or browsing a paper for an answer to a specific question.
How much you use these sites depends on your degree and personal needs, but they are worth keeping bookmarked in your browser!
Canva is an all-in-one graphic design app and website. Not only can you use it to make creative and unique posters, you can also use it to make PowerPoint presentations, planners, infographics, brochures, and charts and graphs! You can use Canva to make icons of bar or pie charts with labels and scales. Mind maps and timeline diagrams, data tables and flowcharts are all possible too, with various designs and fonts.
Canva is really easy to use and mostly free! The free version comes with so many different icons and styles that I don’t personally find the paid version necessary at all for my needs. You can also work collaboratively and simultaneously with your peers on Canva by inviting them to your projects. Canva is a must-have for students who visually present data and findings.
- BioRender & other diagram-making sites
As a STEM student, diagrams are vital to effective learning. Whether it’s molecular processes, chemical reactions, or lab procedures, using visual aids to learn enables better understanding. As a biotechnology student, I have used BioRender to make diagrams so that I can condense the complex processes I study and see how they happen in a story-like fashion rather than simply memorize paragraphs.
BioRender has allowed me to make visually pleasing yet understandable diagrams, and I think it is a tool that will help anyone in the FBMH. Other science-related faculties may also benefit from sites like BioRender. For making chemistry and physics diagrams check out Chemix, SmartDraw, and MolView.
Slidesgo is perfect for making presentations. It has numerous slide decks of various types and designs for all your academic needs. Whether you are looking for a simple and elegant look or a fun and theme-coordinated style, Slidesgo will have what you’re looking for. Most of their decks have 30+ slides which you can import into Google or Microsoft. You can choose from the different slide arrangements, the many icons, and assigned theme colours to personalize your project.
These tools are versatile and anyone can use them.
- Google Calendar
I am a firm believer that you do not need 4 different apps to get your life together. In fact, that is counterproductive. The more overwhelmed and spread out you are, the less time and motivation you have to plan or do the important things with upcoming deadlines.
Google Calendar is a wonderful tool that you really need to learn how to use. It’s so easy! You can create different calendars for school, work and your personal life, and see all your different events or tasks on one screen. You can filter calendars, colour code them, and easily rearrange your schedule. Customize events by making them recurring, or adding locations, descriptions and links to meetings.
You can also automatically add your uni timetable to Google Calendar! Visit https://timetables.manchester.ac.uk/timetables > Subscribe (top right corner) > Google. This will show all your scheduled classes and room bookings.
You can also use Google Calendar to make shopping lists – add ‘grocery shopping’ as an event, and in the description, you can write down what you need to get in bullet points!
- OneTab by one-tab.com
Easily one of the biggest annoyances for a student is having 30 tabs open in a single window, or 4 tabs across 10 windows, all disorganized and weighing your device down. Between having to click on every single tab to find the right paper and the tortoise-like performance of your computer, it probably takes you ages to find your workflow. Is it satisfying to close all those tabs after you submit that paper? Yes. But is it worth having those tabs open for days or even weeks? Absolutely not.
That’s why I love OneTab. With one single click, you can bring all or some of your tabs into this extension and organize them by theme into clear and visually pleasing folders which you can name. When you need those tabs, you can open them again one by one, or open all the tabs in one folder together. This extension is a lifesaver and my laptop has never been so happy and smooth.