Back to School Shopping Guide Part II: Essential Apps

Posted on Sep 21, 2008 in Mac, Opinions, Reviews

No college student can get by nowadays without a few productivity apps to help them keep track of assignments, files, notes etc. There are a ton of different apps designed to do this sort of thing, but a lot of them are either aimed at business users (and priced accordingly) or don’t just feel to feature-laden and dense to be really practical for quick notes in classes.

So here’s a few productivity apps that students might find are worth checking out. Affordable, intuitive and ideal for quick notes, references, links and more.


As I mentioned in my look at VoodooPad Lite a few months back, VoodooPad is a great tool for storing all your notes, links, images, PDFs etc in a wiki-like structure. This ability to create your own structure out of a collection of notes is really useful and as simple as typing in a text file.


I really enjoy the simplicity of this app, however there are limits to it’s usefulness as a general note-taking app, mainly the way images and other files are handled. Images and other files are either linked to or pasted in, meaning you either have to click each file link to view the file’s contents, or you have huge images in your document that you can’t resize. On the other hand, VoodooPad offers support for custom scripts and can run code in various languages with a simple keystroke, so CS students will love VoodooPad for storing code snippets.

Overall it’s very useful for text-based notes and the wiki-like structure is a very flexible way to organise information.

VoodooPad 3 – $29.95, free Lite version available


Schoolhouse 2

This awesome, free app has a slick UI that allows you to easily track and manage your assignments and other homeworks tasks on your Mac. It can also help you collaborate with partners, keep track of notes and request feedback from your instructor. 

Whilst it’s probably a little overblown for most freshman-year assignments, it’s great for larger projects that need quickly become unmanageable without some sort of structure or if you have a lot of projects going simultaneously. 

I ran into one crash whilst trying it out, but it’s fairly solid overall and is a great app at an unbeatable price. Definitely take this one for a spin and consider donating if you like it.

Schoolhouse 2 – No license fee, donations accepted

Circus Ponies Notebook

Notebook’s UI basically mimics your typical college ring-bound notepad and lets you sort your notes and files into pages inside a notepad. The concept works pretty well, but I found that the navigation tabs for individual pages  can become a bit cluttered if you’re not diligent about filing pages into sub-categories.

Notebook has great support for other file types though: Just drag in PDF files, images, timetables etc. and they’ll all show up in your document as images that you can resize and position as you need them. A double-click will then open the file in its native application. This is a great for creating a rich-document notebook entry with a proper layout.

Notebook 3 is due out soon and new features such as sketching, support for graphs and more have been announced. Anyone who buys Notebook 2 now will receive a free upgrade to version 3 when it’s released.

Circus Ponies Notebook – Academic license: $29.95

That’s it for this roundup, more Back-to-school tips are coming soon though, so be sure to check back or subscribe!