College Survival: App Edition
by Nikhil Shinday E'16
Santa Barbara, CA
College in the 21st century is, in large, an exercise in navigating web pages, reading digital course documents, typing out essays and using a variety of applications, designed for programming, artistic creativity and, almost unnecessary to mention, entertainment. Here’s a baker’s dozen worth of apps that I use every day
Alfred is my most-used application by far. It’s a universal search bar that, besides searching through local files, can make queries directly to web pages and perform user-defined actions all while being non-intrusive. Alfred is one of those well-thought applications that saves a lot of time and keystrokes!
Being a technophile, friends and acquaintances expect that I run a paperless operation for organizing myself. But throughout high school, I was a notepad-pen-and-planner kind of guy, and I wanted that to change in college. I splurged on OmniFocus, an AWESOME application (that Justin sold me on) that creates a database that can be sorted based on different criteria, like context, project, or due date. Hands down, OmniFocus beats the pen by miles.
3. iWork Suite
As much as I’ve heard people complain about Pages, Numbers and Keynote, I love the programs. They’re easy to use and have a lot of built-in support for when I’m stumped. Cooler still is the fact that I can access all three applications on my phone, which I use for on-the-go editing.
Spotify is simply the greatest music service ever made. After making it out of the treacherous start-up stage in 2008, Spotify became a massive sensation in Europe and graduated to DRM- and copyright-manic American soil in 2011. The whole idea of social music has been a complete success, and I use it almost exclusively for listening to music! I feel bad about using Spotify at times - after all, it isn’t good for artists because they get such a small cut per listen - so I resolve that by going to concerts and, if I’m a fan, by buying a CD. Everyone wins!
An app that needs no introduction to chronic procrastinators, SelfControl blocks websites outright for a user-defined amount of time. I use it to make sure that I’m more (or less) productive during the week, but that I’m a natural systems exploiter doesn’t help: I recently figured out a way to circumvent the timer after it has been set (something that was *supposed* to be impossible), so SelfControl ends up being a psychological versus a physical barrier between perusing Reddit, catching up with everyone’s lives on Facebook, going on Netflix binges, and reading Quora.
Cloud computing is the future, and I love that Dropbox’s implementation is so deeply integrated into the UIs of modern desktop computers. That you can hold a lot of information for the low price of “free” is always a good thing, too!
Believe it or not, Google’s CAD freeware isn’t too bad! I use it primarily to visualize ideas that I have for random extracurricular projects (these are two coffee tables that are also computer housings, I’m planning on building the second one this summer out of metal and acrylic). It’s a little annoying that all objects are non-parameterized and are only compositions of points, but it’s still useable!
Anything that I can use to streamline my work routine is a welcome change. For me, the first of these streamlining tools was BTT, which I installed in sophomore year of high school. It allows you to program a ridiculous number of custom gestures to custom functions. I have a pretty good gestural system set up, so email me or comment if you’re interested in having some starting gestures!
9. Day One
Call me old-fashioned, but in high school I had a journal which I carried with me everywhere and used to write my angsty, teenage thoughts in. Good thing that I can write those same musings on my laptop now! Day One makes it easy to enter short tweets-style posts about life when I’m out and about by offering a phone application to supplement the desktop version. I still write long entries like with my physical journal, but now they’re supplemented with photos and a thought-log!
I’m in an introductory computer science class this semester and I’m finally formally learning to code - I taught myself what I needed to know in high school, but the formal, rigorous class is awesome to be in. We’re coding in C++, and the way that the CompSci Department’s servers are set up allow us to ssh into them and access all of our code files from the comfort of our dorms! I’ve been using Terminal and its built-in emacs editor for the semester so far, but I’m considering switching to X11 so that I can use my trackpad to change the location of the cursor - seemingly, this is a small difference, but it’s a big deal when I’m debugging, which is like 90% of the time.
Evernote’s been a life-saver for me this semester. I needed a program that had more features than the plain-Jane notes app that’s built into my phone and laptop, so I chose to go with Evernote, which is a free alternative. It’s great for recording my gym workouts and taking notes at meetings, but I plan to expand its use to classes starting next semester.
12. AU Lab
Alongside technophilia, I love me some well-balanced sound (that’s audiophilia, for all those keeping track). Apple’s in-house audio-mixer is a great solution to not having an equalizer in Spotify and VLC like I do in iTunes. I have different sound profiles that I use for different types of music, so that my bass-heavy headphones don’t overpower classical music or muddle the wonders of musical composition that are created by anyone from Allah-Las and Kendrick Lamar.
Being an iWork-jockey, I don’t have the equation-writing features built-in like with Microsoft Office. I tack on that feature by using MathType, a dead-simple app that makes typing equations and expressions a breeze. The button interface is a little clunky and it doesn’t support LaTex, but it’s still a great tool!
Nikhil is an editor in the Freshmen Communications Group. He can be contacted at Nikhil.Shinday@tufts.edu.