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12 useful online services and apps for students

Updated: 8/16/2013 3:31:52 PM
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By K. T. Bradford

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The school year is about to begin, and parents across the country are getting kids ready with new school supplies, computers, tablets, and a few other must-haves. Before you send your student off to high school or even the far away world of college, or before you head off to college, you should sign up for these (or similar) services. They will make learning, studying, and having fun a lot easier. Many of these services are free or have a free tier and several are worth shelling out the extra money for premium access.

Notes and Organization: Evernote Premium ($45/year, $5/month)

Evernote is a powerful (and ubiquitous) note-taking and organizing service that’s perfect for students and studying. The free version offers plenty of useful features and syncs notes across multiple devices from smartphones to computers. However, we suggest upgrading students to Evernote Premium for three big reasons. Most important: offline notes. Internet access isn’t always allowed in class and studious studiers may turn it off to get things done. Having access to all notes in these situations is key. Students can save PDFs and text pages snapped with a smartphone camera to Evernote, then search within those files for keywords. The extra space and upload size that comes with a Premium account is also useful.

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry

Add-on: Voice2Note ($30/year, $3/month)

This service is useful for students who often use the audio recorder to make quick memos or record lectures and interviews. Voice2Note automatically scans audio in Evernote, transcribes the first 30 seconds, and adds that text plus tags from your recording to the note.

Cloud Backup: SugarSync ($75/year, $7.49/month and up)

As much as parents would like to think that college age students are mature and savvy enough to back up on a regular basis, kids this age are no different than most adults who don’t really think about losing everything until they’ve lost everything. Before you send them off to school make sure they set up cloud backup on their computers, phones, and tablets. This will lessen the chance of losing important papers and research and give them an easy way to access documents from the computer lab or local copy center if they forget their term paper at home. We recommend SugarSync because it offers 5GB for free, 60GB at a low price, and doesn’t force you to put all of your synced folders into one central folder like Dropbox does.

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry

Theft Recovery: LoJack for Laptops (Standard $40 for 2 years, Premium $60 for 2 years)

It’s sad that college and university campuses are not immune to the same evils as the outside world, especially when it comes to electronics theft. Protect the investment you made in your kid’s laptop by installing LoJack for Laptops. This service can locate lost or stolen laptops and remotely wipe personal data so identities can’t be stolen. A theft recovery team will work with local police and campus security to recover a laptop once found. If you buy the Premium service over the standard, the company guarantees recovery or they’ll give you $1000 toward a new laptop.

There is a LoJack service for mobile devices, too. It’s only available on a small set of Samsung phones as of this posting.

Compatibility: Windows, Mac

Theft Recovery: Avast! Mobile Security (Free)

Android smartphone and tablet owners can add similar protection to their devices with Avast. This app will locate a lost or stolen device and allow you to lock it down, wipe it, or play a loud siren sound via SMS. Avast doesn’t offer fancy recovery service, but the app is completely free.

Compatibility: Android 2.3 and up

Keep Connected: Skype Premium ($5/month and up)

Students who come from abroad to study in the U.S. can get a local phone for not much money, but high international calling rates make for ridiculous monthly bills. Instead, go with a Skype Premium subscription to get unlimited calling to landlines and mobile phones (in some countries) for as little as $5 per month. The price varies depending on the country you want to call. To make it easy for family and friends back home to call you without spending a lot of money, add a Skype number for an additional $5-$6 per month, then choose a number from your home area code. Even if you’re in America or elsewhere, the call still counts as local. Bonus: Skype apps for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone make it possible to answer and place calls with these devices just like normal calls.

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Windows Phone

Studies and Statistics: Wolfram|Alpha Pro ($3/month for students)

Wolfram Alpha is a new computational knowledge search engine that is growing in value for students in multiple disciplines from advanced math to finance to business. The basic search engine is free and plenty useful for kids starting out in high school or taking 101-level classes in college. Once students start to get into higher level classes with more complex data needs, they’ll better appreciate the virtues of Wolfram Alpha Pro. The ability to input richer data, such as uploaded images instead of text, and export data in multiple formats so students can see it in the programs they already use is valuable. Wolfram Alpha can’t do a student’s homework for them, but it can help with studying and understanding.

Compatibility: Windows, Linux and Mac via browser

Finances: Mint.com (Free)

Teaching kids about personal finance isn’t always easy, but the best way to start is by keeping track of what you spend and how you spend it. Mint makes this easy via the well-designed web interface and mobile apps. Mint will sync with bank accounts and credit cards, showing the same information you’d find on a statement. What makes it a powerful tool is how Mint automatically sorts transactions into groups, then gives overviews of how money is being spent. You and your kids can also set budgets and goals for spending and saving and have Mint update you on your progress or when you spend too much. Good data and good analysis are the first step toward understanding how to control your finances.

Compatibility: Windows, Linux and Mac via browser, iOS, Android

Finances and Organization: Manilla (Free)

Another big part of learning personal financial responsibility is keeping track of all your bills, subscriptions, and social coupons. Most utilities, services, and subscriptions allow you to receive statements and make payments online. Manilla gathers all of these into one Web interface, making it easier to keep track and make a bunch of payments at once. The service will also send you reminders to help you pay bills on time and store a digital copy of paper bills for your records. And if you’re already an AOL Mail user, you can use Manilla through the new AOL Bill Manager.

Compatibility: Windows, Linux and Mac via browser, iOS, Android

Financial Fun: Wall Street Magnate (Free)

Just to prove that learning about finance isn’t dry and boring, sign your student up for Wall Street Magnate. This fantasy trading game uses real data from real company stocks and gives users a chance to buy and sell using virtual money. The dashboard shows how well your fantasy stocks and dividends perform and updates with real financial news, giving context to the whole exchange and individual stocks. Students can learn exactly how trading works in real time without using their own money and build confidence toward the day they make their own actual investments.

Compatibility: Windows, Linux, Mac and some mobile via browser

Entertainment and Care Packages: Amazon Student ($39/year)

Amazon Prime is a pretty sweet service: free two-day shipping, free streaming of movies and TV episodes, and free Kindle lending library access. At $80 per year it’s a good deal, but students can get it for half that and get six months free to boot. Sadly, the streaming video and free books aren’t available during the free period. Even with that caveat the service is still sweet and means students won’t have to wait long for physical textbooks and will have something to watch when relaxing (after they finish their homework, of course).

Streaming Music: Google Music All Access ($10/month)

Music is an essential element of college life – all life, really – and with today’s streaming services your kid can have unlimited access to millions of songs without the need to pay millions of dollars. There are a ton of streaming music services out there that we like and a few we’re no longer in love with (Spotify, anyone?). At the top of our current list is Google’s All Access. This service allows you to upload all of your existing music and add tracks from the vast library to your own. Play them through your browser while you’re on your computer or via your Android smartphone or tablet.

On mobile devices, it’s possible to download rented tracks for offline listening. The biggest drawback right now is that it doesn’t work on iOS or other mobile platforms. iTunes Radio is the equivalent for iDevices but is more Pandora-like and less Spotify-esque. Xbox Music on Windows Phone is a better comparison as it offers music matching, cloud access to your existing tracks on multiple devices, and a subscription service with unlimited streaming. Xbox Music Passes cost $30 for three months or $100 for a year.

This article was originally posted on Digital Trends

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