MindNode makes the above mind map, and it shows all the apps that I will be featuring in this guide. Here is the larger version of this image. This guide will provide the format for those that will use the iPad Pro as their primary device for being a student. I’ve been using the iPad since 2012, and since 2015 when the first iPad Pro came out I’ve learned ways to study, and learn using mostly the iPad Pro as my primary device. This guide will go through the iOS app section, while later I will post a short guide focusing on the organizational process of the apps. I hope that this guide will help any incoming students with the iPad to be more productive and able not to bring their heavy laptop around.
Apps that I use to improve productivity as a student, and researcher.
Notes and Word Processors
I have been using Notability ever since the iPad 2, and it has been with me ever since. Notability allows for great note taking using a combination of handwriting, typing, and the best part is audio recording. With this app, you can write notes while recording the audio lecture. Thus when you come back to the note for the review process, you can click on the part that you drew, wrote, or typed, and it will play back the audio that’s linked to that section.
Not only does this app handle written, typed, or recorded audio, you also have the option to import different types of medias, such as photos, GIF, Figures, web clips (screenshot of a website), and Stickies. Yes, you can add GIFs to your notes, take that pen and paper. Lastly, you can sync this app with its macOS counterpart as well as the iPhone app for reviewing as well.
iOS 11 Apple Notes
In iOS 11, the Apple Notes app has become a lot better as a note taking application as well as a general organizational app as well. Due to my decline in trust with Evernote last year, I proceeded to import all of my notes from Evernote to Apple Notes. So far, it has been a great organizational tool, as well as note taking advice. All of my blogging posts are stored on Apple Note, as well as my projects.
iOS Notes app also has a great new feature since iOS 10, the ability to password protect images and notes with images attached to it. Once you locked a note, you can then use a password or your fingerprint to unlock it. Perfect for storing your important documents for example like passport photos.
For further addition to Apple Notes read this post by MacStories
Mobile Microsoft Apps
If you are part of a university, use this link to check if your university is part of the free Microsoft service. Since this guide is for students, you are most likely to have this service for free!Microsoft office suite for the iOS is perfect for the majority of students here. They all offer the standard abilities of word editing, powerpoint creating, excel sheet, etc. Not only that but they also provide for automatic backups due to it being an iOS app. Once you have a document created, you can either save it to the cloud via OneDrive, iCloud, or other cloud services. You can also save a copy to your local iPad storage as well, thus having a local back up just in case you will be without wifi for awhile. Even though it is tablet edition, you can still do functions such as annotation with the Apple pencil (or stylus), mark reviews, bibliography, collaboration with other users, and, etc.
Apps Include Powerpoint, Word, Excel, OneNote. Download the apps here
Apple Office Apps
If you are a purist like me or doesn’t have the free Microsoft apps included in your student account, then I would recommend the Pages app from Apple. It is a fully functional word processor that’s designed for minimalist, and easy to use as well. It also includes an equation editor as well. These apps are the Apple alternative to the Microsoft suit! Its features include collaboration, beautiful templates, easy to use formatting, and review tools.
Apps include: Pages an Word alternative, Keynote an Powerpoint alternative, and lastly Numbers an Excel alternative.
Here’s my use of Pages, as you can see there are a lot of tools for professional usages.
This app is excellent for a pure text editing experience, it is cheap, and it is powerful enough to mimic the TextEdit app on the macOS. It can be used for any programming language with its vast syntax library, and it is able to connect cloud drives as well making all of the edits you do on here safely. I have been using this to write in markdown, code segments of my coding project, and using it as a code reader as well. You can also connect to your server on there too via SSH to do updates to your codes. Due to the app being developed by the same company as Working Git, you can also sync this app to your Git by pushing the edits there as well! This app is simple to use and highly recommended as a text editor for your iPad.
Cost: 10 Dollars
It is another text editor made by the company that developed Pythonista, an IDE for Python development. Editorial is a power text editor that like Textastic allows for many types of syntaxes and thus provides an easy way for code/text editing. You can also run automation with it as well, allowing for a world of combinations, but if you just need a text editor, this app is great as well.
Cost: 5 Dollars
Documents by Readdle
One of the reasons iPad Pro is argued not to be a laptop replacement is due to its inability to have a file organizer. To some degree that is true, the operating system is sandboxed meaning that the critical files in there aren’t meant for customizability, however! That is not to say it cannot be used as a laptop replacement! Most students reading this guide will not be needing a large file manager, a simple one like Documents is plenty especially for what most students will be doing. Documents use the iCloud Drive or other cloud storage as a local storage for your files. It allows you to read files such as text documents, word documents, powerpoint documents, code documents, photos, music files, and even video files! I use it as my central location for my different courses, and it is also my audio book reader as well since I have many audiobook files.
This app is free, download it, and locally organize your documents in here as you need to.
Scanner Pro turns your iPad/iPhone into an OCR scanner for your paper documents. It is backed up with iCloud and syncs throughout your iOS devices. Use this to scan your worksheets, the OCR feature turns your worksheets into a searchable pdf file, then save it to your drive. This allows me to have a paperless lifestyle.
Idea Generating, Organizing, Memorizing
When you go on my website, you will notice these mind-maps all over the site. Mindmaps have a straightforward design, to create a central point of thought and thus expanding upon that idea for further examination. It is great generating new ideas and thus helps with exploring that thought in the middle. Mindmaps are ideal for someone who’s more visual thinkers, and MindNode gets all of that correctly. MindNode allows for colorful maps, with simple to use interface on the iPad Pro. Its functionality is expanded by the use of keyboard shortcuts, and its content is safe by using the iCloud backup system. You can also get the MindNode app for your macOS as well allowing editing on both laptop and tablet. Even though it is a tablet version, it is as powerful as the macOS version. I love this app, and it is one of my idea generating/observing apps.
I’ve included a scheme for a basic connect 4 app that’s made using MindNode.
Cost: 10 dollars
Memrise is flash card generator that’s meant for all subjects available. It’s a free flash card iOS app as well as a web app that utilizes plenty of courses that are preset for you to learn. In the beginning, they became a large foreign language learning website, but now it’s developed into other fields as well. You can create courses, or join classes. You can download the flashcards to your iOS device, and when you have free time, you can go through and review what you’ve known. It uses a “plant a flower” system where it analyzes your correct responses as well as mistakes to give you a proper timing for when you will need to review the card again. Quizlet is also very similar. However, its website is a lot more meant for a different variety of classes. While memrise is aimed towards language learning and progression, quizlet is more of a general flashcard website with many courses that are made, as well as premade.
This is my favorite flash card application, being a flash card application like the two before means that it’s more for the iPhone than the iPad. However, this app is intended for flash card creation at the local level. Quizlet requires the use of their site as a server where as Flashcard Hero backups all self-made flash cards into iCloud storage allowing you to access it from all iOS and macOS devices. Another effective usage of this app is imported option on the macOS. You can import from Quizlet, and other flash card pre made websites to the macOS then thus open the flash cards up on the iPad. For customizability, this flash card app is the best.
Cost: 4 dollars.
Cloud storage Apps
Google Drive, iCloud Drive, OneDrive, DropBox
These four cloud drives are almost all the same, and some universities give you a lot of free storage. For example, University of Michigan uses Google for all of our services, and thus Google Drive is free for unlimited storage. An excellent way of not worry about your documents getting lost. However, unless it’s iCloud storage, the other cloud storages may not automatically update backup your information without some setup. I would highly recommend getting at least 200 gigs for your documents throughout school, since it’s 3 dollars a month, and that way you’ll have a better experience without the fear of losing your documents.
- 15 Gb: Free
- 100 Gb: 2 dollars
- 1 Tb: 10 dollars
- iCloud Storage:
- 5 Gb: Free
- 200 Gb: 3 dollars
- 1 Tb: 10 dollars <- My recommendation
- If you’re going to pay for storage, I would recommend pay for iCloud Storage as it makes syncing seamless. Dropbox has the free tier that’s suitable for all Dropbox syncing needs, but I would not recommend buying the storage further than that.
PDF Readers, annotation
PDF Expert is a must for anyone student or anyone out there that uses their iPad Pro as a device for work and productivity. It’s a PDF managing app that allows you to manage all of PDFs, document files, folders, and even music files. It’s a PDF reader and editor first, and its name is no joke. I use this app as my primary reader and PDF reading device. I’ve used this app to manage multiple 700-megabyte books like Voet and Voet’s biochemistry book, and it handles like a pro.
Being a reader is great, and all but what’s even better is its ability to annotate and edit the PDF as well. If you have a worksheet, you can scan it in through Scanner Pro (App I’ll talk about more in this post later), the scanner app will OCR (turning the pictures into searchable words) the worksheet then you can import the sheets to PDF Expert for annotation. For example, using your stylus or apple pencil to do the worksheets then send the sheet out for submission. Lastly, all of your documents are backed up to iCloud or the cloud storage that you prefer. Since google drive is where I store all of my pdf textbooks, I’ve time and time again download the copy of them to PDF Expert for readings.
Cost: 10 Dollars.
This is a PDF reader, but with magic. I’m not kidding. It’s hard for me to describe this app. It’s an app that’s uniquely designed for a tablet, in a way that pens are mechanical styluses are digital, LiquidText is the digital version of paper documents. Due to it being on an iPad we no longer has the standard way of viewing documents from page to page, rather it turns your PDF into a form of elastic cross reference point paper. You can link thoughts and ideas out into a canvas, and you can link different thoughts throughout the page, and link them together in one push. This app is a must have pdf-reader app for someone who reads a lot of academic texts. Since this app is free to try, I would recommend everyone who reads many PDFs to give this app a go. As for me, after reading the pro version of the app, I decided to buy the pro version upgrade since it’s worth the money.
Check out MacStories review of this app here.
I don’t need to explain this one, Google Translate on the iOS looks better on the iPhone however the iPad version is still better than using the website on the iPad Pro. You can also download different languages for offline translation as well, and it’s equipped with the camera too for translation of a document in front of you. Download this app, it’s free, and it’s helpful when you need an offline translator.
Same with this as well, if you need help with mathematics, then WolframAlpha is a great reference tool for math homework help or calculations. It’ll provide a better interface than using the website version of the iPad Pro. Its keyboard format includes a lot of the symbols, and as someone that doesn’t have a calculator on hand, I use this as my calculator when I need to confirm my calculations.
Scheduling and Calendars
Fantastical is a natural language processing calendar app, meaning for quick input of new events, all you have to do is type in “Meeting with Becky tomorrow at 3 pm in Ann Arbor MI.” and it’ll automagically *yes it’s a word* adds to your calendar with the proper format. Another reason that I love using this app is its widget. Instead of having one day view of a few day view of your calendar in your widget section, you can use an interactive whole month view of the timetable, allowing you for the complete view. What I usually do is having two calendar apps widgets, one from Google Cal, allowing for a throughout the day look, and another from Fantastical. Since both apps use the local calendar app as a central source, everything you see is the same except for the formatting of the calendars.
This app is purely for students; it’s a scheduling app! It can be used as on top of your calendar app. It’s focused on all of the courses that you are currently taking and syncs it throughout all of your iOS devices. Once you set up your classes, you can add homework, tests, exams, projects, even professors, and locations. You can turn on the grading feature where it allows you to input the grades and percent worth of each project per class. It’s essentially a progress report scheduler app that lets you keep track of everything you do. Highly recommend this app for all students out there!
Both of these apps that allow you to save links to read for later and both of them allows you to you to tag the articles for later readings. Both of them have free tier versions that are enough for your researches online when you need to organize and categorize the articles for later reading. I would recommend using one or the other since I like having readings in the same place. However, you could use one for purely non-academic reading, and another for purely academic readings/researchs/, etc.
Apps for Researchers
Organizer for research
DEVONthink To Go
DEVONthink is an organizer of pdf, organizer of your research, and organizer of many documents! It uses the “getting things done” system where it prioritizes the current inbox as the things that need to get done first, and also shows you the current projects/groups that you’re working on. Whether it’s one large task, or multiple projects, a Ph.D. student for example. This app allows you to put stuff in organizing locations, tag document for easy finding, text editing, annotating, and of course, it’s backed up to the cloud. I’ve replaced Evernote with DEVONthink and Apple Notes. I put my files into DEVONthink and text documents into apple notes.
OneNote is a word organizing tool for large scale projects. It uses a canvas system where you place a large amount of text together, and the free form of text creation allows you to generate large notes, mind maps in a centralized location. It has an excellent categorization system of groups, folders, and subfolders that allow you to use a note book like a notebook, but digitally. If you have a Microsoft account with the university, use this app for your project managements since it’s offered for free.
Cost: Free for students.
Apps for Group Projects
Team communication is needed for a small group project or even small business. For any groups that are less than 10 people, I highly recommend using as a communication tool between team members. This is great for sharing documents, photos, code snippets, pdfs, etc. It’s handy for communication between different team members as well for both general group discussion to small private one to one discussions. It also has plenty of add ons to make your works easier with other applications, for example, google docs. I’ve used this for code projects that between one other person or with a group of 5. Doing this for a final large scale project keeps teams in sync. Highly recommend this app.
Trello is a team collaboration that can be used in conjecture with slack. It’s essentially the project board in a meeting room where things are set to be done that everything is kept to record so if one person finishes a task, or uploads a task, the history bar is there for you (and the teammates too). This app allows members to create little bulletin boards, and those boards allow for lists, check lists, even attachments such as PDF and images. Highly recommend this for teams and for solo use as well since it’s free for groups less than 10 people.
Google Office Suite
Pretty standard, sadly Google is typically slow with the updates to iOS counterparts, but they are still functional, and they’re free as well so might as well use it. I would not recommend using their apps for project creation and since their interface is not the best. I would just recommend typing things out in another app and then copying and pasting the text into google docs for example.
Workflow is the iOS app that allows you to connect multiple actions together. It’s one of the automation apps that’s completely free, and takes advantages of the inherent link between different app system that makes your iOS device into an automation magical machine. Some of the examples include:
- Crop photos to different sizes
- Share calendar availability with others
- Zip a file and email it
- Send clipboard to slack
- Turn a set of photos into photo grid
- Split purchases
- Set Tooth Brush Timer….
Workflow is an active automation app, meaning that you need to physically click the widget icon or the app to activate it IFTTT, however, is a passive automation app. It uses your devices location service, and other services to do tasks for you that doesn’t require much handling. Some examples include:
- Log how much time you spend at a specific location to Google Spreadsheets
- Send your iPhone screenshots to OneNote
- Keep a history of everything you add to pocket in a single Evernote note
- Create Spotify playlist from Apple Music Playlist
- Save Medium you recommend to pocket.
- iOS Cal to Google cal.
iPad As Supplement
This turns your iPad Pro into a second monitor! It’s fast, reliable, absolutely recommend for anyone who wants to expand their screen real estate when not at home.
This turns your iPad Pro and Apple Pencil into a Wacom Cintiq tablet. Recommend this for any art students out there but if you’re not an artist or doesn’t do a lot of image editing then I would not recommend this app.
This application saves me from having to memorize any passwords. They’ve been saving people from their passwords for more than 10 years and it’s trusted in large companies. I highly recommend using this app even thought the cost is 3 bucks a month. Being a long term service, they require constant upkeep, which is why I support their method of payment. 1Password is synced throughout all of your devices, and allows you to generate passwords, as well as organize your passwords for easy to access needs. It’s password protected and can be opened with the fingerprint reader as well. Cost: 4/month