Top Web Tools for Students

Being a student myself, I have to use the Internet regularly for things like projects, papers and sometimes just looking for new things to do. Here’s a list of online services that will make your life as a student easier.

1. Mozilla Firefox Web Browser

If the internet is going to be a friendly companion, you’re going to need this. Standards compliant, feature-rich and most importantly, extensible. Opera comes in at a close second, but there a number of web services that still don’t work properly in Opera.

2. Gmail

The best webmail service on the internet. Not only does it have the largest inbox, it has the best spam filter I’ve seen and it’s use of filters and labels makes it a snap to keep your mail organized. If your working on a collaborative project, and documents that you’re emailed can be opened, edited and saved using Google Docs. Furthermore, using tools like Gspace or Gmail Drive, you can turn your 2 GB of inbox into an online file storage system. But that’s not the end of Gmail’s capabilities, here’s an article about using Gmail to do everything from storing bookmarks to managing your schedule.

3. Online Office Apps — Zoho

Zoho provides a wide-range of online, free office applications including a word processor, a spreadsheet program, presentation creator, a wiki and a planning tool that can come in very handy. Zoho provides a one-stop shop for almost all of a student’s needs. Everything can be stored online, shared with other Zoho users and exported to a number of formats including both Microsoft and OpenDocument formats. Zoho has recently tied up with a number of online storage providers, including OmniDrive, and myDataBus. Any documents stored in these services can be edited using Zoho’s tools and stored back, without requiring you to download a copy. Unfortunately there is no way to open email attachments with Zoho (at least not if you use Gmail). If integration with your Gmail account is a must, you might want to take a look at Google Docs and Spreadsheets, but it is an inferior product.

4. Google Search

Google Search can be an extremely powerful tool for online research. Unfortunately, most students simply don’t know how to use it properly and as a result, they often don’t find what they’re looking for. If you intend to make your use of Google more efficient, you’re going to need to learn some hacks. Google has a cheat sheet of simple operators and there is an interactive tutorial to help you learn more. And if you’re really determined to become a powerful Google Hacker, get the book from O’Reilly.

5. Google Notebook

This is just what it sounds like: a notebook. You can create a notebook and by using a browser plugin, you can select almost anything off the internet and save it to your notebook. The URL your information came from also gets saved which makes things a lot easier when it’s time to write references. You can reorganize your notes, add or delete them, or move them to another notebook. Once your research is done, you can export your Notebook to Google Docs, which means that you get a skeleton document to start off with (and a lot less copy/pasting). Sharing and searching is also supported, but the search is rather basic.

Clipmarks offers a similar service, and its plugin makes it somewhat easier to add content, but I feel the interface is unnecessarily cluttered and it provides more emphasis on sharing your information. And there is no export feature. Zoho is also working on it’s own Notebook product which should be out soon and from the demo video it looks like it’s going to be a killer app as well.

6. Online Calendars and To-do-lists

You won’t be much of a student if you don’t manage your time properly luckily the internet is there to help you out. There are a number of online calendars out there, out of which Google Calendar is the one I like. But 30Boxes is a strong contender and there are a number of people who swear by it.

While talking about to-do-lists, Remember the Milk beats them all. It’s simple, uncluttered and gets straight to the point. It’s also easy to integrate it into Google Calendar, giving you an all in one time management tool. If you want a heavier management system, you might want to look at Backpack, though its calendar is only in the non-free version.

Many of the above aren’t as feature-rich as their desktop equivalents, but that will probably not be a problem for most students. And of course all that is balanced by the fact that your data is available anywhere, anytime (as long as you have an internet connection). It takes some effort juggling multiple services, but if you invest some time in learning your way around, you’ll get better benefits in the long run. If you have your own can’t-live-without web services, do tell me and I might include it in a future update.

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