Android apps for college students
Published: Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 12:11
Everyone knows smartphones are smart, but can they make you smarter? While that may be a difficult task, there are many apps out there that can help college students get ahead in their studies. There are so many, in fact, that this column will list only those available for Android devices, saving the ones available for iPhones for next week. These apps can do anything from looking up words you don't know to telling you the gross national product of Lima.
To start with, did you know that Parkland's own ANGEL system is accessible on your Android device? While it may not be a good idea to take your midterm on your phone, it can be quite useful for studying your class notes, commenting on your class's discussion board or finding out when your History assignment is due. No app is needed, just point your favorite browser at angel.parkland.edu.
Speaking of browsers, did you know that Mozilla Firefox is available for most Android devices? It's available on the Android Market and has some cool features lacking in the standard issue Android browser like multiple tabs or the ability to sync with your home PC's Firefox browser so you can bring your bookmarks and favorites everywhere you go. It even remembers login information and passwords for many sites. This is especially helpful if you use Parkland's public Wi-Fi, which requires web authentication every time you log in.
Many note taking apps are available as well. Evernote is one of the most popular, is free, and is capable of syncing between your phone and PC through an online account. Google Docs, the online document creation and sharing application, also has an app available for Android called Gdocs. This app is very useful for reviewing notes, papers, and PDF files created on your home computer. Another note taking app is Catch, which allows you to share the notes you create via Twitter or Facebook. The touch screen interface of a smartphone may not be the best way to type a paper, but with these apps, quick edits are a breeze.
An app called Astrid is very helpful if you want to create to-do lists for yourself, and is especially good at keeping track of lesson plans for various classes. It allows you to prioritize tasks, add descriptions or notes to your schedule and lets you differentiate between school, work and social activities.
Research apps are plentiful on the market, and dictionary apps are especially easy to find. Whether you want Merriam-Webster's version or a Spanish-English translating dictionary you'll find what you need for free on the market. Wikipedia is also represented, with their app, Wiki Encyclopedia 4 Wikipedia. It's free, but remember, while Wikipedia is a good place to start your research, most professors do not consider it a valid reference source. An especially helpful app is ColorDict Dictionary Translate which combines the functions of Wikipedia, Wordnet, StarDict, Google Translate and Google Dictionary.
If your research includes classic novels, an e-book reader can come in handy. Not only is it cool to be able to carry a few hundred novels in your pocket wherever you go, but a lot of the classics are available for free through these apps. Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble's Nook are free and easy to use, with free book libraries. These big names programs offer great support and nearly universal functionality, but sometimes their brand names get in the way of their abilities. You may want to opt for an app like Aldiko Book Reader which is free and not as limited in its ability to handle file types. It handles ePub and PDF formats and even has a built in dictionary for words you don't know.
A fun app, which can be slightly helpful in your studies is Iris. Yes, that's Siri spelled backwards and is, in fact, a tongue-in-cheek response to the new iPhone app of that name. Like it's namesake, Iris can respond to voice commands and questions, although it does struggle at times dialing numbers for friends with difficult names. It's answers to questions are sometimes funnier than they are helpful, which can be a source of entertainment during study breaks.
If you need a serious answer to a question, you're better off doing a Google search, using Wiki Encyclopedia, or the one of the coolest apps of all, Wolfram Alpha. Billed as an answer engine, it does just what it claims. Alpha started out as a program for solving engineering and math problems, but has since evolved into a powerful application which takes nearly any data input by the user and answers questions written in normal English. Sure it will draw a graph when told to "plot x squared," but it will also respond to "capital of Italy" with not only the answer of Rome, but maps of Italy, information about the city and other useful stats. And it's fast! Google search and Wikipedia don't even provide answers as quickly as the program made right here in Champaign.
There are really too many helpful apps to list in one column. With a little research and patience you can find an app which does nearly anything you can think of. Your best bet is to read the reviews which accompany the apps before downloading to make sure they do what they claim and don't force close or freeze up constantly. As easy as these apps are to install and uninstall, finding a bad one's not necessarily the end of the world anyway, so why not try a few out for yourself? Besides, most of them are free, and you know you like having an excuse to play with your phone.