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Friday, April 22, 2011

essential free mac apps for academia


One (the only?) skill set I picked up in graduate school: efficiency. As some of you know, my master's program required a ridiculous amount of course work (51 hours [16 courses, 1 thesis] in 4 semesters). I also worked two jobs (about 15 hours a week at the library and 7 hours a week doing curatorial work), and remained committed to maintaining a creative voice (updating this blog). Also had to, you know, do laundry, locate and prepare provisions, and socialize. I incorporated technology as my organ during this time, and survived as a result of it. I am a minimalist; I hate having tons of operations running at the same time, clogging up valuable processing speed all in the name of making one arbitrary task 10% less complicated. The following, however, constitute apps that I used all the fucking time. These are all free apps, by the way, because I am always fucking broke. 

1. "Alfred" by Running With Crayons LTD
This is the best application for MacOSX. Ever. It is an application launcher, which is exactly what it sounds like. The thing is basically a search bar that pops up when you hit space+alt. Not only can you open apps with it, but you can define words, perform calculations, shorten urls, search google/bing/amazon/whatever, search your harddrive for both locations and files, and on and on. Alfred is highly customizable, intelligent (it gets better at predicting what you want to do the more you use it), and best of all, spares you from opening unnecessary apps and windows.  

2. Skim by Sourceforge

For two of my classes this semester I was required to purchase zero books in lieu of having hundreds upon hundreds of digital .pdf files to read instead. Economical (thanks profs), but printing fucking sucks, everyone knows that. If you're looking for any meaningful engagement with this already-mundane form of reading, Adobe Reader won't do shit for you. Skim, on the other hand, allows you to highlight (or underline!), annotate, and organize all of your markings and comments. Soon I'll forget what my own handwriting looks like.

3. Dropbox by Dropbox
You probably already know about this by now, but in case you don't: an internet harddrive. Access files saved to dropbox from any computer with an internet connection. I only saved my school documents to dropbox, so everything important was always backed up (lazy). I also use this app to share files with friends, as you can set-up public folders accessible by invited users. 2GB free, invite your friends for more space.

4. utorrent by BitTorrent

If you haven't learned how to navigate the wide world of torrents yet - I dunno, what the hell? Get with it. You will be too broke to go see movie and concerts in grad school so you'll have to settle for downloading them. Why do I recommend utorrent over transmission? First and most importantly: LIGHT. LIGHT. LIGHT. Will not interfere with anything! Also: customizable, easy, fast, fast, fast.

5. caffeine by lighthead

Keeps your mac from dimming the screen every 30 seconds of disuse. Because sometimes, staring vacantly at a half-finished paper requires hours of illuminated focus.


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