Essential/useful apps for University Professors?

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by PrinceAlexander, Mar 21, 2010.

  1. PrinceAlexander macrumors member

    Mar 17, 2008
    Hello All,

    I’ve been digging around for a few new apps to test, as I’m always trying to find useful, faster, better ways to stay on top of things.

    I’m a university professor, and I use my Macs for everything. What I’m interested in are apps that are classroom/teacher/education specific. I’m also interested in research related applications.

    If you use something that you love, or couldn’t live without, please share!


  2. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    You're not providing much in the way of helpful information. Software made specifically for the classroom is often volume-licensed, designed to fill a particular need, and typically runs on Windows. A lot of productivity software is designed with...well, productivity in mind- and can be adapted for the classroom.

    "Research applications" is entirely dependent on your field.
  3. mrkgoo macrumors 65816

    Aug 18, 2005
    "Papers" is invaluable to me as a PDF and scientific journal database. It does for PDFs what iTunes does for music.

    Obviously, Keynote or PowerPoint are staples for presentation tools.
  4. PrinceAlexander thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 17, 2008
    I don't think that's quite the case. Volume licensed, Windows specific software certainly is common, but I'm sure there are plenty of Mac apps that are either designed with the educator in mind, or that can be adapted in interesting ways.

    As for the research applications, I'm avoiding field specific qualifiers here for a reason. I already know what's common/useful in that regard, and that's not what I'm looking for. Again, this post is aimed at generating interesting/out of the box responses.

    Hopefully that clears it up and you can see where I initially intended to go with this.


  5. VPrime macrumors 68000


    Dec 19, 2008
    London Ontario
    Xcode, great programming environment to teach students if you are a computer science professor..

    Maya, is a nice 3d modelling program..........
    I like to use photoshop too! Oh, I also have a tetris cloan called Quin, it is quite nice, maybe your work is boring and you want to play a game of tetris?

    In case you have not noticed, I am being sarcastic. You STILL have not provided any information!
    Just saying "I want applications" is not enough! What do you want them to do? What do you do? What is "Everything"? Everything for you is not everything for me!
  6. nastebu macrumors 6502

    May 5, 2008
    (I'm a professor in the humanities.) Aside from obvious, MS Office, and Endnote, I find the following very useful:

    For WRITING:
    Scrivener from Literature and Latte: this is a writing project organizer of sorts. It makes juggling long writing projects much easier and provides a way to keep notes in lots of different files that are actually very accessible. Before Scrivener I'd have dozens and dozens of word files stuck in folders all over the place.

    MacJournal from Mariner Software: this is also a way to keep lots of different files within the same interface, but it works very well for keeping notes on different things. For planning classes this is particularly useful for me as I start a journal with that topic, and then create masses of new journal files with different lecture/assignment/writing topics all piled together, but easily searchable. As a bonus, it syncs very well over mobileme, AND there's a windows version (which maybe even syncs over mobileme too?), so you can keep it handy. They have an iphone version coming out any day now.

    In the CLASSROOM:

    Timeline 3-D from BeeDocs: this does one thing very very well--create timelines in a very cool visual format. You can put them into Keynote very easily. It's on sale at this very moment as part of the bundle:

    Tooble: this is a little program that downloads YouTube videos off the internet and leaves them as a file in iTunes. It makes using youtube material much easier.

    Handbrake: this is software to rip dvds to disk. It's dicey in terms of intellectual property, but it means if you're using anything on dvd you can leave the dvd at home and have a permanent electronic version of the clip to put into presentations. Also, you can even edit the file Handbrake produces in iMovie, so you can clip out bits you want to present.

    Bento: I've been all over the place on trying different software to keep track of students. Bento has a good interface and is good for entering records. Also, there's a good iphone application which can be useful. It lacks the calculation power of excel, however, so if you like using spreadsheets to keep track of grades eventually you'll need to export the records. Still, that's not so hard and I find it much more difficult to keep records clean than to tally things up at the end, and Bento makes keeping the records clean a lot easier. I'm very very curious about the ipad version of numbers. It looks like it has a good forms view which would make this use of Bento superfluous.

    By the way, are you thinking about an iPad? I'm curious about that.

    Not really. Writing in the academy is quite different from writing a novel, or a letter to your grandmother. Regardless of your field, you need to juggle a lot of different files and keep track of a lot of different snips of text. I think that's what the OP is getting at.

    I've never tried it, but a lot of academics swear by DevonThink. Sometimes I fantasize about buying a SnapScan scanner from Fujitsu and scanning my file cabinet of copied articles. I have this image of being able to call up any article or copied source at any moment on my shiny new ipad.

    Then I wake up.

    Forgive the tsunami of posts, but I have an article to finish, and this thread is so much more fun than writing it.

    Here's an odd one that I actually use a lot: ComicLife. It came free on my MacBook Pro. It is a desktop publishing program specifically designed to create comic book layouts. I use it and Omnigraffle with Keynote all the time to make shapes more interesting, but even more importantly, I am completely sold on ComicLife as a way of presenting ideas in a more friendly accessible fashion. A thorny philosophical quotation is so much more readable when it's in a speech bubble over a comicbook style picture of Kant.
  7. Detektiv-Pinky macrumors 6502a


    Feb 25, 2006
    Berlin, Germany
    First of all: Latex, together with Bibdesk to handle all your citation needs.

    TestGen is a handy tool if you are preparing tests.

    I also recommend OmniGraffle and R for diagramming.

    Setting up a small Wiki like Dokuwiki locally on your Mac, and syncing it (Dropbox?) with the department server can help in sharing of knowledge and ideas.
  8. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    #8 Different fields have different requirements.
  9. PrinceAlexander thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 17, 2008
    Those are excellent contributions, thanks all! They are exactly the kind of applications I was getting at in the OP.

    There are a few I know and love, and a couple I haven't even heard of. I'm looking forward to checking them out. I also love the ComicLife idea! Keep them coming!

    I was really looking forward to the iPad, but I can't see it replacing a laptop. There are far too many drawbacks for it to be a viable classroom tool for me. The current lack of multi tasking is number one on that list. Even when this issue is finally addressed, we will still be left with a confusing array of adapters, a lack of flash capability, etc. I still want one, and I really wish I could justify the purchase!

    That file cabinet scanning dream must be fairly common. Tagging that mess could well drive you mad. If I had weeks (months?) to blow...

    They don't if you plan on publishing anything. There is no difference between publishing in engineering, history, or any other field. All publications require a great deal of research. Whether we're talking about data, journal articles, portions of texts or other papers doesn't matter. In fact, it's almost always a combination of these, and other materials that I need to read, tag, track, organize and utilize.

    I'm not quite sure what you're getting at, but feel free to enlighten us.
  10. nastebu macrumors 6502

    May 5, 2008
    The iPad appeals to me really for three reasons:

    1.) student records/field research. Most of my record keeping slips are between initially recording grades, survey responses, etc, and sitting down in front of the computer to enter the information properly. If the software is good enough, the form factor, size, and touch screen on the iPad *might* make that process more seamless. Or it might just make it more complicated if there are syncing problems.

    2.) reading articles. The file cabinet is filled with pdfs I downloaded from a database, printed, scanned, wrote a few things on, and then stuffed in a folder, probably to be forgotten. I can't read effectively on a laptop, but on an iPad marking up articles, etc. might actually be doable. And then I could use something like Devon Think without the scanner.

    3.) Keynote. I was very impressed by the screen shots. If Keynote really is that good, I can see doing a lot of lecture drafting on the iPad, and using it with a projector rather than dragging the laptop to class, which is quite awkward and will someday result in an accident.

    How about you Prince? Any suggestions? What do you use to keep grades?

    The only other software application I can think of that might be useful is Ortelius by MapDiva, a dedicated mapping program.

    It's designed as a light-weight application to create and edit maps. I loved the idea when it first came out because you can import shape files, which is a kind of super sophisticated file format that city planners use. There are a lot of government sources for them, so it's possible, in theory, to use Ortelius to edit a map of NYC's congressional districts, for example, and using other data sources change the color of each district to indicate income level, default rates on credit cards, color of socks, etc.

    It's a lovely thought, but in practice the program choked on the file size for any of the maps that I would find useful. I'm still watching it, however, as I think it will develop into something useful. (It's on version 1.0)

    They offer an educational discount.
  11. steveoc macrumors regular

    Nov 6, 2007
    Adirondacks NY
    I definitely recommend DEVONThink to manage and integrate information from a wide variety of media: Websites, PDFs, Presenations, Documents, and more. Pro Office version includes OCR and integrates seamlessly with ScanSnap scanners. The workflows for bringing information into the database are great. The only thing it lacks is citation management. Many DEVONThink fans integrate it with Sente.

    I use Keynote extensively and have found a few good tools to extend its utility. BeeDocs Timeline 3D makes stunning animated timelines that export directly into Keynote Since I also teach math, MathType is indispensable as it integrates directly into KeyNote. OmniGraffle allows me to integrated shapes and drawings well beyond what is provided in Keynote itself.

    I like both Scrivener and Melliel as word processors for academic use. MacJournal is an excellent tool if you do a lot of writing online.

    I also like mindmapping software. Personally I use NovaMind, but there are many others. One with OPML import/export capability allows it work well with other Apps such as DEVONThink.

    Interesting to see ComicLife listed. I have it and highly recommend it. I'll have to use it in conjunction with KeyNote.

    I also use SolRobot's Quiz Press and Crossword Forge to create online practice for my students
  12. nastebu macrumors 6502

    May 5, 2008
    more comiclife

    Here's an example of a handout I did with ComicLife:

    I did a faculty development presentation on this once. My argument was that when academics talk about writers and ideas, it's usually with a kind of short hand cartoon image of philosophical ideas. It's rarely worth going into the nitty gritty details of an argument, so I talk about Nietzsche arguing that god is dead without acknowledging that this is a provisional argument from one book and in the voice of a character not N. himself, because I know that my colleagues understand there's more context. This kind of shorthand is very very useful because it makes more meta conversations possible.

    So the question is, how do you give students the ability to develop cartoon images of texts as difficult as "Thus Spake Zarathurstra"? Enter comiclife.
  13. bob5820 macrumors 6502a


    Jun 23, 2006
    35°0′36″N 80°40′45″W (35.0
    Not Mac specific but I've been using Evernote and Dropbox quite a bit for my undergrad degree. Yep's pretty good for organizing PDF's at the undergrad level but Papers is probably a better solution for graduate work.

    I use Omni Outliner to develop my papers, and Write Room for getting the first draft done, but generally pop over to Word 2007 (via Parallels) for writing. I'm bouncing between Omni Focus, Things, and BusyCal for keeping track of when assignments are due.
  14. bob5820 macrumors 6502a


    Jun 23, 2006
    35°0′36″N 80°40′45″W (35.0
    DevonThinkPro is a powerful program, but kind of tough to get your head around, so much so that I don't use it as much as I should. DevonThink and the ScanSnap are a great combo but to be honest two years latter I still haven't scanned all my paperwork

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