More Essential Software, Tools and Apps for PhD Students and Academics

We’ve written before about technology and Must Have Software, Tools, and Apps for PhD Students and Academics. Those essential products are the most often used and recommended by our team, many of our colleagues, and those we’ve polled in the past. Lately we’ve been talking about other tools and software that are just as essential, if not becoming as essential as Wi-Fi is to the digital world. This new list adds to the previously recommended products in other areas that will help any PhD student or academic. This new list includes tools, apps, software, plus browser extensions designed for ease of use, and in areas that cover things like productivity, data visualization, collaboration, organization, and social media for academics.

This post was written by Jessica Russell (freelance writer) on behalf of Dave Maslach for the R3ciprocity project (Check out the YouTube Channel or the writing feedback software). The R3ciprocity Project started out as a side-project, where David Maslach created an App to help others get feedback on their work ( – it is seriously inexpensive and easy to use. You have to try it!), but it is beginning to grow into a real movement. R3ciprocity helps students, faculty, and research folk by providing a real and authentic look into doing research. It provides solutions and hope to researchers around the world.

The best software and academic tools can be found by asking others within your network what they like to use, and by looking at articles that list the top software, tools and apps for academics and PhD students like this one. Below you’ll find a list made up of tools to help academics, beyond our original list. These software, apps and even Chrome Extensions are available from free to paid versions, and build upon the standard list of tools and apps PhD students and academics use on a regular basis. Look at it as an outside the box view of every-day tools you can use to enhance your research pursuits. 

Information Management

  • Evernote – Note taking and information capture is simple with Evernote. Free and paid versions are available with tools like sync and organize, web clipper, tasks and a calendar. Make use of templates for creating notes faster, as well as document scanning. I personally use Evernote on desktop and mobile, and love it for its convenience and easy to navigate user interface.

    Visit to view plans and more information.
  • Google Keep – Although Google ended support for Google Keep in February 2021, it is still available for use and a free tool for note taking. If you’re a Google enthusiast and use Google products often, it’s a great way to take notes without any expense. Available when you log into Google Chrome in the app menu. 

Learn more at

Productivity, Task & Time Management

  • Remember the Milk – Online to-do list and task management software available on desktop and mobile. Add tasks, due dates, priorities, if the task repeats, tag tasks and more. Get reminders and alerts for items on your list. Break tasks down further into sub-tasks. Mark tasks as complete or incomplete. Plus add attachments to your tasks. Searching tasks is easy with the search wizard. Also compatible with Gmail, Google Calendar, Twitter, Evernote plus more. Free and paid versions available.

    Learn more at
  • MyLife Organized – A flexible task management tool for desktop and mobile. Create tasks and checklists with a simple drag and drop interface. Tasks can be viewed in a list or organized in a tree format. Break out tasks into subtasks and create dependencies. Convenient location-based reminders can be set to remind you when you’re at a location. So if you create a list of books you need to purchase and arrive at the bookstore, you’ll receive a reminder without having to search for the list yourself. Cloud syncing is available as well. Available in free and paid versions. 

Get links and information at

  • RescueTime – Get more focused, productive, and motivated with RescueTime. With a free 2 week trial, you can get started on the road to taking back control of your time. Set goals, take advantage of smart coaching to keep you on track and learn what derails you from staying focused. Rescue Time measures your focus and provides valuable insight that helps you make changes in how you approach your time management.

    Get more information and sign up at
  • Todoist – An impressive time and task management product with all the bells and whistles you expect, for an extremely low cost. From free to paid, Todoist is a great tool for individuals and for teams. Create and schedule tasks, get reminders, connect to your email, calendar, and files, prioritize, add sub-tasks and more. With a clean user interface and simple to navigate layout, Todoist looks to be a great choice for time and task management.

    Learn more at

Project Collaboration Management 

  • ClickUp – This product is an all in one solution for tasks, docs, chat, goals and more. During our research it was listed on most “best of” lists and we can see why. ClickUp was designed with all types of users in mind. Whether you’re an information-based person and prefer list views, or need a more visual design to “see” where you are in a project, ClickUp has a large number of data view types from lists and outlines to calendar and workload (to name only a few). Fee and paid version available. ClickUp integrates with popular software titles and allows import from existing software when you move to ClickUp.

    Learn more at

    Notion – Labeled as the “All-in-one workspace for your notes, tasks, wikis, and databases for your whole team to write, plan, and get organized.” Made with teams in mind, but can be used on an individual basis. Take charge of team wikis, projects, tasks, meeting notes, and documents. Allows for collaboration in real time, provides ability to invite and share with users too. Free and paid versions available.

    Learn more at
  • nTask – This project and task management software provides traditional and Lean principles when it comes to information. View time tracking and timesheets, team management, issue tracking and risk management, as well as Kanban Board and Gantt Charts. Manage your team and meetings for collaboration.Execute your plan and meet your goals on time. Create budgets and resource allocation, as well as define work capacity. Free and paid version available for single user to teams and more. NTask is often compared with top of the line project management software titles.

    Learn more at
  • Basecamp – Another top-of-the-line project management and collaboration tool with all-in-one features. From tasks to schedules and chat to teams, Basecamp has all the features you expect when project management and teamwork are the goal. Especially good for remote work with sharing files, emails, chats, meetings, calendars and keeping track of minute details. User experience is clearly a design focus and it shows in the client list of companies using Basecamp, and the testimonials on the site. Free and paid versions available.

    Get more information at

Data Visualization

  • Google Data Studio – Part of Google’s free tools to capture and transform data from Google Analytics and other tools into easy to view and understand reports that are visually attractive. Courses are available to learn how to use Data Studio on Google. Connect to a variety of data sources, schedule reports, or create ad hoc and share. Templates and sample reports available for a quick start.

    Get started at Learn more  via Google training guides and data studio community
  • Tableau – Software designed to make data visualization easier. Designed with a user first goal set, Tableau is an easy to use and visually stunning software. Tableau is a secure and flexible platform to convert data into visually understandable formats. Acquired by Salesforce in 2019, Tableau is a leader in data visualization and perfect for those who want to drive change with data. Only available in paid versions. Although more expensive than others, Tableau is hailed as a top of the line data visualization tool among people in the business world and academia. Qualified students and instructors may be able to obtain Tableau for free.

    Learn more at

Chrome Browser Extensions

Search the Chrome Store for titles

  • Cite This For Me – A tool you can connect to your Chrome browser to cite sources easily and quickly. 
  • StayFocusd – Increases productivity by allowing you to limit the amount of time you can spend on other websites. 
  • Screencastify – Record your screen, edit and share.

Social Media

  • – Platform for sharing academic research, with forums and the ability to ask questions and interact with a global community.
  • ResearchGate – Stay connected to the science and research community via

Gaining access to software and tools for free

We hope you found this list of suggestions helpful. Remember, do not spend a lot of money on software or other tools if you can get them for free through your university. Most schools now provide a Microsoft suite of tools, including OneDrive, to students for free. Check your IT department’s web page and list of free downloads. Of course, Google apps are free as well. Often, you can’t go wrong with Google but there are apps and tools that may be better that you have to purchase, just don’t spend a whole lot of money, especially if you’re a student. 

Learning new software, tools and apps

It can be daunting when faced with learning a new tool, software product or app, especially in an academic setting where students are already taxed with time constraints, stress, and a heavy workload. You may think it is a good idea to avoid taking on any of these suggestions in order to save time and energy; however, the purpose of these products is to save time. Investing in tools to help you with your data, time management, project management, and productivity will free up time after the initial investment of learning to use these tools. 

Thankfully most software and app developers create guides and “how to” web pages to get you up and running quickly. Also, many products are so popular that they have their own communities where you can ask questions or look up answers to a common question in their user forums. In today’s world user experience design and content design are constantly at the forefront of any software and product design. Customer experience is crucial to becoming a high-demand software title or app. Word of mouth and customer reviews go a long way when it comes to popularity of any tool, and the easier it is to use and navigate, plus how useful it is to the end-user, are paramount. 

Perhaps some of you are interested in developing your own software or apps. If so, go for it! It will be an exciting adventure and can be a prosperous side business. Here are two videos you might find interesting where Dave talks about developing your own software and how to build a software company. 

The tools, software, and apps we recommend above are suggested for their usefulness and their design. Most are in the top 10 for any comparison or review website and included in many tech review blogs. A high percentage have a try-before-you-buy trial or are free to download and use (or are hosted in the cloud and do not need a download). What better way to test if these products are right for you. Trial versions will have all the bells and whistles, whereas free versions will have a limited set of tools and capabilities, but in our experience, the limited versions are helpful as well. 

With anything, it’s important to invest in reaching your goals and these apps, software, and tools are an excellent way to reduce time, get organized, transform data into easier to understand visual depictions, and are a way to help you reach your goals with the power of technology. 

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