Starting out in College, the Mac Way

For the past few months, I've been working as an intern in Macworld's San Francisco office, testing products, camping out for the iPhone 3GS, and engaging in a little cubicle warfare. Now I'm heading off to Whitman College for the first year of my undergraduate education. In addition to the usual accoutrements, like sheets (twin extra long, of course), a trash can, books, pens, paper, and the rest, I'm also packing some of my most important supplies: gadgets. After spending my summer surrounded by the latest hardware and software, whittling down my list of essential Mac gear hasn't been easy. Here's what's on my back-to-school list:

My 13-inch white MacBook is the center of my digital life. For taking notes in class, I've loaded it with Circus Ponies' Notebook ( Macworld rated 4.5 out of 5 mice ). In addition to all of its organization features, this handy program can record audio and then match it to the words I type, so I can go back and hear the lecture as I look at my notes.

I'm also taking a Wacom Bamboo Fun tablet ( Macworld rated 5 out of 5 mice ) for writing. In certain areas, like math, art, and science, typing is often inconvenient. The tablet provides a more natural interface. And both OS X and Notebook integrate well with tablets--Notebook even offers searchable handwriting recognition.

My iPhone will also play an important role at college. To keep track of my projects and to-dos, I use OmniFocus ( Macworld rated 3.5 out of 5 mice ), a planning and organizing app from The Omni Group. The program's iPhone app syncs with its desktop counterpart over a local area network using Bonjour, as well as through MobileMe, so I'll have my tasks everywhere I go. The program is structured around David Allen's Getting Things Done philosophy, to which I am a devotee, but experience with GTD isn't a prerequisite to effectively using Omnifocus.

Avatron Software's Air Sharing Pro is another critical app for me. It turns my iPhone into a WLAN storage device on which I can stash useful files for class, including .zip files, Microsoft Office or iWork documents, PDFs, and a variety of audio and video formats. More importantly, it lets me view and e-mail all of the files I put on it.

Hard work is important, but so are study breaks. For times when I need to decompress and have fun, I've outfitted my Mac and iPhone with fun apps that don't break the bank. On the Mac side, I've been keeping myself busy with casual fare, such as PopCap's Peggle ( Macworld rated 4.5 out of 5 mice ), Peggle Nights, and Plants Vs. Zombies (Macworld rated 4.5 out of 5 mice). When I need an energy boost, I turn to The Iconfactory's frantically paced Frenzic ( Macworld rated 3.5 out of 5 mice), which never fails to wake me up and get me going again. On my iPhone, my current fun favorites are Star Hogs, F.A.S.T., and Flight Control ( Macworld rated 5 out of 5 mice), all of which are ridiculously fun, and ridiculously addictive.

This story, "Starting out in College, the Mac Way" was originally published by Macworld.

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