Best free software for graduate students
Graduate school is a fantastic opportunity, but it also requires a lot of effort. If you wonder how your average day would look like entering graduate school, let me tell you.
Your typical day as a graduate student could include assignments, presentations, group projects, exams, supervisor meetings, lectures, etc.
One of the problems many graduate students have today is that their life is so chaotic as to be practically unmanageable.
Being a student in the golden age of technology, you should try making use of the free software and applications available today. I firmly believe that your productivity will significantly improve by using the right software.
It is often a time-consuming task to decide which software is best for you. There are no rules for this to choose; it depends entirely on you.
Yet, for most of you, there is some suggestion that can apply. It is always better to have simple software that can perform your task.
Simpler the software, more comfortable to learn. Also, it will make your life easier when you share files, or when you need help if you use the software that other colleagues use.
To make things easier for you, I have listed the best free software for windows but most of these also run on other platforms like mac os or Linux. The software mentioned here is free and open-source. I’ve also added a software download link.
1. For saving your work: Google Drive
My laptop died two months back. No shops were open to repair my laptop during the lockdown.
It had all my research and experimental data.
Have I not backed up those data in google drive? My life would have been a complete mess.
I have a thesis defense scheduled in June. Imagine how important it is to back up your files regularly. So it is imperative to have cloud storage applications installed on your laptop.
Google Drive is a simple programme you can use it for free for this purpose. If you want to try another software, I will recommend Dropbox and Onedrive.
2. Free software for managing papers: Mendeley
Some of the frustrating things for research students is to collect articles, manage the library, and create citations. No worries, I’ve got the best free software today which can do all this thing.
You can download Mendeley for easy reference management.
The browser extension and MS Word plugin allow you to add research paper directly from your browser with one click and create citations and reference lists in your research paper or dissertation in MS Word.
Also, you can open pdf, highlight text, pin notes, etc. in the software itself. The program also supports the bib file for citation and references in Latex. The alternative for Mendeley is Zotero and Onenote.
Desktop setup for windows Download link
3. LaTex editor for writing reports, thesis, research paper, preparing slides: Overleaf
Overleaf is a collaborative cloud-based online LaTex editor used for writing, editing, and publishing scientific documents.
It is very tedious to write long reports in MS Word. When you share your doc file with someone using a different version of MS Word, the layout of the data will be modified.
You can add a few lines of code, and overleaf will do formatting for you. You don’t have to worry about saving your file because it is automatically saved in the cloud once you hit the compile button.
The offline latex editor such as TeXstudio, MiKTeK, etc. is also available if you do not have a secure internet. The alternative for Latex is Libre Office, MS Office, etc.
4. Software for making graphs: OriginPro (proprietary)
Origin is proprietary computer software to visualize and analyze the scientific data interactively.
I mentioned this because I used it to create sophisticated graphs that are not possible in MS Excel.
It is one of the most popular graphical software in the research community. The software is user-friendly and can easily create any plots you want.
You can use alternative software like Gnuplot, matplotlib package in Python, Matlab, or Rstudio if you do not have a license to use this software in your college.
5. Best free application for taking notes: Evernote
Evernote stores all kinds of information you throw at it.
You can save and organize notes, photos, videos, audio, posts, etc. You can easily label and organize, share, or keep it privately on your computer.
It’s one of the best free software that should find a place in your device.
The alternative of this is OneNote, which comes with Microsoft office.
6. Software for making posters, logos, or any vectorized figures: Inkscape
Inkscape software is a free and open-source graphics vector editor, which allows creating or editing vector graphics, including drawings, diagrams, line arts, maps, logos, and complex images.
Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) is Inkscape’s primary vector graphical format. However, several other formats can be imported and exported.
You can prepare your poster for a conference presentation using this software. You can also do this task using software like MS PowerPoint, Latex, etc.
Inkscape download link
7. Software for merging or splitting pdf file: PDF24
PDF24 is an excellent tool and pdf creator that simplifies the daily management of pdf files.
You can remove and add any number of pages from and in your pdf file.
It also can be used as pdf converter. You can even save any or all of the pages of your pdf file as an image file.
You can create pdf files from every conceivable application; whether it is a Word, PowerPoint, or other programs, you can make pdf easily and quickly.
pdf24 download link
8. Free software for reading pdfs: Foxit reader
It is a PDF viewer with a wide range of PDF resources.
The software provides easy-to-use collaboration tools to display and create PDFs.
You can open several pdf files at a time with multiple tabs.
If you are skimming through multiple papers simultaneously, this software will be helpful. But you can do this task in Mendeley also. It is one of the best and light pdf reader available for free.
Foxit reader download link
9. For improving your writing: Grammarly
Grammarly offers grammar check, spell check, and plagiarism detection services.
It also provides suggestions about writing clarity, concision, vocabulary, delivery style, and tone.
Grammarly comes with browser extension and MS Word plugin that helps while writing online or documents in word.
It may come handy while composing reports, research papers, email, etc.
Grammarly download link
10. For meetings, chat, collaboration: Microsoft Teams
In the current situation, video communications and collaboration software or applications in your devices is a must.
Microsoft Teams is a unified communication and collaboration platform that combines persistent workplace chat, video meetings, file storage (including collaboration on files), and application integration.
You can either install it on your computer or use it directly from the browser to conduct or attend meetings.
New features are added continuously to improve user experience.
The other excellent free software is Zoom, Skype, Cisco Webex, etc.
Microsoft teams download link
The above software list is generic and can be used by everyone. The software that is unique only to a particular academic group is not included on this list.
I hope this list of software allows you to alleviate your headaches and give yourself a bit of free time. Please comment below if you find any other software that deserves a place on the list.
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All the best!