Back to school again – Looking back over our top tips for students
Hard to believe we’ve been writing TWT Newsletters in one form or another since 2007, making this year our 10th anniversary! Since computers are an essential part of most students life, we usually run an article this time of year with tips, free software and advice for new or returning students. This year, we thought we’d look back over some of the recommendations we’d made over the years.
September 2007 – Free software! – Back in our September 2007 issue, we recommended three free software packages/services, namely OpenOffice, Google Calendar and Diigo. We’d now recommend LibreOffice over OpenOffice (specifically the mature or “still” version), but Google Calendar is still a great service for keeping track of important appointments, and Diigo is still brilliant for organising and cataloguing research you do online.
September 2008 – Get with the “modern” age – In September 2008 we told students to “get with the modern age” and ditch their floppy disks for USB flash drives. How times change! Now USB flash drives are considered old fashioned and cloud storage services like OneDrive, Dropbox or Mega are often used instead. If you need to transport files to and from campus, you could use a USB stick or simply store the files in the cloud, where you can access them from any internet connected computer. The downside to cloud storage is, of course, security, since your files are permanently stored on someone else’s computer on the internet. Then again, it’s very easy to lose a USB stick too, which could mean your precious files could end up with a rival student on campus who could plagiarise your precious essay!
We also recommended students purchase a good pair of headphones and a VOIP headset. VOIP headsets in particular are good because they let you make phone calls over the internet. You may find that your student accommodation has free internet but expensive telephone lines. Rather than not calling home when you feel lonely, use a service like Skype to stay in touch for free.
September 2009 – Don’t forget to back up! – This year we reminded students of the importance of having a backup strategy. Our old article here is still relevant, if you don’t back up you will regret it. “My computer crashed and lost my work” is as poor an excuse as “the dog ate my homework”.
September 2011 – Cloud arrives – In 2011 cloud storage services were already mature and reliable and we recommended them for students. Obviously, that recommendation still stands.
September 2013 – Money saving tips – This year we talked about our usual recommendations like OpenOffice/LibreOffice and cloud storage, but also mentioned Evernote. Evernote is a system for storing your notes in the cloud. It’s great for students as it means you cannot lose your notes as they are always backed up. However, Evernote have drastically reduced the functionality of their free offering in more recent years, so we’d recommend Microsoft OneNote instead.
September 2014 – OpenOffice or Microsoft Office? – Many students choose OpenOffice or LibreOffice because it’s free, but the one drawback to this is that your school/college/university may have Microsoft Office on their lab PCs. Normally this isn’t a problem, but on more complex documents with pictures and drawings, things can break when moved between Microsoft Office and Libre Office, so keep that in mind.
September 2016 – Choosing a new PC for a student – Last years newsletter talked about how to choose a new PC if you need one for school, college or university. Still relevant a year later, this article will show you how to avoid common pitfalls when choosing a new laptop and talks about issues such as on-campus use/charging, insurance and other things you might not have considered.
Phew! Looking back that’s a lot of information we’ve given for students over the years. If you’re heading off to start or continue your studies this September, let me take this opportunity to wish you the best of luck with your academic endeavours!