It’s almost the first day of classes and you’re confident that this will finally be the year that you start and stay organized. Your planner will be detailed to the point where it includes shower times, you’ll avoid procrastination and finish all your assignments well before they’re due, and you’ll basically be waking up each morning thinking how wonderful it is to be alive.

If you’re anything like me, this back-to-school mindset holds true for the likes of a week before your life explodes into chaos. But before you panic from anticipation of another insane year, behold: Evernote. I’ve experimented with several (free) productivity apps and finally found that this is the one. Not just another productivity app, but basically heaven embodied, it’s basically rescued me from the usual school year craziness.

Notice organizational difference between September 2013 (left) and June 2014 (right). Note the change that must have ensued during school year. Beware insanity.

Notice organizational difference between September 2013 (left) and June 2014 (right). Note the change that must have ensued during school year. Beware insanity. Image from author’s archive.

First off, the app itself is free, easy to maneuver, and available for laptops/computers, tablets, and Blackberry, Windows, iOS, and Android phones, making it accessible from several different pieces of technology that you might find yourself using daily during the school year. Evernote and all its associated apps work on a Cloud based system, which means that as long as you’re using the internet, you can access any file you’ve created on any of their apps. This means that you can take notes in class on just your smartphone or tablet, and easily access them from your computer by logging into Evernote.

Evernote itself can be used to create text documents, save photos, and clip websites or articles on the internet. The search feature is especially awesome: you can search through basically all your documents to find the one you need, and fast. For my fellow procrastinators and crammers, this feature can save you from the excessive stress of losing certain important sheets of paper and other disorganization catastrophes, keeping it sweet and simple.

One especially useful product of Evernote is called Penultimate, a virtual notebook in which you can create several notebooks using graph paper, regular lined paper, plain paper, or a combination of the three. As someone who wants to minimize the use of real paper as much as possible, I thoroughly enjoy this app because of how well it translates my own handwriting on the page. With many other apps, quick handwriting often gets jumbled and doesn’t translate smoothly, but Penultimate makes it seem the most natural. Also, the app has the additional advantage of being able to search through your own handwriting (given that your handwriting is reasonably legible), which is something you can’t get with actual pen and paper but incredibly useful in any case.

Personally, I enjoy the app because it’s nice having a lightweight device to both access the internet and to jot down quick notes during class that can be accessed wirelessly. Also, going to school in New York City often poses challenges for workaholics who like doing work on the go–fortunately, notebooks from Penultimate can be accessed easily on smartphones through the Evernote app, provided that there is internet connection. Unfortunately, Penultimate is only available on the iPad, but these handwritten files can be viewed on Evernote.

Last but not least, Skitch is another product of Evernote that can be used to annotate images and PDFs. Now, the image editing may seem super unnecessary and random, but it can actually come in handy for presentations and any sort of collaborative projects. Comments can be made directly on top of the image without altering the image itself. As for PDFs, teachers obsessively like to hand out readings and other assignments through the web in PDF form. In most colleges and some high schools, students have to pay around $0.10 for each page they print, and believe me when I say that it can add up. If teachers allow it, using Skitch to annotate and read PDFs can be useful for on-the-go access and to reduce paper use. And unlike Penultimate, Skitch is available on iOS and Android phones, as well as Windows and Mac computers and tablets.

The bottom line is that there are hundreds of productivity applications out there to consider, and there’s definitely one out there to suit almost any need. But as the new academic year approaches, and as we prepare to make this the most productive year yet, the Evernote apps are my recommendation. For more information on their other products, check out their site.

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the author

Priyanka is going into her sophomore year at Fordham University as a Psychology major on the pre-med track. When she's not living inside her textbooks, she enjoys debating whether or not she should minor in this or that, biking (when she isn't being attacked by pollen) and playing tennis recreationally. While still making full use of her Netflix account (Doctor Who, Grey's Anatomy, and Star Trek anyone?) and tumblr, she also proudly bears a reputation as a workaholic with a proclivity for parentheses (oops).

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  1. Neha Mehra on September 27, 2014

    i can’t even live my day without using Evernote.It is probably the best useful app one needs.I am obsessed with the app.

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