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The Sweet Setup Back to School Guide

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With school starting back up, it’s a great time to re-evaluate your setup and tools. Here are some of our favorite apps and devices to power through those long days of class and long nights of homework.

Software

  • Microsoft Office for Mac: There’s no escaping Microsoft Office, but the Mac version has come a long way over the last decade. Office 2016 for Mac is brand-new, and can be had for just $6.99 per month from Microsoft.
  • Mindnode (iOS | Mac) is a powerful mind mapping application for iOS and the Mac. It allows you to easily add images, links, and more to your mind maps and export them in a myriad of formats.
  • Evernote (iOS | Mac) is the go-to “everything bucket” application. Evernote allows you to take notes, save PDFs, clip webpages, and more, no matter what device you’re using. You can also share notebooks to collaborate with others, making Evernote a great app for groups as well.
  • Fantastical 2 (iOS | Mac) is the best calendar app for iOS and the Mac. Both versions support natural text entry, so you don’t have to waste time fiddling with a ton of options and buttons when entering events. Simply type (or dictate) something like “Lunch with Shawn at 1PM tomorrow,” and the app will do the rest. It’s just far more refined than Apple’s built-in Calendar app.
  • Wunderlist (iOS | Mac) is a free to-do list application that is great for an individual or group of people. With folders, keeping multiple lists organized is easy, and with each task being able to have sub-tasks, notes, and comments, Wunderlist is one of our favorite to-do apps out there.
  • PCalc: If you’re looking for a professional-grade iPhone calculator, look no further than PCalc. Far more powerful than the built-in app, PCalc sports unit conversions, constants, programmability, multiple memories, and more.
  • Cloak is the easiest-to-use VPN we’ve tested. Available for the Mac and iOS, Cloak makes browsing through a secure connection super easy; being on a VPN means things like checking your email, social media, and even taking online courses is safe and secure on untrusted networks.
  • Backblaze: Cloud backup is a cheap and easy way to make sure all of your documents, photos, and music are backed up. Backblaze is crazy easy to use and is the most affordable option on the market.

Hardware

  • 13″ MacBook Air: The 13-inch MacBook Air is the right Apple notebook for just anyone on the move. It’s thin, light, and packs incredible battery life. While the $999 model is attractive, we recommend upgrading the RAM and SSD if you’re looking to keep the machine more than a few years. These upgrades can’t be done after the fact, so while it does add to the up-front costs, we think it’s worth it. Don’t forget the AppleCare warranty.
  • iPad Air 2: If you want to be super portable or are just looking for a secondary device, the iPad Air 2 is our favorite tablet. It’s thinner and lighter than any iPad before it, and with blazing fast internals and TouchID, these tablets will age very well.
  • Belkin Qode Ultimate Pro: If you’re going to be doing a lot of writing on an iPad, we simply love this option. This is the only iPad keyboard we tested with backlit keys, which make it a great companion for burning the midnight oil.
  • Doxie Go Plus: This small, portable device makes scanning papers easy and fast. It will scan full color pages in just 8 seconds at up to 600 dpi, and can handle photos as well.
  • WD My Passport Ultra 2 TB Portable External Hard Drive: In addition to a cloud backup service like Backblaze, we recommend running Time Machine to keep your data safe and secure. This external hard drive is small, sleek, and fast.