Lifehacks: 8 Productivity apps to help you sail through uni

Navigating university life can be a fun but stressful affair—whether you’re a freshman or an experienced senior, the confusion never ends. The workload is tremendous (especially when hell week is upon us), lectures can make no sense, and the constant juggle between school work and personal pursuits? Gruelling.

Fortunately for us, there are tons of resources out there that can give us a helping hand. Best of all? They’re (mostly) free! To help ease your stress, we at Digital Senior have come up with a list of useful productivity apps that can help you in your university journey—and possibly beyond.


1. Easybib

Yeah, we know, who hasn’t heard of Easybib or its counterparts? The citation generator has saved many a frantic – or lazy – student during essay crunch time when deadlines loom and there are a thousand sources to cite.

The Easybib app in action
The Easybib app in action

What you might not know, however, is that Easybib actually has a smartphone app that makes citing paperback sources much more convenient! Their app lets you scan a text’s ISBN with your phone camera, sparing you from having to manually fill in the required information before the citation can be generated. Thereafter, you can export it to your email, copy and paste it, and voila! Citation settled. Now that’s magic.

2. Grammarly

Good grammar can make or break your assignments. You can have fascinating content in your essay, but have it sail over your Professors’ heads because they have to divert their attention towards figuring out what you’re saying. That would be such a waste!

This is where Grammarly comes in. Simply copy and paste your work into the app (available for desktop or on the web): within moments, grammatical errors will be pointed out to you along with the reasons why.

Grammarly also provides you suggestions on how to refine your work
Grammarly also provides you suggestions on how to refine your work

Running your work through Grammarly before a submission is so easy that it’d become second nature to you in no time.

3. Hemingway Editor

How would Hemingway’s words fare on this app?

Used Grammarly on your work, but still feel like your assignment can be better? Try the Hemingway Editor, named after the celebrated author Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway wrote in a simple and concise manner influenced by his journalism days. This was revolutionary in his time. 
Hemingway wrote following the Iceberg Theory (or Theory of Omission). It posits that a story or piece is more powerful when stripped down. This way, a reader will only see what he needs to know and feel a deeper connection to the work, as they work on reading between the lines.  
Hemingway was also a firm believer in rewriting and revising one’s work. He rewrote A Farewell to Arms at least 50 times!
Luckily for us, brothers Adam and Ben Long created the nifty Hemingway Editor App! Why not try it out and see if it makes your writing clearer?  



Just can’t remember that dratted word no matter how hard you try? Onelook is here to save the day! It has a handy reverse dictionary search function that lets you search by definition, as well as an advanced search function for when you remember part of a word.


The reverse search function in action.

With this, you’ll be less likely to fumble for words anymore and can even enlarge your vocab in the process! Can’t get any better than that.

5. Pocket

I’m sure that we’ve all felt like screaming while working on an assignment. There’s simply so much relevant information that it makes your head spin. Compiling everything into a word document can be painstaking and so, so frustrating. ARGH.

Pocket is here to save the day! The “read it later” app lets you consolidate and organise all the information you’ve looked up into a single location for easy access, whether it be articles, photos, or even videos. It also syncs across devices (it’s available on PC, tablets, and phones), making it easier to do your research on the go. The best part? You can access most of the content you save offline!

Pocket lets you tag all your resources for easy access, so you can search for resources for a specific portion of your essay.
Pocket lets you tag all your resources for easy access, so you can search for resources for a specific portion of your essay.

Pocket lets you tag all your resources for easy access, so you can search for resources for a specific portion of your essay.

Pocket lets you gather all the resources you need into a “digital library” of sorts so you don’t need to have a thousand tabs of research open in Chrome (or your internet browser of choice). This helps reduce the time trying to remember or trace exactly which site you got a nugget of information from, cutting down on the need to task-switch (typing to sifting and typing and sorting)—which, studies have found, causes us to lose our focus and be inefficient with our work.

6. Noisli

You’re hard at work on an assignment but find yourself constantly distracted by everything: Youtube, that Buzzfeed quiz that tells you what kind of cake you are, the tree outside your window…

If listening to music or working in silence isn’t helping, ambient noise might be the answer as it keeps you and your brain occupied at a subconscious level; your brain is sufficiently engaged but without the “emotional pull” from music that could backfire and distract you even further. Noisli, available both on the smartphone (paid) and the web (free), gives you access to a variety of ambient sounds that you can mix and adjust to create soothing background noise. Like the sound of rain? Turn it up, and add thunderstorms for variety.


Noisli also has a built-in distraction-free text editor on its website, a nifty and thoughtful feature especially useful for those that need to hammer out their thoughts. After you’re done with idea-dumping, you can save your words as a .txt file or on Dropbox.

7. Splitwise

You’re on an exchange or staying in the hall, and everyone is expected to contribute to communal items, like toilet paper or dish soap. Sometimes you and your roommate take turns buying the items. Over time, however, it’s easy to lose track of who owes who, and how much.

When this is all you have left in your wallet to survive the week…
When this is all you have left in your wallet to survive the week…

Enter Splitwise, an app that helps you tabulate and keep track of expenses for you.

All you and your room mate (or flatmates) need to do is create an account and then a group in-app. Input expenses incurred, with descriptions for what it’s for; thereafter, you can choose how it’ll be split (60-40? 50-50?). It’s as simple as that—Splitwise will do the rest for you, letting you keep a running total all of you can settle at the end of your stay together, or when you need funds. The app even lets you send out a reminder.

8. Noa


Freshly served news

It’s important and beneficial to keep abreast of current affairs, but sometimes we don’t have the patience or the time. Download Noa, however, and you might find this task as easy as 1-2-3.

Noa lets you listen to news curated from reputable publishers and outlets like Harvard Business Review and The New York Times! They’re read by professional narrators and grouped into series so that you can have a more comprehensive understanding, which is further aided by short audio explainers from the Noa team.

Noa currently has over 11,000 articles available and allows for offline listening. The free trial has limited publisher access, providing users with 20 free articles and 3 free per week thereafter. Nevertheless, it’s still a great way to continue learning—so give it a try!

9. Other useful apps

If you need a resource for an assignment but find school too far, or that it’s on loan, NLB Mobile might be able to assist you. Search the catalogue in-app to see if your desired book is available and make a trip down to the nearest library to pick it up! You might also be able to borrow it in e-book format, which you will have access to for 21 days.


If you’re also an avid reader, you’d be delighted to know that NLB’s selection of e-books is fairly extensive, which makes this app an absolute must-have. Do be mindful of your surroundings when reading, however, and take care not to walk face-first into poles.

  • Overtype (Typewiter simulator)

If you Noisli isn’t quite the app for you, this is one fun alternative  to help snap into focus! Overtype is for the folks who wish they had a typewriter. From the clacking sound to wobbly characters, the simulator will provide you with just the right amount of distraction as you do your best to get your words right.

Overtype doesn’t let you copy or save your work as a document because its creator believes that this is against the spirit of a manual typewriter. You can print your work or save it as a PDF for records, however! It’d be best to use this to get your mind going, or for creative work. In the meantime, consider a mechanical keyboard, too.


Part of the secret to nailing university is knowing how to work hard but work smart, and there is a world of apps out there to assist you if you know where to look! In fact, this list barely scratches the surface – you’re bound to find something that best suits your needs and wants.

What other productivity apps do you find useful? Drop us a comment down below!


*And yes, this post has been checked with Grammarly!


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