Ease back into school with these ten Mac apps

Macworld contributor Derek Walter picks ten great Mac apps for getting you back into the school groove.

backtoschool header

Ease back into school with these ten Mac apps

School time is here already, which means it’s time to load your Mac up with some great educational apps to help with your work. Lucky for you, the Mac App Store carries a substantial amount of software to handle just about any task found during the school year.

Whether you’re returning to the grind or starting your first year of college, here are some apps we love to help you power through any tasks academia sends your way.

backtoschool flashcard hero

Flashcard Hero

Forget buying plastic-wrapped batches of 4x6 cards for studying: Flashcard Hero digitizes your practice with colorful, customizable flash cards that you can use for self-quizzing or group study sessions. Label a deck of cards under one of the app’s default categories, then track what you’ve memorized by marking each card as easy, unsure, or hard.

The app is available in two versions: a free version with basic formatting, and a $15 full version that offers color-coded options, iCloud integration to sync cards with the companion iPhone app, the ability to add images to cards, printing of your decks, and unlimited cards within each deck.

backtoschool todoist


Todoist (free) is one of the most full-featured task managers in the Mac App Store. It has a powerful system for sorting tasks by projects, labels, and filters; it also offers companion apps for just about any platform, allowing you to easily bring those to-dos over to another device.

The app’s basic feature-set should suffice for most; if you want labels and other advanced features, however, you’ll have to sign up for Todoist’s $39/year subscription service. (Plus: That service supports Todoist’s apps across all platforms.)

backtoschool evernote


Evernote (free) can be as all-encompassing as you want, as the powerful software is a go-to source for note-taking, writing, clipping webpages, saving images, and collaborating over shared notebooks.

If you find yourself an Evernote power user, then it may be worth the $45 per year to get Evernote Premium. Additionally, if you enjoy Evernote then consider the company’s Skitch, which is an excellent way to annotate images, webpages, and maps.

backtoschool airmail


If Apple’s Mail client doesn’t quite do the job you’d like it to, check out Airmail. The $10 app supports every major email service—Gmail,, and Microsoft Exchange—and others through the IMAP protocol.

The interface is very clean and Mac-centric, offering multiple methods for organizing your mail. It uses several trackpad gestures that make it very efficient to power through messages.

backtoschool pocket


Pocket (free) is one of the most efficient ways you can save articles you find on the Web for later reading. After getting the Mac app, just install the free companion extension for your Web browser, then it’s time to save away. Pocket strips out annoying ads and flashy design, focusing on the information itself. Doing research on a specific topic? You can tag your articles with specific keywords to look them up later.

The app also has an excellent iOS component, creating a fluid system for finding articles while on your Mac and casually reading them later on an iPad.

backtoschool mathboard


If you want some good math practice for your school-aged child then consider MathBoard. It has a clever interface that mimics a blackboard, which once was the height of educational technology. The app has many different activities and quizzes for practicing different levels of math—to try it out, get MathBoard Addition, which is free and focuses on adding numbers together. If you like it, the full MathBoard—which handles addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division—is $5. If you want to tackle fractions, there’s a separate app, also $5.

backtoschool fx studio pro

FX Photo Studio Pro

It’s nice to have tools on your Mac for touching up photos and images during the school year. While Adobe’s Creative Cloud options are appealing, they require expensive subscriptions; instead, consider FX Photo Studio Pro ($20). The app is a solid choice for basic edits at a reasonable price, performing quick tweaks with ease and offering Instagram-style filters to jazz up your images.

backtoschool kindle


If you have any digital textbooks you’re relying on, chances are that you’ll want to pick up the Kindle app (free) for your Mac. It makes the textbook and note-taking process significantly easier, letting you highlight and take notes directly in the Kindle app, which will also sync back to your other iOS devices or to a Kindle device. Unlike your handwritten notes and highlights, the Kindle app makes these searchable and discoverable for more powerful studying.

backtoschool tweetdeck


Social media can certainly be a time sink, but not all of it has to be mindless. More universities and schools than ever are on Twitter, and it’s a key way to stay connected for news updates and public safety alerts. TweetDeck lets you monitor multiple accounts and keywords, providing a good home base for anything you might want to follow. Create columns to keep tabs on a specific list of accounts or quickly search for trending hashtags.

backtoschool shazam


Discovering new music is one of the best parts of college, and Shazam is a great tool with which to do so. The app pioneered using an iOS device to listen to and identify a song, and now does the same thing on the Mac. And it doesn’t only do music—it identifies television programming or other content that it picks up while actively listening while running in the background. Creepiness aside, it can be very effective when sitting around with friends at a coffeeshop and finding out what song is playing without needing to grab a phone.

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