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August 10, 2011

Pinworthy: Top 10 back-to-school apps for Windows Phone

My university days took place in the era of ink and paper.

Oh, how times have changed.

Spiral notebooks and ball-point pens? So last century. Today a well-stocked Windows Phone can substitute for entire backpack’s worth of campus gear and ease the transition to dorm life. So with a new school year just about to start, here are my 10 app picks for making college a little easier.

Fighting the freshman fifteen

Most of my college weight gain stemmed from the slab-like textbooks strapped to my back (that’s what I like to tell myself, anyway). First step to banishing book-induced shoulder pain? Download the Amazon Kindle app (free; Amazon Services LLC). This popular e-reader lets you bookmark pages, highlight key passages and even capture marginalia. The Kindle Store stocks thousands of free classics that will satisfy most Intro to Lit reading lists and also sells e-textbooks. And don’t miss Amazon’s money-saving new textbook rental option. OverDrive Media Console (free; OverDrive Inc.), meanwhile, is another must-have college app, since it provides access to e-books and audiobooks from more than 15,000 public and school libraries around the world.

Amazon Kindle app

OverDrive Media Console app

Staying organized

When I left for college my parents told me the most important thing to learn is how to set goals and stay organized. If I’d had a smartphone with the next two apps back in the day, I might have done a better job sticking to their advice. Fans of the popular online task manager Todoist should check out its unofficial Windows Phone companion Todoist Lite (free; Piotr Wach), a great way to organize assignments. Once synched to a account, you can also check your marching orders from any computer. Another highly-rated to-do app is the simply named Tasks (free; Telerik).

Todoist Lite app

Tasks app

All-nighter apps

Whether your major is biology or basket weaving, college success often comes down to how well you can memorize stuff. My old-school solution was a deck of 4-by-5 note cards. Now there’s Flashcards and My Flip Cards. Flashcards (free; Microsoft Corp.) is a no-frills memorization app that lets you create custom flash cards and take on-demand quizzes. The app helpfully flags wrong answers for follow-up drilling.  My Flip Cards (free; Abel Martin), meanwhile, taps into’s massive user-created flashcard archive (3 million plus, according to the site), which covers just about every imaginable item you might want to commit to memory.

My Flip Cards app

Flashcards app

Note to self

Taking class notes is easy with OneNote, which comes pre-installed on every Windows Phone. (My other favorite school-friendly built-in? The phone’s hidden scientific calculator. To reveal it, pop open the Calculator app and turn the phone sideways.) Notes you take on your phone can be uploaded to Windows Live SkyDrive and synched with Office on your PC, so you can pick up where you left off. Many students I know also can’t live without Evernote—perfect for those last-second cram sessions on the way to a test.

Evernote app

OneNote for Windows Phone

Economics 101

For me, college also came with some hard lessons in money management. It’s where I first learned the term credit risk. Marketplace has great apps to help students stretch their dollar. Slick Deals (free; XBITech) helps you find deals on everything from airplane tickets to fast food by tapping into listings and recommendations from the popular Slickdeals online community. Looking for a part-time job, place to live, or cheapo Ikea bookshelf for your dorm room? Then you’ll want the Craigslist deLUXE Lite (free; Next Generation Phone Solutions) to browse the latest listings in your area.

Craigslist deLUXE Lite

Slick Deals

Apps for U.

Finally, a growing number of colleges and universities (Ohio State, MIT, and Drexel are a few examples I spotted) also now have custom apps in Marketplace that supply everything from campus news and maps to class schedules. Some of these are official university products, others not. But it’s worth a quick search for your school to see what’s out there.

OK, everyone—class dismissed. This week’s homework assignment? Share your own scholarly picks in the comments section.