12 Best Software Options for Students

As we live in a predominantly digital age, software can be a blessing and can greatly help boost your productivity, and manage your workload. If your tech is lacking, fear not - I have scoured the web and used my own experience to bring you 12 essential software for college students.

College students don’t have it easy with all the homework, exams, and extra-curricular activities. It can be difficult to try and keep it all together, stay focused, and get everything done. That's why it's important to find free educational software and make use of whatever tools you can to keep ahead.

The best software for students to make your college assignments shine include spelling and grammar tools, video, audio and PDF editing software, and productivity apps.

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How I chose the apps for students?

I looked into lots of software to find the best software for studying. I considered things like how much they cost, how well they work, and if they're easy to use on different devices. And also checked if people really like using them.

After all that, I made a list of the top software that college students should definitely have. It's not just about tools; these are like helpful friends to make studying easier.

1. Icecream PDF Editor

Icecream PDF Editor

When doing college coursework and research you will often work with PDF files and it can be infuriating when you can’t edit them. This is one of the limitations of the PDF file format but there is a simple solution - Icecream PDF Editor.

This free software primarily works as a PDF viewer, but it does so much more than that. You can directly edit the text within PDF documents which is something you wouldn’t usually be able to do without converting it to Word.

You can also edit other objects like shapes and basically change the position of images and modify the entire layout.

I like the annotation feature too and this is great if you are making research or revision notes. The software is also incredibly easy to use and doesn’t require a super-powerful computer or laptop to run.

2. Grammarly

Grammarly

I don’t know how I survived without Grammarly but it has become an essential software for studying. If you download one program from this list, make sure it’s Grammarly. This is a comprehensive spelling and grammar tool, but it does a lot more - even in the free version.

You can use the service as a standalone program where you can upload documents from sources like Microsoft Word. It is also available as an extension for Google Chrome and this is how I use it. When using writing tools like Google Docs the extension will automatically scan your work and highlight changes as you write.

The basic changes include misprints and grammatical errors, but it also checks for syntax and correct word usage. The premium version also analyzes your sentence structure and gives better writing solutions. But I find the free version is more than adequate.

3. Microsoft Office 365

Office

If you have a little money to spare then I would advise investing in a Microsoft Office 365 subscription. It costs only $5 per month and allows you to use all Microsoft products and updates, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Aside from the creation tools, you also gain access to OneDrive, OneNote, Teams, and Outlook, which are brilliant for email, communication, and file management.

I have used Office 365 for years and it gives great value for money and should be easily affordable for students. This must-have software is of course an amazing text tool and can serve as your main means of writing assignments. Then you have Excel, which is regarded as the best spreadsheet software available.

The individual programs are all easy enough to learn and the fact that you get things like Outlook and OneDrive will really help with your homework. The last one, for example, allows for file sharing across multiple devices.

4. Canva

Canva

Canva is a free graphic design platform that includes a web-based editor. This free student software gives you the ability to get creative with your college tasks.

I love the huge template library that the service offers. It has presets for virtually any type of work or graphical creation you can think of. They are all professionally made and fully editable too.

The platform is another standout tool and this allows you to create things like slideshows, infographics, website images, and social media graphics with ease. The tools are all drag and drop and it’s nondestructive so you can easily undo changes if you slip up.

To add creativity to your college work and to make things more interesting, there is no better suite of tools. The free version is comprehensive too and you just miss out on a larger stock library and access to premium-only templates.

5. Hemingway Editor

Hemingway

The Hemingway Editor is not strictly software but there is a desktop app that has just been released. I prefer to use this outstanding app for students in certain circumstances instead of Grammarly. The Editor is more concerned with the structure and flow of your written content as opposed to just the spelling and grammar.

With this service open you can paste a block of text in and the AI analyzes it for correctness. On the right-hand side, you get a readability grade, word count, and five categories of different errors that could be improved.

These include hard-to-read sentences, simpler alternatives to complicated words, the use of passive voice, and the use of adverbs. Each error category has a different color. Where these mistakes appear in your text is highlighter the same color which makes it easy to identify issues. You can fix the errors in the app, see live changes, and then copy the completed text when finished.

6. Google Drive

Google

Google has an excellent array of features and one of the best tools for college students is Google Drive. It is a document management service and it’s browser-based but you can use it on desktop computers, smartphones, and laptops.

It’s free to use and you get a decent amount of cloud storage for your documents too of 15GB. This should be more than enough for your academic studies. Unless you're using a lot of high-res images or video, you shouldn't exceed this limit.

Google Drive primarily works with other Google tools like Docs and Sheets, but you can import other file types easily including Microsoft Word. I like the way you can create folder hierarchies to store your work. You can also share individual files or entire folders with other people, such as your classmates or tutors.

7. Zoom

Zoom

In today’s digital world and with things happening like the COVID pandemic there has been a rise in the need for video call software. And Zoom is one of the premier options. There may be instances where you have to study from home, or you have out-of-hours sessions that require video calls. In this case, Zoom is perfect.

Use this type of college software for free and get great video calling. I like that it automatically detects your audio and video equipment like a webcam or an attached microphone. You can also easily switch between different input devices.

There is a calendar tool too where you can schedule regular calls and this can help you make sure you don’t miss any lections. I like the whiteboard feature too as this allows you to take notes, draw diagrams, and add more interactive elements to your studies.

The in-call management tools are pretty good too as you can easily do things like screen recording and sharing.

8. AVG Antivirus

AVG

As a college student, you are most likely doing a heap of work online including sending emails, downloading software, and research. This means that you are susceptible to malicious attacks and I advise protecting your computer or laptop with the best free option being AVG.

Now, if you have a Windows device you can use the integrated Defender. But I like having an extra layer of protection and thus use AVG too.

The software is easy to install and you get complete protection in the free version including safety from things like phishing attacks and malware.

I like the feature to schedule automated HDD scans and this will make sure that you haven’t unwittingly downloaded any corrupted or harmful files. It is among the best antivirus software for students available. However, its aggressive marketing can be annoying, and it may slow down your device a bit during the initial startup.

9. Trello

Trello

I use Trello daily for work, it's a great tool for organizing your workflow, and it's free! It is a web-based app but there is also a version for iOS and Android devices. All are free to use but there is a premium version too that includes some enhanced features.

Trello allows you to create workflow boards. Within each board, you can then create lists, and within each list, you can create individual tasks. For example, you could have a separate list for each day, and create homework or writing tasks that need completing on those days.

It’s brilliant for time management and to keep on top of your college work. I like the details you can add to individual tasks such as checklists, colored labels, completion dates, and comments. You can also add file attachments and the board can be shared with other people if you have joint assignments or projects to work on.

10. Prezi

Prezi

Prezi is one of the top slideshow maker available. It has been designed specifically with students in mind and can make short work of any presentations you have. I like that they have a special student price too. Which is much cheaper than the standard subscription at $3 per month compared to the typical $7.

Most college students should be able to afford this and the tools and utility you get are worth it. With this Prezi subscription, you can create video presentations, infographics, and standard slideshows and even convert them into other formats like PowerPoint.

This software for students gives you full creative control and you can either create your slides from scratch or use the array of professionally-made templates.

11. CCleaner

CCleaner

As a student you probably don’t have the funds to continually get your laptop or computer repaired; so something like CCleaner that can keep your device in great working order really helps. This free software is essentially a cleanup tool and can help improve your device speeds too.

Within the app functionality, you get drive updates, a PC health check, a registry cleaner, quicker startup, and safe web browsing. Your device will be optimized to the max and you should notice a great performance boost, which is perfect if you use it regularly.

I like the modern design of the CCleaner interface and it couldn’t be easier to use either. On installation, you get the option to do an initial health check. The other tools are located on the left-hand side in an easy-to-use menu.

12. Audacity

Audacity

During your college work, you may need to do sound recordings such as creating presentations, taking verbal notes, or for specialist subjects like music. Audacity, therefore, is an excellent software for university students and it is one of the best free audio recording and editing apps available.

For recording audio, the application detects your input devices and allows you to configure them too. You can then record sound clips and save them in various file formats like MP3. Where this software shines, however, is the editing tools.

You can use the program to fully edit audio tracks including basic tools like clipping, editing separate channels, and merging sound bites together.

There is an initial learning curve. Once you get used to the software it’s really intuitive and gives you so much control over the editing and recording process. It is available for free download on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux devices.

Best software for students: Conclusion

I hope you can really benefit from this software and I know from experience that it can make studying and work easier.

A major benefit is that most of the programs are free to use. This is important as most college students have a limited budget and can’t really afford monthly software subscriptions or large one-off license payments.

Other honorable mentions include:

  • Dropbox for file sharing,
  • Microsoft OneNote for work organization and note-taking,
  • GIMP as a free photo editor and raster graphics tool,
  • and Skype as an alternative to Zoom or for more message-based interactions with other students and tutors.
Paul Skidmore

Tech Writer and Photography Aficionado

Paul is a self-professed photography and tech nerd and has years of experience working with various editing software. He has a passion for travel and has taken his camera to destinations including Antarctica, Singapore, Indonesia, and Greenland.
7 min read
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