Macs to the Max

The Productive Mac: Tracking Your Projects and Doing the Work

- 2006.05.25

In a world of PCs and projects, theses and timed tests, the Mac is a great learning tool for many students today.

The Macintosh has many options for the busy student. How can you get the best possible planning, collaboration, and execution of your project, thesis, group homework, or just a simple assignment?

Keeping on Schedule

Scheduling is the biggest issue for group projects. How do you fairly dole out the work and see who is on time and who is slacking?

Some of the best tools for this are probably a good email program and iCal. iCal helps because it allows the leader of the group to issue a calendar to each of its members explaining due dates and their workload for the day or week. This can be a lifesaver if you don't have much time to discuss things with your group, as you can email this to them - or even print it out and give it to them in person.

A good email client can help the group's communication and can be very useful if you have people sending in Word docs or charts that need to be collaborated by a specific person, or if you need to exchange files in any way. This also is very nice because you can bounce papers and ideas back and forth within seconds without any wasted paper (or use of those expensive printer cartridges, for that matter).

Doing the Work

When you finally stop procrastinating and start doing the work, you'll find that a good office suite is invaluable for most school assignments and projects. Two very good choices are AppleWorks and Microsoft Office.

AppleWorks is the best choice for students on a budget, as it usually comes with your Mac (if you don't already own it, you can buy it separately for $80). It has a wonderful user interface and can handle most of your school needs pretty well.

For those who require somoe extra features or more power, Microsoft Office is a great choice. It is a little pricey, but it's well worth it, as you get their full software suite. Microsoft Office gives you the choice of buying the cheaper Student and Teacher, Standard, or Professional version. (Finding what works for you within your budget and does what you need it to do is what we're all about at Low End Mac.)

Keeping Track

How do you keep track of all the assignments, notes, and projects? Databases can help, such as the one in AppleWorks. These databases can help you keep track of what you did, where, when, why, and how, and even where you stored it on your computer.

This can be a little tedious, but when you progress through the grades and need that info from your 6th grade notes on the periodic table, it can tell you what you need to know.

Take It To the Limit

All of these things can be applied in the "real world", too. Whether you and your team need to collaborate to graph sales trends or you need to type up a quote for your contracting company, these are wonderful tools.

The Low End Mac significance of this is that you can do this on very old machines, which is coincidentally what many of us keep ours around for - you can still type up your biology report on that old Mac Plus using MS Word and print it out on your StyleWriter. No matter what Mac you have, you can do your basic word processing with it. [Editor's note: I used to run ClarisWorks 1.0, AppleWorks' ancestor, on a Mac Plus, and before that I wrote a lot of my grad school papers on the same Mac using MacWrite. dk]

You can max out your productivity no matter which Mac you have, and in the end you'll be more organized, productive, and successful because of it. LEM

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