Series Intro: Useful apps, services, and software.

This post is an introduction and placeholder for a planned series of posts on useful apps, services, and software. Once there are a few posts in the series I will eventually promote this post to a page with an index of all the posts from the series.

I decided to make a series for this because although using computers has become a key part of academic work, too many academics remain uncomfortable using them. Often I come across people using Word for anything that involves text. Not due to it being the best tool for the job but that they are unaware of the alternatives. Even when someone knows it is not an ideal solution, it is not always easy to find a good entry point to start learning how to use new software. At a training event I attended last year I was sat next to a professor. From the introductions he obviously had years of experience using an advance software package for tasks similar to the software the training was on. Yet, it became clear from the start that he was uneasy and disorientated when facing a new application with an unfamiliar interface. After accidentally launching another application and then opening the wrong file, that resulted in a garbled mess of symbols appearing on the screen, he got up and left only ten minutes into the session. While it is rare for someone to feel so at a loss that they leave, I have heard multiple times from PhD students that despite feeling like walking out they have persisted through a training session and still come away not feeling any more confident in knowing how to use the software. Such experiences end up reinforcing self perceptions of not being ‘a computer person’.

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