We’ve all experienced being bogged down by hard schoolwork or even work in general. There are upcoming deadlines, hard-to-understand lessons, and to be honest, sometimes our skills are just not enough, or perhaps we are just not feeling well.
Of course, a lot of us will take that as a challenge and a learning opportunity and push through it. But there are times when we really need some help to check our work, or to help us edit and create videos, photos, or essays in a fraction of the time and effort.
That’s why I think it’s important to accept that we all need help sometimes. No, I’m not talking about calling your classmates and friends to help you out or check your work, and no, I’m not talking about services that straight up do your work for you. But we do live in a time where AI and computers are getting smarter, and as their creators, maybe we can rely on them for some help on our work.
So today, I’m going to share a few apps and sites I’ve used over the years to get through schoolwork and things that I’ve also used for my work as a writer. I’ll try to keep my recommendations free or affordable so anybody can use these services.
Yep, it’s the same Grammarly that often shows up on YouTube and Google Ads. If you’re a Gen-Z internet dweller, you probably know that Grammarly is even a meme now.
Memes aside, everyone makes writing mistakes, and I really mean everyone, even if you’re writing in your native language, even if you aced your English classes in school, even if you’re a graduate student working on an academic paper, and even professional writers like us will make a ton of grammatical mistakes as we write. That’s what proofreading is for. And that’s what Grammarly helps you do.
Anyone Can Use It!
So, why am I so confident that Grammarly can help everyone? Well, the biggest reason is that there’s a completely free version available so you don’t have to pay if you don’t want to. Another huge reason is that Grammarly is available on most devices, it can even work as a plugin on different browsers like Chrome and Safari, and it can work as a plugin on Microsoft Word.
“What if I’m using Pages? Or what if I’m purely using Grammarly for emails?” Well, you can also install Grammarly as an app on your device and it’ll automatically check any text you put in.
I use a Mac, and I use Pages as my word processor (which doesn’t officially support the Grammarly plugin) and so far, I just installed the app and everything works perfectly fine. It can even detect my mistakes on chatboxes and email apps.
If you’re worried about Grammarly seeing sensitive text since it can work anywhere, the app doesn’t work as a keylogger, so it’s not recording and saving your keystrokes. Plus, it asks permission and you can visually see a floating Grammarly icon every time Grammarly is automatically checking your text. So it’s easy to customize permissions to your preference.
“What can Grammarly actually do?” That’s probably the biggest question. The free version is basically just an above-average spelling and punctuation checker. But! It also has a clarity checker, different spelling dictionaries for different English variants, and a tone detector.
If you don’t know what that is, the tone detector basically detects if you’re speaking too friendly on a formal letter (or too formal for a social media post) or perhaps if your writing comes off as angry rather than merely concerned. I find this extremely helpful when writing formal letters and messages for school or work.
I think Grammarly’s free version offers enough features that a lot of people won’t need the premium subscription at all, especially if it’s just for personal use like doing homework. But, if you are an academic or a professional and you write a lot, whether it’s emails, academic papers, online content, scripts, or copywriting, I think Grammarly premium can be a life-changer for you.
Now, if you fall into one of those categories, a free Grammarly account is already a lot of help, but a premium plan is just amazing. Other than grading and suggesting adjustments for your tone, Grammarly Premium will also grade your engagement, which basically tells you if your text is too boring.
Other than that, it’ll include some new suggestions on your correctness, especially when it comes to complex punctuation. And it’ll now also check for long and hard to understand sentences to improve your text’s clarity.
Lastly, let’s say you’ve experienced some writer’s block and you copied way too much material online. Well, there’s a plagiarism checker included with Grammarly Premium. This one’s probably the best feature I’ve used with Grammarly Premium. I don’t use it to get away with copying content though! I just use it to regularly check my work before submitting it. It’s sort of an unspoken rule for article writers, from my experience at least.
Using Grammarly to proofread and check for plagiarism in one go is extremely convenient. Unlike if you use Copyscape, where you also have to pay on a word count basis to check your content. So yeah, if you’re pumping out a lot of words per week, Grammarly’s plagiarism checker isn’t just more convenient, but it’s also a relative bargain.
I’ve been using Grammarly for years now (way before it became a meme) and over the years I can safely say: It can truly help people. My verdict? Get a free account ASAP! There’s no reason not to. And get a Premium subscription if you write for a living! It can be a bit pricey, but it’s worth it if you’re in a profession where clean, clear, and engaging writing is important.
I’m pretty sure that most of us have at least a bit of experience with editing photos. But if you don’t need to do serious photo editing, it’s usually not worth it to pay the high price tag for software like Photoshop. Plus, those more advanced editing programs are usually really complicated, especially for beginners or people who just don’t need heavy-duty editing tools.
Thanks to a good recommendation from my friends (and a quick Google search) I found and used Canva.
I don’t know if you’ve heard of it before, but Canva is an online graphic design software that can do all your basic photo editing without the need of installing anything on your computer. And it’s free, unlike Photoshop. But, just because it’s free software doesn’t mean it can’t do some great work.
I mean, you’re not going to be creating any deepfakes with Canva. But, for the beginner, or just for basic photo editing needs, Canva’s got you covered. I use it to edit photos for my articles, social media, and even to make some logos for a small business I tried!
It’s super easy to use, too. If you’re at all familiar with Adobe Photoshop or even just using Instagram’s editing tools, then you’ll be able to get the hang of Canva quickly. If you’re not familiar with Photoshop, there are tons of free templates waiting for you there.
You can create business cards, brochures, resumes, and even full-blown slideshow presentations! Canva has an abundance of templates and fonts for you to choose from to create custom designs and presentations. You can even invite others to collaborate on projects, which is handy if you’re working on a group presentation.
Unlike Photoshop, Canva has a very user-friendly interface. Everything is already organized from the templates to the fonts and color schemes. Plus you can access millions of stock elements and photos, and don’t worry, you can use a lot of stock photos there!
In my opinion, the free version has enough to offer for most people. If you’re just editing photos for social media or making presentations for class or work, the basic tools in the free version have you covered. Even in my case, using it to edit photos for articles, the free version does everything I need it to.
But if you sign up for a Canva Pro account, you do get access to a lot more fonts, millions of stock photos, and more templates. It also comes with a brand kit to help you create uniform branding for your company. Basically, if you’re creating your own brand or running a company, a pro account could be worth it. But for most students and freelancers, the free version is all you really need.
Overall, I recommend Canva if you needed to add some pizazz to your schoolwork, whether you need to create an impressive presentation in a jiffy or you need to make a poster for a school events. Did I mention Canva can even design everything from T-shirts to a full-blown website?
Photoshop is still better for doing technical and complicated edits, but if you’re mostly creating graphics and only making minor edits to the images themselves (like brightness, contrast, and so on), I think Canva is the way to go. It’s certainly worth giving the free version a try.
If there is one thing that all of us might find hard every now and then, it’s time management. More specifically, managing time for your tasks. We have a lot of ways to do it. Some of us have just been winging it. Others add events to their e-calendars to manage the important stuff. Others use daily planners to organize every single task from big work projects to minor to-do items like calling your parents.
If you’re someone who uses To-Do lists a lot, I recommend trying TeuxDeux (pronounced like to-do). A lot of people said that TeuxDeux is the easiest to use To-do list app, and so far, I’m on board.
I’ll be honest, I’m not a guy who likes to make to-do lists every day, although I find myself needing it more and more especially now that I’m juggling work and school. Even so, here’s some of the things that I like about this time management app.
TeuxDeux has a really clean interface so it’s super easy to use! A lot of other to-do list apps often require some learning to use, so you’ll be spending your first minutes fumbling around trying to figure out how to use the app. Sometimes, it’ll take more time to write out your task list than it takes to actually get the tasks done.
With TeuxDeux, it’s really simple. You’ll just pick a date, write your task, and that’s it! It’s designed to be as minimalist as possible. Even though it might look minimalist, there are a decent amount of features here.
There are two areas you can write your tasks in: a calendar-based planner for tasks that have a deadline, and a general list at the bottom with space for things like groceries, things to learn, and even books to read or movies to watch.
And it gets better! If you left an unchecked task on your to-do list for the day, the app will automatically move it to the next day.
The free version will only allow you to use TeuxDeux for mobile. If you want to use it across all available platforms, you need a monthly subscription for $3. You can also go for an annual subscription for $24 (which works out to $2 a month) and it’ll also give you the ability to sync your list across all your devices.
Although it’s not as feature-filled as other to-do list apps, TeuxDeux is designed for those who want something minimal and straightforward. And I know a lot of people like that. So if you like your to-do lists clean and simple, this one might be the way to go.