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Websites That Help, Not Distract

While one may feel that a basic knowledge of Facebook, Reddit and Hulu is all a (procrastinating) collegiette needs in life, I am here to convince you otherwise. I have made it my personal mission to do the seemingly impossible: conquer the infinite abyss that is the World Wide Web. In any event, as we are now at that point in the semester when midterms have begun and work has really started to pick up, I figured that it would be nice to reveal some of my greatest productivity-improving discoveries and share them. I hope that these sites will help alleviate some of the stress inevitably inflicted upon us, and perhaps help you study as well. Good luck with your work!

1. Gmail
I have long felt that Google is God’s gift to mankind: it is so much more than a search engine! However, Gmail in particular is one of its finest creations. Sure, we all use it for GBear, but maybe you don’t realize all you can do with it. It is a fantastic, multi-faceted e-mail client that is easy to used and accessible. One of the reasons Gmail is awesome is that it allows you to access the contents of all of your e-mail accounts through one site using its MailFetcher feature. Needless to say, this makes life a lot easier. In addition, there are lots of cool features available in conjunction with Gmail: Google Docs lets you create word documents, spreadsheets, presentations and much more, and allows collaboration with and editing by more than one person on a particular file. You can do all of this in a web browser and save any work to a Gmail account, so that you can access the file from anything with internet access (including smartphones)!
Instructions on setting up MailFetcher: http://support.google.com/mail/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=21288

2. BibMe.org
BibMe is a MLA, APA, Chicago and Turabian citation generator. Because of this website, I still don’t know how to write a proper citation off the top of my head. (And I’m a history major…I have a feeling this may eventually be a problem.)

3. FreeRice.com
Many of you have probably already heard of this, but Free Rice is (by default) a vocabulary game that actually donates rice to help fight world hunger every time you give a correct answer. But did you know that there are other subjects you can test yourself on? If you are in an introductory Spanish/German/French/Italian class, you can use Free Rice to test your knowledge of vocabulary in these languages on ten different levels. So not only are you doing helping yourself study, but you’re also doing something good for other people. Win-win!

4. WolframAlpha
I’m going to be honest with you – I don’t totally know how to use this thing to its full potential.  But this is only because it can do so much that it is hard to comprehend sometimes. Basically, though, it is a computational/knowledge search engine. It’s kind of like Google, only it provides you with information directly instead of finding all possible websites in existence that may have what you’re looking for. You can solve mathematical equations, make charts and graphs, get nutritional information, read about all kinds of trivia, find some tips to help you cheat in Scrabble (words that end in “-ager”, for example); and so much more. I recommend reading the provided directions and looking at the examples.

5. Edit Minion, Write or Die
Edit Minion allows you to input text and get some basic grammar/style/spelling suggestions. It is quite useful when you need to edit your writing but don’t have that much time or patience to figure out why. It also gives you a “grade” based on how many mistakes the text has, and shows you where they are and how many.
As for Write or Die (created by the same people who did Edit Minion), I’ll let the inventors explain themselves: “Write or Die is a web application that encourages writing by punishing the tendency to avoid writing. Start typing in the box. As long as you keep typing, you’re fine, but once you stop typing, you have a grace period of a certain number of seconds and then there are consequences.” It’s almost like Mom is yelling at you over your shoulder again! And let’s be honest—some of us need that.

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