A brief list of tips for school laptop usage/preparation

Congratulations – you’ve just acquired a laptop to use for your studies. You may have bought it at a store like Microcenter or Best Buy, you may have gotten it as a hand-me-down from a sibling, or you might have borrowed it indefinitely from someone else – regardless of how you got it, it’s yours now, and it’s time to make sure both you and it are ready for school. Here’s some tips.

  1. Keep drinks away from your fancy new folding computer. The last thing you want to do is spill coffee into the laptop’s integrated keyboard and make it explode. If you’re going to have drinks near it, have them in seal-able containers like bottles or those fancy Starbucks drink cylinders.
  2. Eliminate the extra. If there’s preloaded programs on the laptop, whether it’s the previous owner’s video game collection or some factory distributed bloatware, get rid of it. If there’s a bunch of junk files – like a forgotten family photo collection – delete them, anything taking up surplus storage is cluttering your virtual workspace.
  3. Get Microsoft programs. Whether you want to buy the student 4pack (with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote) from the Microsoft website or just use a student Office365 account, it doesn’t matter – get Word on your computer at the very least. Google Drive is great, but it isn’t perfect and it lacks a lot of functions you’ll find through trial and error to be essential to specific projects. Also, it never indents properly for some reason.
  4. Organize your files. Lets say you’re in a two year program at USG. Make a folder in your documents that says “School,” or something like that, and then within it make individual folders for each semester. In each semester folder, as you go through them, make folders for each class you’re taking. Within those folders, make folders for each week of material. Most of the class schedules/syllabi tend to be organized by week content so you’ll be able to label each week something specific and be able to refer to your notes more easily.
  5. Other essential programs: If you’re doing photo editing at all, GIMP is a good – and free – choice. If you’re doing basic audio editing, Audacity is a good – and free – choice. Are you seeing a trend here? We’re in college, we have to keep things cheap. Adobe Reader is honestly the best way to read PDFs on your computer – it’s much cleaner than using a browser window and allows for more interactivity. Speaking of browsers – I recommend Firefox Quantum instead of Google Chrome, and I say that as someone who used Chrome for years. It’s just faster, plain and simple. What else – Kindle is good if you’re using virtual textbooks, like the Nurses’ Pocket Guide, Discord and Skype are both good for group projects and making conference calls, and the Twitch client can be good if you like to watch streams in the background of studying or while taking a break from studying.
  6. Programs you SHOULD NOT GET ON A LAPTOP: Anything that is Adobe that isn’t Adobe Reader. I’m not kidding, folks – Adobe Photoshop works best with enormous excess storage space and your laptop likely isn’t going to have that unless you’re using an external drive which can be quite expensive. If you want to use Photoshop, use a desktop. The same goes for things like FLStudio9 – it’s just best to do any heavy editing on desktop computers instead of laptops. I know I mentioned Gimp and Audacity – that’s lightweight stuff compared to Photoshop and FLStudio.

With those general tips out of the way, here’s a brief list about how to take notes during class – some different methods of doing so.

  1. The “OneNote” method. OneNote is literally made to take notes. If you need some help figuring out how to use it to the fullest, make an appointment with OIT or CAS and they’ll help you figure it out. I typically find it best to use OneNote for things that do not have accompanying documents like PowerPoints, although it will still work for those things.
  2. The “Word+PowerPoint” method. This is my go-to method for anything that involves a PowerPoint. You open PowerPoint on one side of your screen, and Word on the other.
    1. Then you just bullet point notes down and down the word document.
      1. With subsections for individual topics of interest.
        1. Typically I just have one long list of numbers that match each slide number with a title, and then off of that I branch into the topics within that slide and have it all contained slide by slide.
  3. The “Word Only” method. A classic – you just have word open and you just bullet point notes without having the PowerPoint on the screen to refer to. This can work if you’re just watching some presentation without a PowerPoint, or if you just prefer to have Word be the big thing on your screen.
  4. The “Photosynthesis” method. You close your computer and stare at the presentation until it burns into your eyes and imprints on your brain. This method tends to fail.

In all seriousness, with all jokes tossed by the wayside, if you want to get your laptop working the best it can then OIT is your best bet in making that happen. The people behind the desk in the OIT know what they’re doing – and they’re there to help you for as long as they’re open. Just walk in.


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