5 best Mac apps to help students study smarter, not harder

Being in the productivity app space for over a decade, we know a thing or two about what makes a good app for students. To help you start the academic year on the front foot, we decided to make a shortlist of popular and easy-to-use Mac apps that are proven to take your learning to the next level. 

The beginning of the new school year is a great time to make a big clean on your Mac, removing all that clutter and making space for projects and files. This is also a great opportunity to refresh your repertoire of apps and tools that will help you get the most from the school year and study faster and in a more efficient way. For some students, an app that supports OCR is an absolute must-have for dealing with hard-scanned copies of study materials. For others, it’s important to have good file management software or apps that help them save time, stay focused, and quite simply help them make more of their time.

Here are some of the best apps for students that will help you stay productive this school year:

PDF Expert for creating grade-A assignments 


You didn’t think we would omit to mention the PDF Expert here, did you? It is a go-to PDF tool for students all over the globe, which is proven by thousands of happy users and their delighted app reviews. 

PDF Expert makes working with any PDF easy, fast, and enjoyable. Need to turn a scanned copy of lecture notes into a text and then use it for your paper? Check. Want to merge several PDFs into one, delete unnecessary pages and make it look sleek? Check. Looking for a PDF reader with a two-page view and Sepia mode that’s kind to your eyes? Check. What makes it even better is that all these nuggets are baked into a user experience that’s simple, intuitive, and easy to use, so you get to work straight away.

Features we think you’ll love:

  • Optical Character Recognition (OCR) could be a real live saver - you can easily scan pages from textbooks or lecture handouts and make them searchable. 
  • The reading experience is one of the best out there and with fast, fluid scrolling and a variety of reading themes to suit your preference, it's sure to please your eyes.
  • The advanced annotation tools will allow you to easily highlight text bits, use color-coding, underline, and add shapes or text comments making it easy for you to remember the most important takeaways.
  • The ease at which you can delete, add, or change text, links, and images in your PDFs will make file creation and management so much simpler.


The great news is that PDF Expert offers a special 50% student discount. Also, there is a version with an essential feature set that you can use for free. Learn more about the benefits of a special deal for students and educators here.

Documents for managing photos, videos, and, well, documents


Studying usually involves saving an enormous amount of files on your Mac, which ends up in a chaotic experience of looking for specific files within multiple apps and folders. 

The Documents app by Readdle is a great way to securely save and organize all kinds of files you will deal with - from photo archives and coursework papers to downloaded audiobooks and videos. Documents becomes your central home for all your files while studying. Not only can you connect multiple online storage services and pull all your files into one place, but you also store and organize materials you download from the Internet (such as files, PDFs or saved web pages). Documents is also great for opening most file formats, like extracting archives, playing music or video files, opening saved web pages, annotating PDFs to make notes, etc. - all within the same app.

Features we think you’ll love:

  • ‘Read it later: Download web pages, keep them all in one place, and read them later, when you are offline and have time for research.
  • Stream videos and music from Clouds and WebDAV, so you can open numerous file formats - from .avi to .mkv. 
  • Easily zip/unzip files and share them with your peers or teachers, as the Documents FileDrop feature allows you to quickly transfer files of any size and type.


Free! Also, there is a Documents Plus subscription available, with advanced features like a scanner and PDF converter. 

Grammarly for writing with confidence


Despite the abundance of spelling check tools and AI-writing assistants, Grammarly remains the most reliable and advanced app on the market. It makes sure that any text you write, whether a simple email or your final paper, is typo-free and is written in a clear way. Apart from the helpful and seamless proofreading feature, Grammarly also suggests word choice improvements, helps to detect plagiarism, clean up tangled sentences, and gets citations from online sources. Of course, there is also an AI assistant, GrammarlyGO, that co-creates texts through writing a draft, rewriting copy in a certain style or voice. 

Features we think you’ll love:

  • Reliable proofreading that can be seamlessly integrated into your Google Docs and apps like Slack and Skype instantly reduces the number of mistakes and typos in your texts. 
  • With a plagiarism check, you can quickly find source text.
  • Auto-citations from online sources streamline authors and source research for you. 
  • Essay checker that helps to remove grammatical mistakes and misused words. 


The free version includes most of the features, however, the Premium account has features like Citations and Tone suggestions. See pricing info here. 

Notion for organizing tasks and notes


If you love to organize, you will love Notion. It’s the best choice if you feel like moving a step up from just dumping everything into your Notes app but you still want to keep things simple. Notion allows you to keep your class schedule and assignments all in one place, quickly create plans and document projects, and embed images and videos. It’s great for research purposes, as you can gather all text bits, images, and links into one place.

Features we think you’ll love:

  • Student dashboard template to visualize and organize your courses, lectures, and homework. 
  • The grade calculator allows you to estimate any class grades and notice weak spots before it’s too late. 
  • The Cornell Notes System template is a great way to organize lecture notes to take in knowledge in an efficient way.


Free for students!

Be Focused to remove all distractions while studying


Procrastination is a common challenge for students, especially when the assignment has a tight deadline and you seem interested in checking Twitter updates and replying to friends’ messages. What you need is not more motivation, but an efficient time management solution. Be Focused is a simple app that uses a popular Pomodoro approach: work on a task for 25 minutes, rest for 5. The trick is to keep concentrated on the task during these 25-min sprints, which is fairly easy to do with Be Focused. 

Features we think you’ll love:

  • A timer can be customized and you can choose the duration of tasks and breaks.
  • Due dates for tasks to prioritize and plan.
  • Reports that show how much time you have spent on certain tasks. 


Free, with an optional Pro version that provides more features and removes ads.

Bonus app: if you want to give Pomodoro approach a quick try, there is also a free Llama Life browser app, that offers the same features, plus an extremely cute interface. 

These are the best Mac apps that help to study and stay productive. Use them to your advantage and enjoy the ride! 

Yevheniia Dychko Yevheniia Dychko

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