My Top Productivity Apps as Ph.D. Student, Part 2

Martin Manullang
5 min readAug 14, 2021


Previously, I had written an article on the same topic at the following link:

As a Ph.D. student, of course, it is very closely related to productivity and time. For us, doing something efficiently and in a short time will be very useful so that the remaining time can be used to do other essential things.

This article will generally discuss several applications related to things that are often done by Ph.D. students, including writing articles, essays, reports, or even journal papers. It’s also an app that helps you focus and deal with distractions, manage references, and copy equations. So let’s get started


Indeed, you are familiar with several applications such as Mendeley, Endnote, or Zotero for those of you who have been in college. Yes, Paperpile is one of those applications.

Since mid-2021, I’ve been trying Paperpile and have been interested in using it as a citation and reference management software. I am an avid Mendeley user and have been using Mendeley since my undergraduate education a dozen years ago. For me, Mendeley provides almost everything I need except for one thing, the ease of organizing reference collections and a reliable mobile application.

Paperpile allows users to annotate handwriting using a stylus or apple pencil in its mobile application, which is available for both iPadOS, iOS, and Android. This annotation will be synchronized for all devices with the same account.

Paperpile iPad Apps. Built in PDF reader and annotation tool (left) ; Reference list view (right)

In terms of storage, Paperpile charges it on the google drive account that is connected to the Paperpile account. Slightly different from Mendeley, which has its own online storage. This is advantageous for me because I’ve been copying pdfs from my Mendeley app on Google Drive, and this time Paperpile was able to accommodate my needs.

One important thing that made me determined to use Paperpile was its ability to create subfolders within folders which made it easier for me to organize my collection of pdf collections.

Of course, there is no 100% ideal application. There are always shortcomings in the eyes of users. This application does not provide a desktop app. This app runs on google chrome with an extension and with a web app. However, due to this, this application is very reliable to use in Google Docs.

This application also does not provide a free version. The fee charged is 2.99$ per month, which is paid annually. You can request a discount via email or contact form if you are a student. If you are interested, you can do a trial for 30 days to try the application.


The second application in this article that I use to support my activities as a Ph.D. is forest. Forest is an app that helps us stay focused and not be distracted by notifications or the temptation to open our gadgets.

Forest App. Left : The view of the forest you built; Center : You have a chance to build a real tree; Right : A Pomodoro Based Timer

The rules of the apps are simple. You will be asked not to open other applications while you are working. After that, you will be rewarded with coins that can be exchanged for unique types of trees to be planted virtually or exchange coins for real trees planted by the team from the forest app. If you open your gadget and close the Forest application (or minimize it), you will not get a reward, and there are statistics that you violate the commitment to focus on work. There is also a feature to add friends and a feature that allows you to learn together with other forest application users who have made friends with you

For me, this app motivates me to avoid opening social media or chat apps and other apps that hinder my productivity. Unfortunately this app is not free, you have to pay around 2$ to get it. This application is also available for desktop in the form of a google chrome extension.

Text Sniper

For those of you who need a quick way to copy-paste the text in the image, this application is the answer. Text snipper lets you capture (screenshot) what’s on your screen, whether it’s text or a picture, and copy it to your clipboard. Not only text written in English and the alphabet, but this application can also capture several choices of scripts and languages such as Chinese script and Russian script.

Text Snipper Apps

How to use it is pretty simple. This application runs in the form of an icon that is accessed on the top bar of macOS. However, to capture objects on the screen, you just need to press the keyboard combination CMD + Shift + 4. Like the screenshot selection feature in macOS, the snip display also appears as a point cursor, and the results will be saved on your clipboard. I often use this method to translate some Chinese characters and combine the translate shortcut by pinning it on the shortcut of the Alfred application.

Mathpix Snip

And the last application is Mathpix Snip. This application also captures objects on your screen. If Textsniper captures text, this application will capture the mathematical equations on your screen.

The Mathpix Snip app view accessible from the top bar of MacOS

As a LaTex user, this application is beneficial if I have to rewrite an equation that I encounter in a paper or reference that I read. Using this application, a cursor screenshot will appear, and you just drag the box area of the part you want to capture. The result of the equation is not saved on the clipboard. Instead, a pop-up dialog will appear that allows you to choose whether you want to convert the equation in a latex script or choose another export option.

The app offers a free version for students with a maximum of 50 snips. After the 50 snip credits run out, you have to repurchase credits for 5$ per month for every 250 credits.

And finally, those are some updates related to my favorite applications that support my daily life as a Ph.D. student. If I find another exciting application to review in the future, I will share it on this page.

Cheers :))



Martin Manullang

Lifetime Learner. Write about my restlessness | Computer Engineering Ph.D. student | about me :