Computer science students need to acquire skills in multiple areas — arguably more so than any other study disciplines. So not surprisingly, they need a large toolbox, for any of several activities encountered in the typical college program. To that end, here is a reference list of 50 essential tools (software and resources) for computer science students.
- We’ve left out the typical Web browsers, email clients, most IM/ chat clients, search engines, video sharing sites, etc., and given a sample of tool categories that have numerous options.
- Some tools listed are free, others follow a freemium model (free with paid upgrade options).
Communication and Collaboration
- Google Hangouts: Free group conversations and live voice and video, from a browser or mobile app.
- Strike: Create Web-based task lists and share with classmates, colleagues and other collaborators.
Data Parsing, Data Conversion, File Retrieval, Format Checking
- JSONLint: Validate JSON content and convert to prettyprint mode.
- Mr. Data Converter: Convert between JSON, XML, HTML, CSV and other data formats.
- net2ftp: Use this Web-based FTP client to download assignments or upload your course work when using public campus computers.
IDEs, Code Snippet Savers, Coding Sandboxes
There are a lot of code sandboxes out there, most that handle multiple programming or scripting languages. Here’s a sampling of a few.
- Chop: Save code snippets with notes and share with classmates, project partners or teaching assistants.
- Gist: Gist, a collaborative code and data snippet repository from Github that lets you save secret or public snippets that people can fork as well as leave comments or ask questions.
- Ideone.com: Run and debug syntax-highlighted code in the browser for over 40 programming and scripting languages.
Web Site Development and Testing
- Bounce: Enter a URL to get a Web page snapshot (or upload an image), add annotations, and share with colleagues via Facebook or Twitter to solicit feedback.
- Browsershots: Test browser compatibility across OSes by requesting bulk screenshots for an URL running on up to 180 browsers.
- Dabblet: A sandbox with configuring interface for testing HTML+CSS code snippets — with save-to-Github Gist (above).
- IE NetRenderer: For when you absolutely need to check how Internet Explorer renders a page in versions 5.5 and 6 through 11.
- JSFiddle: A front-end Web page development sandbox with real-time collaboration including screen sharing, text and audio chat, and more.
- Web Design Tools: Not a tool per se, but a big list of over 80 Web design tools for browser, desktop and mobile use.
Reference, Notetaking, Bookmarking, Studying, Planning, Projects, Presentations
- EasyBib: When you have to cite references in a proper format (MLA, APA, Chicago, AMA, etc) for a term paper, use Easybib to help you get the citation right, whether the reference is a Web site, book, newspaper, journal or any of a total of nearly 60 source types.
- Evernote: Save notes, bookmarks, Web clippings, sketches and more, from a browser (desktop/ laptop) and sync via the Cloud for access from other computers or mobile devices.
- ExamTime: There’s a lot to learn in Comp Sci; test your ongoing study efforts by creating and using your own notes, quizzes, flashcards, free-form mind maps with multiple sticky notes per node — or use the searchable study resources created by other users.
- Freedcamp: A free (limited) alternative to Basecamp, for managing class projects, with collaboration features, notification via IM/SMS and email, project templates and more.
- Gliffy: For when you need to create wireframes, flowcharts, sitemaps, network diagrams and more — with collaboration features. Also available as an extension/ plugin for select Web browsers.
- Pearltrees: Organize your Web page bookmarks, files, photos, and notes in a structured, mind map-like, navigable visual format, via drag-and-drop or add-by-email feature, and social sharing.
- PivotalTracker: Simple project management, with free solo accounts, plus sync to Cloud for computer and mobile device access.
- Pocket: Bookmark Web pages, add tags for easy search, read saved pages in a nicely formatted manner, plus sync to Cloud for computer and mobile device access.
- Ponder: An online reading app designed for K-12 and college students, with embedded commenting and collaborative features.
- Popplet: Another mind mapping-like visual organizer similar to Pearltrees (above), but more free-form, with export to image and PDF formats, and language support for English, Japanese, Korean and Hebrew.
- Prezi: Instead of boring old slides for your class presentation, use Prezi to create dynamic, more mind map-like zooming presentations. “Edu Enjoy” license free for students registering with a school email address.
- Readability: Makes ugly, unreadable Web pages easy to read, with an estimated reading time displayed.
- SlideShare: Create and share Web slideshows, infographics and other content for your big project presentation.
- StudyBlue: Create your own study flash cards in a browser — with import option from your Evernote account — then consume them on a mobile device, or browse over 200M pieces of student user-generated study content (free and paid).
- TeuxDeux: Manage your to-do list in stylish calendar format.
- Trello: Organize your tasks and ideas in a stackable card format.
- Wunderlist : Create and share to-do and reminder lists with course project teammates (with limited free task assignment) or just manage your own life — with Cloud sync for easy access from other computers and mobile devices.
- Anonymouse: For when you need to browse without giving away your browser’s and computer’s details including IP address.
- Coderwall: Gamified coder community where you can browse tips from experienced developers or earn badges for your own coding achievements.
- Google Drive: Google Drive is like a Swiss Army knife of online tools, with spreadsheet, word processing, presentation, diagramming, file storage and other features.
- IFTTT: Set up triggers that use two or more of over 100 online “channels” (email, social media, cloud storage, note repositories, etc.) to create automated tasks for managing content, notifications and other online actions.
- LastPass: Forget trying to remember dozens of passwords when you can use the LastPass browser plugin to manage your online passwords.
- Pixlr: Edit photos and other images online, sourced from your computer, an URL, or online photo libraries including Facebook.
While not strictly tools in terms of software, these Web pages are worth taking note of for the wealth of computer science and programming information they hold. It never hurts to at least know what other schools are teaching, and you can learn for free if you want.
- Algorithms in the Real World: Carnegie Mellon University offers up course material from several semesters of its “Algorithms in the ‘Real World’.”
- Cheat Sheets: A large collection of cheat sheets of interest to computer science students, good for quick reference use.
- Dictionary of Data Structures and Algorithms: A handy alphabetically-indexed list of data structure and algorithm definitions and overviews, with links to implementation examples.
- Open Online Courses: An indexed directory for finding free online lectures of various course material, including computer science, from various universities.
- Github: One of the largest collections of code, for private and open source use, with repository forking, commenting, Git versioning and other features
- IT eBooks: Don’t blow your book budget on expensive computer books without checking them out in digital format first at IT eBooks.
- Apple iTunes University: For when you want to check out course lectures and assignment materials from Computer Science programs at other colleges, including Stanford and others.
- MIT OpenCourseWare: Probably the granddaddy of free online college course materials, from MIT and other schools.
- Stack Overflow: For when you’re done racking your brain trying to figure out why your code doesn’t work or how to do something tricky, ask the community nicely at Stack Overflow.
- Skiena’s Algorithms Lectures: A sizeable collection of lecture materials (video, audio, slides) on specific algorithms from Professor Steven Skiena’s lectures at SUNY Stony Brook.
- What Comp Sci Students Should Know: A helpful overview of skills a computer science student should have, plus a selection of tool and resource links.