Tag Archive: downloads

The Best Free Software For Students

If you are anything like me, you will do anything to avoid paying thousands of dollars for the next Adobe product.  After ten years of higher education (and at least 4 to go!) I have tested hundreds of software packages; in this post I will list the best free and open source programs I have found.  Learn to love open source software…and you will soon learn how to spend those thousands of dollars you saved!  My software list will certainly not be a comprehensive list of all the great open source programs. For a complete list of free software programs I have three recommendations.

  • The best resource is sourceforge.net which is a nearly complete collection of all reputable free software.
  • FileHippo.com is a free website that lists hundreds of free software packages by category
  • schoolforge.net is a compilation of hundreds of free and open source software programs that is easily searchable.



Google Chrome is a no-nonsense, super fast web browser.  Here is just one reference proving Chrome's speed superiority (from cnet.com). For mac users, Safari is a distant second.  While I used to enjoy Firefox, it takes nearly twice as long to load web pages than Chrome.  We all know how terrible Internet Explorer is.



OpenOffice is a well known counterpart to Microsoft Office.  The free software includes a fully capable word processor, a presentation organizer, and a fully loaded spreadsheet tool.  In essence, you get Word, PowerPoint, and Excel for free.  An added bonus, you can save any file in OpenOffice format OR in the corresponding Microsoft format so there will never be compatibility issues.



My love for Google products will now show through.  Google Calendar is simple and highly effective.  You can merge nearly all online calendars into your Google calendar account. You can send yourself reminders using email, phone call, or text message. You can list recurring events in any imaginable patter (e.g. same date each year, 2nd Saturday of March each year, etc.)



1. Gimp is a professional image editor with a student's pricetag.  This free program comes with nearly all the bells and whistles you would find in the newest version of Adobe Photoshop.  The user interface is not idea and takes some getting used to. However, with a price tag of $0 this is a great piece of software.


2. I have heard great things about Paint.Net.  I must admit, I have never used it because I have spent so much time using Gimp that I don't need anything else.  However, it is worth a try if you are looking for more free graphic editing options.



Audacity is a free, open-source program that facilitates the recording and editing of all audio and sound files.  I often use it to make my own 'radio edited' song versions.



Foxit Reader is far better than the free Adobe Reader. It requires far less resources when it is running on your computer, and it provides free mark-up tools including text editing, highlighting, commenting, and basic geometric shapes.



CutePDF Writer is the free version of CutePDFs vast line of products. The free writer allows you to convert any image, document, or screen shot to a PDF.  I use this product all the time. I save documents as PDFs and place them on my thumb drive rather than printing everything out.



There are actually quite a few free antivirus options out there. Many of the web giants (Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc) have their own free antivirus software. My personal favorite is Avast!, which the program that comes with GooglePak.  Just be sure you click on the FREE version, as they have other options.



Mint.com allows users to track all bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and investments in one place. The software is similar to costly software like Quicken, but is free and is web-based: which means you can check your information on any computer, any time.




The best resource in this category, I must admit, is not free. EndNote is a must-have resource for research and reports. It is user friendly and will save you hours of time by automatically plugging in your references and bibliography. There are a number of free programs that try to mimic EndNote's features. Some are good, but after trying them I ended up purchasing a student edition of EndNote because it is so much better.  Here is a list of free bibliography and reference managers. Or you can check out the wikipedia page which compares all reference managers, free and non-free.



R (The R Project for Statistical Computation) is a free text-based statistical computational software program.  It is not for the feint-hearted. The learning curve is steep, but once mastered, this free software provides all the tools to run any statistical analysis, graph, or plot.



Not all LaTeX editors are created equal.  WinEdt is a clean editor without the frills of other programs. I have used this software for 5 years and I have never had even one problem (something that can NOT be said about most LaTeX editors!)  The free version will frequently ask the operator to purchase the full version, but it is never required.



XMind assists individuals and teams in keeping track of ideas and goals. If you have never used mind-mapping software, you need to start. XMind creates the prettiest visual map, but there are other options that work just as well. FreeMind is another great one.



Did I forget something? If you know of more great, open source software please leave a comment.

How to create a great research poster

Taken from University of Michigan Center for Research and Learning

Your research is only as good as you can present it.  Presenting a poster at a conference is an important way to gain experience presenting research and is a great way to demonstrate your motivation to medicine or your specialty of choice.  (It also looks good on your CV, but you knew that already).  There are a couple steps required to presenting research at a conference


  1. Conduct good quality research
  2. Submit an abstract to the conference of your choice (make sure you know the deadlines, as these are sometimes nearly a year prior to the conference)
  3. Design a high quality poster
  4. Present your poster at conference

In this post I will only touch on #3 and a tiny bit of #4, conducting good research and writing an interesting abstract are topics for another day.

I recently came across a great article which touches on the specifics of poster presentation: formatting, fonts, graphs, colors, sizes, logos, etc.  (link)  The author explains in detail how to grab viewers attention.  I will not go into that much detail, so please see the link for specific information.  I use that article as a reference whenever I work on a new poster.

Click here to go to an indepth article about creating a great research poster

Also, if you are looking for a generic poster template that you can start with, click here.  This is a standard, three column template that is clean and organized. Be sure to customize it so it does not look like a generic template when you are done.

Click here to download a generic poster template in powerpoint.

The most important thing to remember when you are designing your poster is this: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.  Most of these people are not really interested in your research, no one can read every poster at these conferences so it is up to you to grab their attention.  With this in mind, here are my top five recommendations…

  1. Learn from the Experts: peruse award winning posters from previous years at the conference you will be attending.  Often conferences will make these posters available to the public.  There is no better way to learn than to use ideas from those who are already succeeding
  2. Keep it Simple Stupid: No one likes a busy poster, passerbys will simply pass her by.  Keep the format clean with regular sized text (size 20-40 depending on font).  No tiny text and no crazy fonts.
  3. Know the conference standards:  It is really hard to take a poster seriously when it is 4′ by 6′ but needed to be mounted on a 3′ by 5′ presentation area.
  4. Know your Research: You will often be asked to summarize your poster.  Why can’t they just read it themselves?  I have no idea.  Be prepared to summarize quickly or more in depth, depending on what the individual is looking for.
  5. Dress for Success: If you look professional and attractive, you are bound to attract more business. If I see an individual who can not present himself or herself well, I certainly am not going to take the time to figure out if they can present their research well.