DHI’s 2016 “Favorite Things” List

Today is December 7th. Before you know it, snow will have caked the sidewalks of our city and red-ribboned boxes will have appeared beneath our trees. So in the spirit of giving, we thought we might share with you our go-to guide for the holiday season––that is, our favorite digital tools, apps, and gadgets for getting through the finals. Before you start pulling out hair over your end of the semester projects, take a look at this list and see if it doesn’t spark some holiday cheer!

Knightlab TimelineJS
We’ve been recommending this tool for years, but that doesn’t stop it from making the top of our list. Developed in 2012 by the Knightlab team at Northwestern University, TimelineJS allows you to organize content––photos, videos, and more––on a beautifully designed, scrollable, categorizable, timeline, making quick work of time-centric projects. Using Google Sheets to store your work, TimelineJS links your spreadsheet to their software, making the process of filling out the timeline a walk in the park.

Google Maps
Okay, so it sounds vague, but trust us when we say that there’s a lot more you can do with Google Maps than finding the closest dog-friendly smoothie shop. Loads of online tools use Google’s open API to create map generators––tools that give you free reign over design, points of interest, and even created sequenced tours. Our recommendations go to Snazzy Maps, probably the best online tool for designing and mapping content, and Tour Builder, which lets you tell guided stories using maps to pair images with places. Additionally, History Pin is an easy-to-use, crowd-sourced program that

Twine
No, it’s not thin rope, but the online program Twine is awesome for stringing together your thoughts. Reminiscent of hypertext word adventures, twine allows you to organize an essay, story, or presentation with various options for running through it. In other words, it’s a choose your own adventure platform that uses text. Twine is an awesome way of making class presentations interactive by allowing your peers to choose where they want to take things next. It allows you, firstly, to keep your listeners awake, and secondly, illustrate (hopefully!) the fluidity and cohesion of your thoughts––no matter where you start or what route you take, your presentation will make a unified whole.

Take a Five
Being productive is exhausting work, and sometimes working on the web it’s good to set aside some time to give your brain a rest and catch up on some vine threads. That’s where Take a Five comes in. The website creates “self-destructing tabs,” for short periods of time with which you can spend on Twitter, Buzzfeed, or online games. When your time’s up, the tab closes itself and an inspirational message and gif appear, giving you both the reprieve you need and the motivation to keep working hard.

Hopefully these apps will jump start your projects and give them a whole new life. If you’re writing research papers this semester, also check out this post we wrote on Zotero, an awesome archiving/organizing software for researchers.

Have a happy finals season!