Photo credit: Pathum Danthanarayana/

“As a Ph.D. student, when you should be busy with experiments and analyzing data. Do you spend more time organizing the literature material? Did your figures, made in PowerPoint are not attractive? Here is a list of software that can be helpful for you to overcome these issues during your Ph.D.”

Ph.D. is a long time commitment and may end up generating enormous data for a better scientific finding. 

We may struggle with organizing our daily searched papers, taking notes from every other possible source, and making attractive graphical abstracts for publication. 

We end up making ‘n’ number of folders at different places on our lab desktop, personal laptop, even friends laptop 😉 some time. We also take essential notes wherever possible (diary, mobile, e-mail, drive, sometime even ‘palm’ etc.).

Here, technology can help us a lot; it can make a difference and make our life a little easy and organized.

1. Organize everything:

There are many tools available on the internet, but the most popular are Evernote and Microsoft’s OneNote, both have a ‘free’ basic version which can fulfill your need as a Ph.D. student. 

What they provide:

  • Sync and organize data
  • Web clipping
  • Predefined templates for making notes
  • Cloud space accessible from multiple devices
  • Document scanning
  • Drag and drop ‘Audio/video’ file
  • Some even provide ‘handwritten’ note option
  • Integration with other apps

Evernote and Microsoft’s OneNote, both have a ‘free’ basic plan 

Evernote: Online | Windows |mac | iOS Android

Microsoft OneNote: Online |mac | iOS | Android

2. Citation manager:

As a researcher you end up searching and collecting 1000’s of research papers for your work. Managing them is more time taking job. 

Mendeley and Endnote can share your burden.

What they provide:

  • Cloud service, so that you can access from anywhere
  • Save your massive library of the research article that you search
  • Citation/bibliography plugins for word processing
  • Easily searchable libraries
  • Allows to attach PDF files with the article citation file
  • Allows sharing libraries

While Mendeley is a freeware  and Endnote, comes with ‘free’ basic plan

Mendeley: Online | Windows | maciOS Android | Linux

Endnote:  Online | Windows |mac | iOS

3. Graphical abstract/Images for publication:

Have you struggled to make figures/images in PowerPoint?

‘I can feel that pain ;).’

It’s a nerve-wracking task, which can sometimes be frustrating.

‘YOU’ can make more attractive graphical abstracts or small images of publication quality.

Try, Inkscape, a free graphical illustrator, and the good part is that you will also find YouTube tutorials for it. It will take some time to get familiar with it. But the results would be ‘SATISFYING’ and ‘AMAZING.’

Another alternative is; this platform provides free templates for 1000+ icons in biological sciences, which are very handy (drag and drop). It provides a basic ‘TRIAL’ plan.

Inkscape is freeware but provide a ‘trial’

(there is also one software, Cell Illustrator, and you can get a trial license. It’s useful for making ‘pathway models’)

Inkscape: Windows | mac | Linux

BioRender: Online

4. Writing Assistant:

Everyone may not be an expert in English, which is a widely used language in scientific writings.

A helping hand is always useful, and with the advancement in technology, we can improve our writing.

Grammarly, an online writing assistant useful for corrections and suggestions, comes with a free basic plan.

One more exciting alternative is Ginger Software, which also helps in editing; it also has a free basic plan with some limitations. But it also translates in 40 languages (will you need a translation in scientific writing, I am not sure, but it’s an add-on).

What they provide:

  • Correctness
  • Clarity
  • Plagiarism
  • Work with various browsers and MS Word

Grammarly and Ginger software, both are available for ‘free’ basic plan

Grammarly: Online | Win | mac | MS Office | Browsers |Grammarly keyboard iOS & Android)

Ginger: Windows | mac | iOS Android | MS Word | Chrome & Safari

5. Online Storage/sharing:

Do you always carry a pen drive?  Well that’s important.

Online file storing platforms are more convenient to use (thanks to internet).

Online storage comes more handy when you regularly share articles/resources with your other colleagues. It can serve as a pool for our group. 

You can simply make an account on cloud storage platforms, and then share the password among your group. This will be indeed very helpful. 

No need to independently mailing everybody and every time. E-mail has its own ‘attachment restrictions’ also. 

Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox are commonly used cloud storage services. Among them Google drive and Dropbox are widely used. 

What they provide:

  • Cloud storage, almost every one of them have free basic plan.
  • File sharing 

Google Drive: Online | Windows | mac | iOS | Android

Dropbox: Online | Windows | mac | iOS | Android

Microsoft OneDrive: Online | Windows | mac | iOS | Android

many other softwares or services are available which can also be checked. We have tried to provide a list of what is mostly used, and possibly also provides a free/trail plan. 

NOTE: Whenever purchasing a software that will be used for your Ph.D. work, we would suggest you to check its availability with your university/Institution. You might end up saving some money.