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Assistive software to help study from home

  • Written byInternal Communications
  • Published date 31 March 2020

There are some excellent and reliable free apps and built-in solutions that can help you study more effectively when you aren't at college. Here are some of the best.

Mind mapping: for organising and planning

  • XMind is great for creating maps. Try using it to organise your term, or brain dump ideas for a project. The free version works on your phone, tablet and in your browser (e.g. Chrome) so you take it with you wherever you are.

Text to speech: for reading and writing

  • Immersive Reader reads text aloud. Hearing the text can make it easier digest and understand the ideas in the writing. It is built in to Word and OneNote online (part of Office 365 and free with your UAL email address).
  • Macs have built in text reading. Select text and your Mac text reader does the rest.
  • Your phone and tablet will read text back to you. iPhone text reading options are turned on in the settings, accessibility, speech. Android devices have the same function, but it will be accessed differently depending on your phone.

Dictation: you talk it types

If you can’t compose your thoughts easily whilst typing, then dictation is for you. Your device's inbuilt microphone should suffice.

  • Try dictating text into Office 365 apps like Word and OneNote. The accuracy is good and getting better all the time
  • Macs have built in Dictation. Mac voice control allows for hands free control of the computer and dictation.
  • Mobile phones and tablets have built in dictation. Look at the onscreen keyboard and find the microphone icon. Tap it and start speaking. Your voice will appear as text.
  • Dictating on iPhones and iPads: Tap on the microphone icon next to the keyboard to start dictating. Try using it to dictate into ToDo list apps like Trello or to make notes in OneNote or Word online.
  • Dictating on Android tablets and phones: Tap the microphone icon next to the keyboard to start dictating. You can dictate anywhere where you would normally type.

Find help with focus and concentration

  • Focus Keeper for iOS and Android helps you focus using the Pomodoro technique, based on the idea that we are more efficient if we work for 4 sessions of 25 minutes, with a 5 minute break between each session.
  • Background noise apps: Coffitivity (free and for iOS only) recreates the background noise of a café or Noisli where you have more choice over your background sounds – from rain to trains. Read more on AbilityNet’s ambient apps page.
  • Content blockers: useful if you get distracted with your phone or checking the web, Forest and Cold Turkey can help you with bad habits.
  • Removing advertising and distractions on web pages: the Chrome extension Just Read will show only the relevant content.

Converting files into a format you can read

  • Use the SensusAccess web page to convert files into Word documents (good for copying and pasting quotes), or audio files (great for reading whilst you are out and about) and more. Find further information on this UAL library news story

Need more ideas?


To access a series of short video tutorials about Office 365 visit iView Learning. Simply click ‘Log in’, then create an account using your UAL credentials.