Our guest blog this week comes by way of Kenny Venere. Kenny is a DPT, Northeastern Alumnus, and also is one of the guys behind the blog at Physiological PT. You can catch up with him @kvenere on Twitter. Thanks for this post, Kenny!
There are overwhelming amounts of online resources available to further your learning as a clinician or student. Between the endless amount of blogs (like this one), tweets, journals, research articles, and PowerPoint lectures it can be a little daunting to not only keep up with everything, but to keep it organized. Fortunately, there are some useful apps that can do the heavy lifting for us. Here is a brief overview of what I find helpful in keeping up to date and organized in the physical therapy world.
<Disclaimer — I’m firmly entrenched in the Apple ecosystem, so my bias is with iOS and Mac OS X.>
Be you student or clinician, it is likely that you’re going to be on the move. Cloud storage is essential for keeping information and files you need available at all times across different devices, wherever you may be. In addition to personal accessibility, having files available in the cloud allows for easy sharing and collaboration.
There are numerous options to choose from, but the most popular include: Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and iCloud. They all have different options regarding storage and pricing, so you have some flexibility as to selecting the cloud that works for you. Though a bit older now, Gizmodo has a helpful overview of the strengths and weaknesses of different cloud storage platforms.
Personally, I use Dropbox due to its interface, integration with third party apps (such as Mailbox and Notability), and a bit of laziness on my part. Many alternatives now offer far better storage options than Dropbox at no extra cost.
For your typical Twitter user, the standard Twitter client for Mac OS X and iOS performs admirably. If you’re a little bit more active on Twitter, there are some more feature rich and attractive alternatives to consider. My personal choice is Twitterrific for iOS and OS X.
Twitterrific has touch gestures that let you easily follow or reply to a conversation, a customizable interface, the ability to sync timelines between devices, and seamless integration with third party services such as Pocket.
Alternatives: Tweetbot, Tweetdeck, Echofon
RSS Feeds & Clients
RSS feeds are essential for keeping up to date with, well, almost anything. RSS feeds constantly monitor selected websites (say, www.physiologicalpt.com) for new content and removes the need for the user to manually check the page. Additionally, many research journals have RSS feeds that provide easy ways for you to receive updates when new articles are published. You can also use RSS to create a feed from your unique PubMed searches. If you are interested in a specific researcher or research topic, you can create an RSS feed for PubMed searches of that author or topic. So any time there is a new result for that search, it will automatically be pushed to your RSS feed.
There are plenty of options to organize and view your RSS feeds, but my personal favorite is Feedly. Feedly has an intuitive interface across all platforms (iOS, Android, and web-based) that allows you to easily read, share, and organize your feeds. A “Feedly Pro” subscription adds features like article search, Evernote integration, and more.
Given how fast articles can be shared via Twitter and RSS feeds, PDF libraries can become unwieldy and disorganized in the blink of an eye. Reference management software does the heavy lifting and organizes your library, cleans up metadata (such as the article title, journal, author), and generates bibliographies.
For my needs, Mendeley is the best reference management software out there. It has free and paid options, cloud storage, social share-ability, and a very user friendly interface. Its annotation abilities are limited, but that can be rectified by third party software that plugs into Mendeley such as Papership. Unfortunately, Mendeley is currently only available for iOS and OS X.
Alternatives: EndNote, Zotero, Papers
Save For Later Apps
These types of apps provide a way for people to easily save interesting articles, links, videos and more to read later. Popular clients like Pocket work on various platforms (Mac, Windows, iOS, Android) and integrate into numerous apps (such as Safari, Twitter, etc) to allow your content to be viewable on any device at any time (even when you’re offline).
Another benefit of clients like Pocket is that it strips away the clutter from websites and makes the article simple, clean, and readable.
Alternatives: Instapaper, Readability, ReadKit
Notability — Notability is a powerful note taking and annotation software for iOS that allows you write, type, highlight and mark up things such as PowerPoint/PDF lectures, journal articles, or simply a blank sheet of paper. This application was incredibly useful for me during DPT school as it provided an easy way to take notes on PPT lectures with my iPad and stylus. It also lets you record audio, which was also helpful for lectures.
Notability syncs with the popular cloud storage clients mentioned above, so any note you take will be automatically uploaded for safe keeping and accessibility.
IF by IFTTT — Is an app that puts the internet to work for you using the simple recipe of “if this, then that” to trigger actions. Want every time you favorite something in Twitter for it to be sent to Pocket to read later? IF has you covered. Looking for a job in a particular city? Set up IF to send you an email anytime a local Craiglist post with “physical therapist” is added. There are countless recipes, so the app is as useful as you want it to be.
Read by QxMD — Read is alternative to using RSS feeds to keep up with academic journals and has a few notable perks. Similar to an RSS feed, Read allows you to “follow” journals and receive regular updates when there are new articles available. Read’s killer feature is that it allows seamless access to full text PDFs through your university or other institution’s subscription library. Just push a button and Read retrieves it for you.
Instagram — For putting nice filters on pictures of new pairs of socks and things like that.