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How to Organize Your Laptop for College


Madeleine Beach

Marketing Coordinator - 13 Oct, 2021


For college students, a laptop is an essential tool. You may carry it around with you from class to class for note taking, or maybe you use it only for studying and writing papers. You might also rely on it to binge-watch shows on Netflix or keep up with friends at home.

But as the semester progresses, you can easily find you don’t have time to organize your files and apps. The clutter will gradually build up until you realize that you’re constantly wasting time searching for the information you need. By doing a little extra work before your schedule gets busy, you could reap the rewards all semester. As you transition back to in person learning you will find yourself transporting your laptop to and from campus each day. If you take your laptop on the go with you, start your organization efforts with a good carrying case.  I'm sure you don't walk around with a “naked” phone; caseless, no screen protector bumping around in your bag. Treat your laptop the same way, start your organization's efforts with a good carrying case. Many college students go for backpacks, which let you include your textbooks and maybe a spare notebook and some pens with your laptop. Make sure your tote of choice also has pockets for safely storing your phone and keys.

But what’s on the laptop is just as important as how you cart it around. This roundup will help you get your laptop in order and keep it that way.

Organize your files

Organize your laptop

Your documents, photos, videos, and other files are stored in folders on your computer. You could keep them all in one big folder, but that will leave you relying on the accuracy of your file names. Instead, consider creating some file folders to make it easier to find the items you need.

There are multiple ways to organize your apps and files. Here are some to consider as you’re choosing the method that works best for you.

  • Organize by type of file

With this method, you’ll keep your files stored in folders specific to their type. You can have one for homework, another for assignments, and another for your games. Within those files, you can create additional files for each class.

  • Organize by class

You might prefer to create a separate folder for each class, allowing you to store all coursework and notes specific to that class there. When the semester is over, you can then move those folders into a folder labeled with the semester and year for archive purposes.

  • Use your taskbar

For those apps you’re always tracking down, utilize the toolbar that’s built into both Macs and PCs. This is a handy place to store all your frequently-used apps. If you find yourself frequently searching for an app that’s not on your taskbar, consider adding it. You can easily remove an app from your taskbar if you decide later you don’t use it as often as you expected.

  • Sync with mobile devices

If you have files or apps you need to access from both your mobile devices and computer, make sure they’re synced. If at all possible, keep files in the cloud so you can get to them no matter where you are.

  • Go to the cloud

Cloud-based storage has another benefit: it keeps your computer clean. Consider using cloud-based file storage to keep your laptop streamlined. As always, make sure your files are being regularly backed up, no matter where they are.

Organize your email

As a high school student, you might not have relied very heavily on email. In college, though, this can change fairly quickly. You’ll soon find you’re logging in regularly to check for updates and send assignments. Taking a few extra minutes to declutter your inbox can make a big difference. Here are some tools that can help.

  • Sanebox

Why waste hours organizing your emails when artificial intelligence can do the job for you? Sanebox adds a folder to all your email accounts, and that folder is where all those unimportant emails go. The rest stay in your inbox to help ensure you never miss anything.

  • Unroll.Me

Speaking of wasting time, chances are, almost as soon as you started using your email account, you were scrolling past unwanted messages. Unroll.Me shows you a list of all your email subscriptions, allowing you to unsubscribe to some or all of them in one place.

  • Grammarly

Although Grammarly doesn’t organize your inbox, it can be a very valuable tool. Once you’ve installed the Chrome plug-in, Grammarly underlines any grammar and spelling errors to help you send well-written messages.

Message streamlining

There are more ways now than ever to communicate with those around you. You have multiple emails, text, social media, chat, and, of course, the old-fashioned phone call. All of this likely comes through your phone, but you can also set your messages up to show up on your laptop. Here are some apps that can help you consolidate your messages to save time and reduce the noise.

  • Gmail

Gmail is by far the most popular email account, so chances are, you have at least one email address through the service. If you have more than one, you can set up your Gmail messages to come into one central inbox by configuring Gmail mail forwarding. This post walks you through it.

  • WhatsApp

If you’re limited in your cellphone data, WhatsApp can help. This free app lets you send and receive messages from all over the world. Best of all, you can do all this messaging over Wi-Fi, so you never have to worry about exceeding your data limit.

  • Hootsuite

If you regularly post on social media, Hootsuite can be a big timesaver. You can create one post and have it go to your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media sites. You can even schedule the posts to go live later. It’s a great way to stay in touch without spending hours on your phone.

Notification consolidation

Have you ever heard of notification fatigue? It happens when you receive so many alerts, you eventually start shutting them out. That can be dangerous, leading to missed messages about schoolwork, upcoming exams, or a party you don’t want to miss. Here are some tools that can make those notifications much more manageable.

  • Shift

Shift remains the best way to get all of your notifications in one place. Whether your laptop runs Windows or the Apple operating system, Shift will pull all of your notifications together. Simply add all your favorite apps and go to Settings to manage your notifications.

  • Windows Notification Settings

If you’re on Windows 10, you can easily manage notifications. Simply go to Settings, then System and Notifications and actions. You can turn off and on your notifications in one place.

  • Apple Notification Center

If your laptop is a MacBook, all you have to do is click on the icon in the upper-right corner. Click on Notifications and you can see all your latest alerts. To manage notifications, click on the widget in the bottom-right corner of the notifications screen. Click on the app on the left to change notification behaviors.

Task management apps

One of the toughest things about college is juggling all your classes and having a different schedule each day. You’ll have assignments coming your way from every direction, which means you need to find a way to stay on top of it all. Tech can help here, too, giving you a handy place to track all your due dates, assignments, and upcoming exams. Here are some task management apps to consider.

  • Trello

Trello is designed for tracking projects. Here’s how it works. You create a project, then add subtasks to go with those projects. Each subtask is a card that you can then move through the pipeline as you complete it. You can move tasks to In progress and Complete to make it easy to see everything in one place.

  • Todoist

If you’re looking for a simple, streamlined way to manage your tasks, Todoist is worth adding to your laptop. You can go straight to the website or download the app. Once you have an account, you can add items to your list or create projects for more long-term tasks.

  • RescueTime

Before you try improving your productivity, it can help to know where you’re spending your time. RescueTime resides on your laptop, monitoring your activities and offering insights on where you’re spending your time. You can set goals to improve productivity and use RescueTime’s insights to figure out how you can get more out of the time you have.

  • Habitica

For those who are competitive in nature, gamifying your productivity can really help. Habitica makes powering through your to-do list fun, rewarding you with bonus skills and powers. As you achieve your goals, you’ll earn rewards that you specify, such as taking some time to watch your favorite TV show or spending an afternoon reading your favorite book.


Keeping up with all your projects and studies can be messy. You may end up with scraps of paper and sticky notes covering your desk. The right note-taking app can keep everything on your laptop, as well as syncing it with your smartphone so you’ll always have access to them. Here are some note-taking apps that can help you reduce the clutter while still staying on top of everything.


  • Evernote

Evernote goes beyond simply letting you write notes to yourself. You can also use it to store all your class notes. Simply snap a picture of your handwritten notes and Evernote will store them. Best of all, the app can use character recognition to make your class notes searchable.

  • Google Keep

If you have a Google account, you have access to Google Keep, a free note-taking app. You can store notes to yourself, shopping lists, and time-based reminders, all with handy checklists to help you track what you’ve completed. Google Keep is available as an app or online.

  • Apple Notes

If you have a MacBook, you have Apple Notes, a simple tool that lets you store reminders, class notes, and to-do lists. The best thing about Apple Notes is that you can access notes on your iPhone directly from your MacBook. Simply open the note on your phone and the icon pops up on your taskbar, inviting you to open it.

Desktop consolidation

The longer you have your laptop, the more cluttered your desktop can become. You’ll have apps for school, apps for personal use, and all the file folders that hold your schoolwork and important documents. Cleaning up your computer is a little like doing some spring cleaning in your dorm room or apartment. Here are some tips that can help you get everything in order.

  • Toggle icons off and on

One way to quickly clean up your desktop is to toggle your icons off. In Windows 10, go to Settings and choose Personalization and Taskbar, then go to the Notifications area to choose which icons to turn off. It’s a little trickier in MacOS, but you can do it in the Terminal. MacOS will also let you hide icons with Finder and download an app to hide your icons when you’re making a presentation.

  • Group icons into folders

You don’t have to hide your icons to tidy things up. You can instead create folders and put your apps in there. You likely already do this on your smartphone through the use of Groups. But with folders on your laptop, you can create one place for your school-related apps, one place for the tools you use to write papers, and one place for personal apps.

  • Use an app

All those apps can quickly get out of control. One of the best tools to keep things neat and tidy is Shift. With Shift, you simply add your favorite apps, then open that dashboard to get to everything. What really makes Shift useful, though, is that it lets you run different accounts for the same app side by side. So you can have each of your Gmail logins in the Shift toolbar, for instance, and simply toggle between them without having to worry about logging in and out.


Pulling It All Together

The right apps can make a big difference as you’re trying to be more efficient and productive with your schoolwork. Shift supports all your favorite apps, giving you a handy dashboard that will make it easy to find everything. Take a quick tour to see how Shift can help you be more productive and successful this school year.