50 Essential Online Tools For Every Computer Science Student

Computer science students need to acquire skills in multiple areas — arguably more so than many other study disciplines. So not surprisingly, they need a large toolbox, for any of several activities encountered in the typical college program. To that end, here is a reference list of 50 essential tools (software and resources) for computer science students.


  • We’ve left out the typical Web browsers, email clients, most IM/ chat clients, search engines, video sharing sites, etc., and given a sample of tool categories that have numerous options.
  • Some tools listed are free, others follow a freemium model (free with paid upgrade options).

Communication and Collaboration

  • Google Hangouts: Free group conversations and live voice and video, from a browser or mobile app.
  • Strike: Create Web-based task lists and share with classmates, colleagues and other collaborators.

Data Parsing, Data Conversion, File Retrieval, Format Checking

  • JSONLintValidate JSON content and convert to prettyprint mode.
  • Mr. Data ConverterConvert between JSON, XML, HTML, CSV and other data formats.
  • net2ftpUse this Web-based FTP client to download assignments or upload your course work when using public campus computers.

IDEs, Code Snippet Savers, Coding Sandboxes

There are a lot of code sandboxes out there, most that handle multiple programming or scripting languages. Here’s a sampling of a few.

  • Chop : Save code snippets with notes and share with classmates, project partners or teaching assistants.
  • GistGist, a collaborative code and data snippet repository from Github that lets you save secret or public snippets that people can fork as well as leave comments or ask questions.
  • Ideone.comRun and debug syntax-highlighted code in the browser for over 40 programming and scripting languages.

Web Site Development and Testing

  • Bounce: Enter a URL to get a Web page snapshot (or upload an image), add annotations, and share with colleagues via Facebook or Twitter to solicit feedback.
  • BrowsershotsTest browser compatibility across OSes by requesting bulk screenshots for an URL running on up to 180 browsers.
  • CodePenA Web browser-based sandbox for front-end Web development, with markup options for Haml, Markdown, etc., stylesheet options for Sass, LESS or Stylus, and scripting options for JavaScript, CoffeeScript or LiveScript.
  • DabbletA sandbox with configuring interface for testing HTML+CSS code snippets — with save-to-Github Gist (above).
  • IE NetRendererFor when you absolutely need to check how Internet Explorer renders a page in versions 5.5 and 6 through 11.
  • JS Bin: Do your JavaScript development and debugging; with a long list of framework and JS library choices, export to Github Gist, and other features, including console panel.
  • JSFiddleA front-end Web page development sandbox with real-time collaboration including screen sharing, text and audio chat, and more.
  • Web Design Tools: Not a tool per se, but a big list of over 80 Web design tools for browser, desktop and mobile use.

Reference, Notetaking, Bookmarking, Studying, Planning, Projects, Presentations

  • EasyBib: When you have to cite references in a proper format (MLA, APA, Chicago, AMA, etc) for a term paper, use Easybib to help you get the citation right, whether the reference is a Web site, book, newspaper, journal or any of a total of nearly 60 source types.
  • EvernoteSave notes, bookmarks, Web clippings, sketches and more, from a browser (desktop/ laptop) and sync via the Cloud for access from other computers or mobile devices.
  • ExamTime: There’s a lot to learn in Comp Sci; test your ongoing study efforts by creating and using your own notes, quizzes, flash cards, free-form mind maps with multiple sticky notes per node — or use the searchable study resources created by other users.
  • FreedcampA free (limited) alternative to Basecamp, for managing class projects, with collaboration features, notification via IM/SMS and email, project templates and more.
  • GliffyFor when you need to create wireframes, flowcharts, sitemaps, network diagrams and more — with collaboration features. Also available as an extension/ plugin for select Web browsers.
  • PearltreesOrganize your Web page bookmarks, files, photos, and notes in a structured, mind map-like, navigable visual format, via drag-and-drop or add-by-email feature, and social sharing.
  • PivotalTrackerSimple project management, with free solo accounts, plus sync to Cloud for computer and mobile device access.
  • PocketBookmark Web pages, add tags for easy search, read saved pages in a nicely formatted manner, plus sync to Cloud for for computer and mobile device access.
  • PonderAn online reading app designed for K-12 and college students, with embedded commenting and collaborative features.
  • PoppletAnother mind mapping-like visual organizer similar to Pearltrees (above), but more free-form, with export to image and PDF formats, and language support for English, Japanese, Korean and Hebrew.
  • Prezi: Instead of boring old slides for your class presentation, use Prezi to create dynamic, more mind map-like zooming presentations. “Edu Enjoy” license free for students registering with school email address.
  • ReadabilityMakes ugly, unreadable Web pages easy to read, with an estimated reading time displayed.
  • SlideShareCreate and share Web slideshows, infographics and other content for your big project presentation.
  • StudyBlue: Create your own study flash cards in a browser — with import option from your Evernote account — then consume them on a mobile device, or browse over 200M pieces of student user-generated study content (free and paid).
  • TeuxDeuxManage your to-do list in stylish calendar format.
  • TrelloOrganize your tasks and ideas in a stackable card format.
  • Wunderlist Create and share to-do and reminder lists with course project teammates (with limited free task assignment) or just manage your own life — with Cloud sync for easy access from other computers and mobile devices.


  • AnonymouseFor when you need to browse without giving away your browser’s and computer’s details including IP address.
  • CoderwallGamified coder community where you can browse tips from experienced developers or earn badges for your own coding achievements.
  • Google DriveGoogle Drive is like a Swiss Army knife of online tools, with spreadsheet, word processing, presentation, diagramming, file storage and other features.
  • IFTTTSet up triggers that use two or more of over 100 online “channels” (email, social media, cloud storage, note repositories, etc.) to create automated tasks for managing content, notifications and other online actions.
  • LastPassForget trying to remember dozens of passwords when you can use the LastPass browser plugin to manage your online passwords.
  • PixlrEdit photos and other images online, sourced from your computer, an URL, or online photo libraries including Facebook.

Learning Resources

While not strictly tools in terms of software, these Web pages are worth taking note of for the wealth of computer science and programming information they hold. It never hurts to at least know what other schools are teaching, and you can learn for free, if you want.

  • Algorithms in the Real WorldCarnegie Mellon University offers up course material from several semesters of its “Algorithms in the ‘Real World’.”
  • Cheat SheetsA large collection of cheat sheets of interest to computer science students, good for quick reference use.
  • Dictionary of Data Structures and AlgorithmsA handy alphabetically-indexed list of data structure and algorithm definitions and overviews, with links to implementation examples.
  • Open Online CoursesAn indexed directory for finding free online lectures of various course material, including computer science, from various universities.
  • GithubOne of the largest collections of code, for private and open source use, with repository forking, commenting, Git versioning and other features.
  • IT eBooksDon’t blow your book budget on expensive computer books without checking them out in digital format first at IT eBooks.
  • Apple iTunes UniversityFor when you want to check out course lectures and assignment materials from Computer Science programs at other colleges, including Stanford and others.
  • MIT OpenCourseWareProbably the grandaddy of free online college course materials, from MIT and other schools.
  • Stack OverflowFor when you’re done racking your brain trying to figure out why your code doesn’t work or how to do something tricky, ask the community nicely at Stack Overflow.
  • Skiena’s Algorithms Lectures: A sizeable collection of lecture materials (video, audio, slides) on specific algorithms from Professor Steven Skiena’s lectures at SUNY Stony Brook.
  • What Comp Sci Students Should Know: A helpful overview of skills a computer science student should have, plus a selection of tool and resource links.