Photo of a stylusShopping for graduate students can be hard. We’re making it a little easier this week with a series of gift guides for the special graduate students in your life. We’re kicking off our annual gifts for grads week with hot picks for tech gifts from those who are in the know: our very own GradHacker authors.

Katy – Personalized URL (ex. Your name is your brand as an academic. We’ve talked before about the importance of having a personal website or blog where you can share your portfolios, publications, and have a unified space for your social media. This year, why not buy your favorite grad student a website url! It is a great gift, and if you go through, it can be fairly low cost.

Stylus for touch screens: If you use touch screen devices, you know that sometimes it can be hard using your fingers to do everything you want. Getting a stylus for your iPad or other touch-screen-device-using grad student is a fantastic gift. They are fairly inexpensive,  come in a range of colors, and are super useful. They improve your workflow, reduce mistakes, and you’re less likely to harm the screen. There are many out there to choose from- I’d suggest a simple one but see this article reviewing a number of styles and options.

Alex – The Kindle Paperwhite has transformed my reading habits. As a graduate student, picking up a book for pleasure is often accompanied by guilt. One thinks “I could be reading something for class or research,” making it difficult to read for pleasure. With my Kindle, I have been able to separate reading for work from reading for pleasure. The portability, e-ink technology, and convenience of the back-lit screen make reading on this device a true pleasure. The Kindle pairs nicely with Calibre, a piece of software that helps me manage my growing collection of ebooks and update the device wirelessly. I recommend the Kindle as a gift to graduate students aimed to help them reclaim reading for pleasure.

Erin – Livescribe Smartpen: For the practical yet romantic grad student who believes in digitizing their work, but can’t give up pen and paper, the Livescribe Smartpen may be the perfect gift. It instantly creates digital versions of written documents and can also link the text with sound to keep track of important meetings.

Emily – Storage:   I have heard enough horror stories about grad students who’ve lost entire dissertation chapter drafts, grade sheets, and grant applications due to hard drive crashes, shattered USB drives, and the like to scare me for the entirety of my career. A storage solution could be a really thoughtful gift for someone who doesn’t already have one incorporated into his or her workflow. For cloud enthusiasts, you could try a premium Dropbox subscription (ranging from $9.99/month to $99.00/year). I also back up my files on an external hard drive, via Time Machine on my Macbook. Apple’s Time Capsule would be the fancier version, but I find this process works just fine with the two basic drives that I picked up on sale (one from My Passport and the other a Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex).

Apps:   If you’re shopping for a grad student who uses an iPad on a daily basis, consider a simple gift card for the App Store. That way, he or she can try out a few productivity-boosting apps. Some of my favorite everyday tools are: Pages, for writing and note-taking ($9.99); GoodReader, for PDF annotation ($4.99); and Things, for task management ($19.99).

Software:   Is there a piece of software your grad has been eyeing, that could make daily work a bit more efficient? I would be useless, for example, without Scrivener ($38.25 for an educational license) and DEVONthink Pro Office ($149.95, with less pricey options also available). If you need inspiration, we’ve featured plenty of posts about useful software here at GradHacker over the past few years.

What technology gifts would you like to receive as a grad student? What would you recommend for other grad students? 

[Image by Flickr Paul Jacobson used under creative commons licensing.]