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Back-to-School Tech

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Technology can’t answer those age-old questions that come up this time of year — “Is it back-to-school time already?” and “What happened to summer?” — but it can make the transition from carefree idling to hit-ting the books a little easier.

Here are three software and portable hardware combinations students can use in their classwork and beyond.

ELEMENTARY OR MIDDLE SCHOOL

While younger students can benefit from a laptop, most of them are so familiar with mobile devices that a tablet with a little more power can offer the perfect choice. It’s hard to rival the Apple iPad for ease of use and a polished user experience. There are several models, ranging in size from the iPad mini’s 7.9-inch display to the iPad Pro’s impressive 12.9-inch screen. A traditional iPad, starting at $329, is a good choice for this age range.

With tablet in hand, kids can use a variety of age- and grade-appropriate apps, such as Libby. Available free from the App Store and on Google Play, Libby is a neat mix of old and new that allows kids to borrow any of the thousands of e-books and audiobooks avail-able at their local library. Students with a library card can sample any available books, download them for offline use and keep track of their reading history.

HIGH SCHOOL

Much like in the tablet department, it’s hard to beat the ease of use offered by an Apple device. The new MacBook Air model pro-vides good computing power at a reasonable price, starting at $1,199 with a 13-inch Retina display and 128 GB of storage. Chromebooks, available at a range of prices and specifications, can also offer affordable options.

As for software, a must-have is Microsoft Office. Yes, Google offers a similar program suite on the cloud, but you can’t beat the style and functionality offered by the bundle of productivity applications. Office has you covered whether you’re writing an essay in Word, making advanced spreadsheets in Excel or preparing history presentations in Power-Point. A subscription to Office 365 for use by one account across a variety of devices — including Macs — PCs, tablets and phones, is $69.99 a year. Students are eligible for a fully functional free version. All they have to do is visit www.office.com and provide a school email address.

COLLEGE

As students go away to college, they may not want to lug along the family PC. But if they miss the computing power of a desktop, and their game consoles, they can substitute both with a gaming laptop from Alienware. Fully loaded at $2,199, the R5 model comes with a 17-inch display, an Intel Core i9 pro-cessor, a GTX 1080 graphics card, 32 GB of RAM, a 256 GB solid-state drive and a 1 TB hard drive.

While the R5 can handle any game thrown at it, it’s also ideal for Adobe’s Creative Cloud membership. At $19.99 a month for the first year and $29.99 after that, subscribers have access to a suite of Adobe’s image and video editing tools, including Photoshop.

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