Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Open Source Alternatives that Ease the Transition to Linux

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For many people out there, legacy applications make it difficult to switch to the Linux desktop. Granted, cloud computing has helped to alleviate some aspects of the legacy software challenge. Sadly though, cloud computing hasn’t been able to completely replace legacy Windows applications in their entirety just yet.

Which means locally installed applications are still needed. In this article, I’ll take a look at specific open source applications that have made my switch to Linux, possible, as well as being apps that I rely on daily.

LibreOffice – I’m using Writer, the LibreOffice desktop word processor, right now to write this article. As a whole, LibreOffice is one of the most used applications on my desktop. In addition to Writer, I also frequently use the LibreOffice spreadsheet Calc.

Gedit – I work with text files every single day. And when I do, I prefer to use a simple text editor that isn’t going to add unneeded formatting or other nonsense. When it comes to keeping it simple, gedit is a fantastic text editor. Whether it’s editing conf files or creating a new text file for personal notes, gedit is a fantastic application.

Kazam – All too often, I need to create a how-to video for clients. To make this easier, I use Kazam to record tasks and then share them with clients. Kazam is great in that I can record both my headset audio and the video into a single video file. From there, I can easily upload the finished video to YouTube or other video sharing services.

Nitro – When it comes to a strong task manager, nothing beats Nitro. You can use Nitro either by installing the app onto your computer or phone, or by browsing to and logging in. In both instances, Nitro uses either Dropbox or Ubuntu One credentials to login. Nitro offers to-do list management in two distinct ways: First, you can create specific lists. This allows you to compartmentalize each task in its own space of mini-lists. Second, you then have tasks by date. This means when a task is due, you’re not going to overlook it.

Gparted – You wouldn’t think that I would use Gparted everyday, but with all of the different Linux distributions I use, it’s a frequently accessed application in my office. Partitioning my hard drive allows me to set aside space on my computer so I can test various Linux distributions firsthand. For me, running a virtual machine isn’t always enough to get a sense of how a distribution runs. Sometimes it helps to get a sense for how well the hardware is supported, among other factors. Gparted works great in this department.

Unetbootin – Sometimes I need to run Linux on a computer I don’t use all that often. In instances like this, Unetbootin is a big help. It’s a Linux installer for USB dongles that provides me with a Live Linux install without installing it on my hard drive. Best of all, if I decide later on to install Linux to that rarely used machine, I can boot to the USB dongle and run the Linux installer from there. Unetbootin’s must-have feature is freedom from the worry about downloading ISO images ahead of time. Unetbootin does this for me, on the fly, within the application itself.

Terminal – This one may seem a bit weak, but you must understand that I handle my log viewing and package management via the command line. This means using a terminal is a big part of my day when I run any distribution. It’s actually one of those applications I find myself using whether I’m running OpenSUSE or Arch or Ubuntu.

Firefox – Recently I’ve been experiencing better performance from Firefox than I have with other browsers. Because of this, I’m back with the open source browser and loving every minute of it. Now I still think that Chrome handles extension compatibility with regards to updates better, but overall Firefox is providing a better browser experience. It seems to me that Chrome is becoming increasingly resource-intensive, whereas Firefox appears to be trying to “lighten the load,” so to speak.

Gnome-Screenshot – I also enjoy taking screenshots of various applications when creating how-to tutorials. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, offering a screenshot is useful when describing something overly complex. The application I use for this task is Gnome-Screenshot. I use this application to take my screenshots under XFCE, Unity and Gnome.

SpiderOak (Libraries) – While the application itself may not be completely open source, many of the libraries SpiderOak contributes to and uses, are licensed under the GPL. This makes using this great cloud-based backup tool all the better. I love SpiderOak’s consistent Linux client support and the fact that all of my data is encrypted.

Synapse – I’ve been using keyboard launchers for so long that applications like Synapse have become my “go to” means of locating documents or accessing my favorite applications listed above. With a click of my ctrl-space keys, I’m instantly plugged into my computer’s resources thanks to Synapse. The feature I love most about this app is being able to locate software or documents that I might have forgotten the proper name for. Needless to say, it’s search feature is difficult to beat.

Cairo dock – Because desktop panels and keyboard launchers aren’t right for every occasion, I’ve come to love Cairo dock as a supplement. Cairo dock is attractive, and its plugins are also pretty neat. Options like the sharing launcher and shutdown icons have made Cairo dock a very useful alternative to relying on panels under XFCE exclusively.

Parcellite – As clipboard managers go, Parcellite is one of the most reliable options I’ve ever used. I’ve used a number of other clipboard mangers; however, Parcellite’s hotkeys and auto-paste keep me coming back for more. I also love the fact that I can edit clipped information within the clipboard without losing what was copied in the first place. Features like that make Parcellite a must-have tool for your Linux desktop.

HPLIP – I realize not everyone out there owns a HP printer. However I do own one, and it’s nice to know that it’s always supported across all Linux distributions thanks to HPLIP. Going beyond mere drivers, HPLIP allows me to check my ink levels and access my all-in-one’s scanning options. The single killer feature that HPLIP brings me is the ability to easily set up wireless printers. Doing this without HPLIP would be much more involved.

Final Thoughts

There are literally hundreds of great Linux applications out there to choose from. The applications listed in this article are the best and most commonly used in my own office. You might even have some great apps that you’d add to this list yourself. If you do, I’d encourage you to leave a comment below to keep the conversation flowing.

What I enjoyed most about this list is that the applications provided here are all 100% Linux-compatible, without excuse. And because of these apps, I’m lucky to be freed from legacy software that would otherwise bind me to Windows or OS X.

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