Around 10 years ago I switched from Windows to Linux as my main operating system (OS) at home. I support Windows at work and know of its many problems. It is a love-hate relationship with Windows for I love the money given me for my expertise in solving the issues, but I hate the way Windows constantly breaks, affecting my users. Moreover, if one problem is fixed it may cause another problem – often known as the “teeter totter” effect. Very frustrating for me and the user.
So, at home at least, I am saved from Windows by using Linux Mint. While Linux Mint is rock solid as an OS, software is still necessary to do specific tasks. When picking my software I always look for cross platform (runs on Linux, Windows and MacOS) applications with minimal bloat.
Word Processing, Spreadsheets and Presentations are the basics for any productivity tasks. While Microsoft offers Microsoft 365 Personal for $70 a year, Linux Mint installs with LibreOffice for no cost. LibreOffice installs with a full suite of applications, including database, math and drawing applications. For online apps that I can use anywhere with Chrome and Chromium browsers, I use Google Docs, Spreadsheets, Presentation, Form and Drawing which are free for use with my Google Account.
Microsoft used to have a very popular application called Microsoft Money. Prior to Linux, I used Windows and Microsoft Money to balance my checkbook and savings accounts. Microsoft Money was a local application as were most back in the days of Windows XP. With my switch to Linux, I chose Moneydance back in 2002 and have been using it ever since. One way to achieve cross platform compatibility is to write the application in Java – of which Moneydance is a great example.
A few years ago, my wife and I decided that it was time to go paperless at home. I was sick of dealing with file cabinets full of documents received in the mail. As a first step, I opted for paperless delivery from any banking, utility and insurance companies. From now on I could download statements instead of receiving them in the mail. For past documents I needed a good scanner and software. For software, I chose Hamrick Vuescan. Vuescan gives me complete control over my Fujitsu fi-5120C scanner that I picked up on eBay. I was able to buy the scanner cheaply because it is no longer natively supported on Windows 10. Vuescan has built in drivers for many older scanners. I highly recommend the professional version of VueScan which can be purchased for $90 – pay once and use forever.
Aside from the aforementioned LibreOffice Draw and Google Drawing, everyone needs a good graphics editor to at least crop and resize images. Fortunately Linux Mint has a simple Screenshot program as part of the base install. For further enhancing images, I use Pinta which is a simpler tool than GIMP. Honorable mention goes to Inkscape which can open Photoshop files. In the Windows world, I have enjoyed using IrfanView for many years.
Many self-professed geeks are also musicians as well. There are a few music creation programs in Windows that come with a huge price tag. The one open source choice for me is MuseScore. MuseScore can create scores from scratch using templates and a wizard to select the preferred type of music. One newer feature allows the user to upload PDF documents of music which can be interpreted through an Audiveris engine using music optical character recognition. The quality of the PDF file and difficulty of the score is will govern the output of the MuseScore file. I have also used LilyPond and Frecobaldi to create beautiful PDF files with midi output.
Video and Music
For media playback I use VLC and I use Handbrake to rip videos from DVDs. Linux Mint now has Celluloid installed which is lightweight compared to VLC. I use Plex to store, view and record live TV via my HDHomeRun device and watch videos on tablets, smart TVs and more. I used to rip music from CDs using Sound-juicer, but now I buy my music online and download the MP3 files. For video editing I use OpenShot which is pretty simple to use, but still has some powerful features. OBS Studio is great for recording live video and from old composite sources like video tapes. Finally, Audacity is a wonderful audio file editing program.
Over the years I have experimented with using Windows software in Linux, but have had mixed results. CrossOver Linux claims to run many Windows programs based on Wine (Wine Is Not an Emulator). Applications run in bottles which prevent cross contamination in case of viruses and malware. Some applications run well, but many do not. A better experience for running Windows in Linux is through Oracle’s VirtualBox, a virtual machine manager.
As shown, there is no shortage of Linux applications that can be used every day for productivity, utility and entertainment. Most of the software is open source and thus free for use. What Linux software do you use?