In a previous post “Safe Browsing with Linux An Alternative to Windows” I discussed the security issues that might prompt switching to the GNU/Linux operating system. This time, I address the practical issue:
How do I get my work done in Linux?
Windows to Linux software comparison threads and websites are pretty easy to find, but a recent poll on the LinkedIn Linux Users Group had me thinking about my experiences while converting from Windows to Linux. The veteran Linux users will already know this stuff but I see a lot of posts on the group from new Linux users so hopefully this will save them some time and effort.
I made a complete break from Windows and made it a personal priority to find the appropriate FOSS applications to replace the Windows software I left behind. My goal was to learn about Linux and to learn new ways to accomplish my daily tasks. Adopting Linux presents challenges, but the rewards are great. Sometimes installing software in Linux is accomplished easily using the package manager but different distros all have their own way of dealing with acquiring and installing software. This is an issue for the folks who just want to use software to complete a task and move on.
By putting blinders on and focusing solely on Linux FOSS software solutions I found some gems and duds. I’ll share the gems.
Gimp as an alternative to Photoshop. At one time I paid for the full version of Photoshop and used it for years. So far, Gimp has not let me down. It’s a powerful, finely tuned and fully supported piece of software. There are plenty of tutorials, user groups, etc. to get answers to your questions.
If you develop websites, look at Aptana. I tried several HTML editors and eventually landed on Aptana. It works better than anything else I’ve tried and is truly a professional level product. (It’s actually an IDE so it has software development capabilities beyond web software.)
If you used TweetDeck, take a look at Yoono. It doesn’t have the scheduling function but otherwise, identical.
I don’t do a lot of “office” type stuff but so far, Libre Office Suite (which is often included with Linux distros) has been able to open any type of document folks share with me including Powerpoint presentations. I use the word processor and spreadsheet mostly.
Audacity for editing sound files. I recently had to digitize several old reel-to-reel recordings. Audacity has several effect filters that helped me clean up the audio. I would have had to dish out some serious clams for a Windows version of anything with the same level of features.
Video editing, Pitivi and OpenShot worked very well for me. Not as sophisticated as Adobe Premiere but if you’re developing videos for the web, they are probably able to handle whatever you need.
If you use Illustrator in Windows, take a look at Inkscape.
For 3d graphics and animations, Blender is the way to go. I think it might be better than many of the Windows applications available. This is one of the best supported programs I’ve seen. The website is full of video tutorials, the forums provide excellent information and it has a very active user base so no matter what you’re trying to do, you’ll find help quickly. The UI is a bit intimidating, but you’ll overcome that quickly when you realize how powerful this program is.
Many programs written for Windows are also available for GNU/Linux so check the website of your favorite application and you might be surprised to find they already have a Linux version.
If you search high-and-low and still have a couple of irreplaceable applications, maybe setting up a Virtual Machine using Oracle VM Virtual box is the solution. It’s easy to install (even I couldn’t screw it up), then you just load Windows into the VM and use your software from inside the VM. The most annoying part of the entire installation process is the “installing Windows” part. But we can’t blame Oracle for that now can we?
If you are finding that locating and installing software is a frustrating experience in Linux, remember that there are several “distros” or Linux distributions which all have their own way of doing things. Maybe a switch to a different distro would make things easier for you in the long run. Plenty of discussion about Linux versions in forums and on the web so I won’t re-hash that info. Switching operating systems is a big decision so take the time to evaluate your choices carefully and ask the advice of experienced users. Please don’t ask general questions like “I’m new what distro should I use”. Take the time to describe the type of work you do, the software you currently use and explain how comfortable you are with rolling up your sleeves and solving problems. You’ll find you get much better advice.
Finally, I’ll add that FOSS software is not free. Sure you can install and use it without paying a single cent, but the best written programs have professional software developers and companies to support. They are a great way for a small company with limited resources to get some professional software that would otherwise be too expensive. When the presentation you created with FOSS software lands you that big client, don’t forget all the hard work that gave you that excellent software and offer some financial support.
Most of the websites allow you to “donate” or pay whatever you’re comfortable with and they appreciate that support.
You can also offer volunteer support, many ask for help with translation to different languages, you can help test new versions or provide community support in the forums. FOSS software is truly user supported and support is a currency more valuable than cash!
Your comments are welcome here or you can participate in the discussion on LinkedIn.