Open Source Musings

Sharing a passion for Linux and open source, with a decidedly non-techie slant

Everyone learns in different ways. Some like to learn from experience — by poking around and breaking (and fixing) things. Others like to take courses, while some people learn best from books.

When it comes to Linux, there's no shortage of books on the subject. Since I started using Linux in 1999, I've read more than my share of those tomes. One that I've been meaning to write about for a while is Learn Linux in a Month of Lunches by Steven Ovadia.

The name of the author might sound familiar to you. Steven Ovadia, if you don't know, runs the Linux Rig blog and does the excellent The Linux Setup interview series. So he knows a thing or three about Linux. But how does Ovadia's knowledge and enthusiasm translate into a book? Let's find out.

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In a previous post, I looked at using the lowriter command to convert word processor files to different formats supported by LibreOffice Writer. That post also included a brief mention of the commands for converting spreadsheets and slide decks.

After publishing that post, another way to convert files at the command line using LibreOffice popped into my memory.

Run this command to do a conversion:

soffice --headless --convert-to [file-format] [file-name].[file-extension]

(You might be wondering about the --headless option. That just stops an empty, and mildly annoying, LibreOffice window from opening on your desktop when you do a conversion.)

You can use that command to convert individual file or do a bulk conversion. If, say, you want to convert a Word file to PDF, use this command:

soffice --headless --convert-to PDF myFile.docx`

For example, use the command below to convert all Microsoft Excel files in a folder to ODS (the format used by LibreOffice Calc):

soffice --headless --convert-to ods *.xlsx

Why use this method instead of the one I wrote about previously? It works with all formats supported by LibreOffice. And you only need to remember one command, rather than the commands for each component of the LibreOffice suite.

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #cli #opensource #libreoffice

Recently, I came across some documents that I'd written at a former Day JobTM. A company that uses That Other Word Processor. You know the one I mean ...

I wanted to convert those files to both ODT and PDF. Opening them individually in LibreOffice Writer to do the deed would have been a chore. Plus, I'm lazy. So I needed to find a different solution.

Then I remembered that you can run LibreOffice Writer from the command line. Really! And, in doing so, you can convert files in bulk. To do that, crack open a terminal window. Then type:

lowriter --convert-to [file-format] *.[file-extension]

To convert the files I wrote using that other word processor to ODT, I typed:

lowriter --convert-to odt *.docx

In a few seconds, I had a bunch of ODT files. I did the same thing to create a bunch of PDF files, just substituting odt in the command with pdf.

You can convert between files in any format that LibreOffice Writer supports. You can also convert individual files. Just type the name of the file at the end of the command.

But what about spreadsheets and slide decks? You can also use the —convert-to option with the commands localc (LibreOffice Calc) and loimpress (LibreOffice Impress) to convert a file or to do a batch conversion.

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #cli #opensource #libreoffice

Although I hate to admit it, sometimes words just aren't enough. Every so often, you need to how and not just tell. Literally. And there are times when a screen capture, or set of screen captures, doesn't cut it either.

What you need is a short video. More to the point, a screencast. Unless you're doing something professionally, all you need is a quick and dirty recording. A great tool for doing that is Peek. Peek is simple, fast, and surprisingly flexible.

Let's take a look at it.

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(Note: This post was originally published, in a slightly different form, at The Plain Text Project and appears here via a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.)

While I'm a big fan of plain text, I'm also a big fan of both privacy and of taking control of as much of my data as I can. Plain text is great for doing that.

If you find yourself using a platform or a tool that winds up not respecting your privacy, lain text enables you can easily move your information elsewhere. All without having to worry about fiddly conversions.

That's especially true when it comes to taking notes. You might be familiar with Evernote and Google Keep. I've used them in the past, but my trust in the companies behind both was eroded several years ago. Which is one of the reasons why I turned to Standard Notes.

What if you want even more control? You can turn to Joplin. It's billed as An open source note taking and to-do application with synchronisation capabilities, and it does a very good job of all that.

Let's take a look at how to use Joplin to organize your information.

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I've never had great relationships with command line text editors. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe it's just we don't have enough in common with each other to form a strong bond.

Recently, though, I was working with a command line application that seemed to play better with terminal text editors than with graphical ones. So, I duly set my default editor to the venerable GNU nano editor. Why nano? It's the only terminal editor installed on my computer. While I've used nano in the past, I was quickly reminded that it isn't for me.

Instead of using software I don't particularly like, I searched around for something similar and came across Micro. Billed as a modern and intuitive terminal-based text editor, it sounded like a good substitute for nano. Here's what I discovered.

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Kind of bored seeing all these proprietary operating systems and apps at All Things Open. If you're serious about Open Source, use it

I know Shaun, and I know how passionate he is about free and open source software. And I agree with his stance.

That said, when it comes to using open source software on closed platforms, I'm of two minds. As you might guess, those seemingly opposed and contradictory ideas are difficult for me to reconcile.

On one hand, I believe that if you intend to embrace open source you should do it wholeheartedly. That means running open source software on open source operating systems. That means taking the time to adapt to both. That means learning what you need and what you don't need. That means adapting to new user interfaces and to shortcuts and commands. All of that takes time, but the results are worth it.

On the other hand, I understand that open source can be intimidating for some people. They need to ease into it. That means gradually replacing their proprietary software with open source alternatives on Windows and MacOS. Later, they may want to move to Linux in the form of Ubuntu (or one of its variants), elementary OS, or Linux Mint. Or not.

While I'd love more people to fully embrace using open source software on open platforms, I also realize that it's not an option for everyone. At least, not in the short term. As wrote in another post in this space:

Getting more people using open source, and embracing the ideas and values behind it, is the right thing to do. It’s not easy, but it can be done with very little pain. Who knows: by showing people the open source way, we might get some of them to spread the word.

In the end, that benefits us all.

Scott Nesbitt

#opensource #opinion

(Note: This article was originally published at Opensource.com and appears here via a CC-BY-SA 4.0 license.)

When you think of the word wiki, examples like MediaWiki or DokuWiki probably come to mind. They're open source, useful, powerful, and flexible. They can be great tools for collaborating, working on your own, or just organizing the piles of information in your life.

On the other hand, those wikis are also big. They need quite a bit of additional digital plumbing to run. For many of us, this is overkill, especially if we only want to use wikis on our desktops.

If you want to get that wiki feeling on your desktop without dealing with all of that plumbing, you easily can. There are a number of solid lightweight wikis that can help you organize your information, keep track of your task, manage your notes, and more.

Let's take a look at three lightweight, desktop wikis.

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In my work on The Plain Text Project and for Opensource.com, I've looked at ... well, a lot of text editors over the years. And when readers didn't see their favourite editor in an article, they suggested I include it.

Besides the usual suspects, one editor that kept popping up was Geany. While I haven't written a lot about Geany, I'm not unfamiliar with it. Despite being aimed at developers, Geany was for years the editor I used when working on LaTeX documents.

Since it's been quite some time since I've used it, so I recently decided to give Geany another look. Let's jump in.

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