Open Source Musings

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

(Note: This post was originally published at Opensource.com and appears here via a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.)

It's easy to think other people use their computers and software in the same way you do. That they need every feature and function you rely on. That your computing choices are, or should be, their choices.

Take, for example, email clients for the Linux desktop. Thunderbird is arguably one of the most popular open source email applications. It's big, packed with features, and is very extensible. I know a number of people who rely on Thunderbird to handle their email in the same way that others rely on Emacs or Vim] for their text editing needs.

Not everyone needs everything that Thunderbird offers, or even most of it. Some people only need an email client that's light and fast, one that lets them send and receive email with a minimum of fuss.

Presented for your perusal: four lightweight alternatives to Thunderbird for the Linux desktop. These apps might be lean, but they get the job done.

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If there's one category of software that's seem to have had a bit of a boom in recent years, it's software for taking notes. On the desktop, on the web, on mobile devices, there seems to be a new note taking app popping up every couple of weeks.

Whenever I mention tools to take notes, some wag always comes along and says Why not just use ... followed by a name like Logseq, Notion, Obsidian, Emacs and org-mode, or some such application. There's nothing wrong with those applications, but they're not for everyone.

Some people just need a note taking tool just lets them take notes. And nothing more. One smaller, lighter note taking tool that might appeal to the Linux user is Paper.

Let's take a look at it.

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Nowadays, I manage my todo list in a paper notebook. But when I did use a digital tool for that job, my todo list app of choice was Todo.txt. It's a command line tool that save tasks lists as plain text. And although using Todo.txt means jumping to the terminal, it's not too difficult to use and master.

Over the years, I've tried a few graphical applications that work with Todo.txt. Most were, to be blunt, clunky. I always returned to Todo.txt at the command line.

Recently, though, I came across TxDx. It's a desktop application that implements full compatibility with the Todo.txt syntax. The user interface is clean and modern, but definitely not clunky.

Let's take a look at it.

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Here's a quick look at another trio of useful little tools for the Linux desktop that can help you quickly and efficiently tackle some simple tasks.

The utilities I'm about to look at are ones that you might not always use, but which are handy to have around when you need them.

Let's jump in, shall we?

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So much to read, and so little time ...

Blog posts, articles, essays, and more. Like many people, you probably have a pile of bookmarks pointing to whatever you want to read sometime in the future. But those bookmarks also tend to get buried under other ones.

So, what's a poor, overwhelmed would-be reader to do? Turn to a read-it-later app. In the open source world, my long-time favourite is wallabag. Towards the end of 2022, I started hearing more about a read-it-later app called Omnivore. So much so, that I decided to give it a test drive.

Let's take a look at what I found.

Note: If looking for a comprehensive deep dive into Omnivore, this ain't it. I'm only going to look at the basics of using Omnivore and will gloss over the features that I don't use.

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(Note: This post was first published, in a slightly different form, at Opensource.com and appears here via a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.)

I do most of my writing in a text editor and format it with Markdown — articles, essays, blog posts, ebooks, and much more. I'm not the only one, either. Not only do countless people write with Markdown, but there are also more than a few publishing tools built around it.

Who'd have thought that a simple way to format web documents created by John Gruber and the late Aaron Schwartz would become so popular?

While most of my writing takes place in a text editor, I can understand the appeal of a dedicated Markdown editor. You get quick access to formatting, you can easily convert your documents to other formats, and you can get an instant preview.

If you're thinking about going Markdown and are looking for a dedicated editor, here are three open source options for your writing pleasure.

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That we need to protect ourselves online is a given. Not just our identities, but also the logins to the various sites and services that we use daily.

In just about all of the advice that you'll read out there, there's always a recommendation to enable [multi-factor authentication]() (also called two-factor authentication) in whatever you use online to an extra layer of security. Multi-factor authentication (MFA for short) might not be an unscalable wall, but it is an obstacle in the way of someone trying to scam, rob, or impersonate you.

While there are more than a few MFA apps for smartphones, those kinds of tools are sometimes ignored or overlooked on the desktop. But not this time!

Let's take a quick look at three MFA applications for the Linux desktop. They're simple, effective, and open source.

Note: If you're interested in learning how MFA works, read this explanation.

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