Open Source Musings

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

Ah, the mouse ... It made computing so much easier for so many people. Why memorize a bunch of arcane commands when you can point and click?

There are times, though, when a mouse just gets in your way.

Some people, believe it or not, work better with just their keyboards. Using combinations of keystrokes and navigation keys makes them more efficient and more productive, even in a graphical environment.

One task that lends itself quite well to being keyboard driven is note taking. Let's take a quick look at two note taking applications for the Linux desktop that work better with just a keyboard.

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(Note: This post was originally published, in a slightly different form, at Opensource.com and appears here via a CC-BY-SA 4.0 license.)

Imagine, for a moment, you've been tapped to give a presentation. As you're preparing your talk, you think, I should whip up a few slides. So how are you going to do that, young presenter?

Maybe you prefer the simplicity of plain text, or maybe you think software like LibreOffice Impress is overkill for what you need to do. Or perhaps you just want to embrace your inner geek.

It's easy to turn files formatted with Markdown into attractive presentation slides. Here are four tools that can do help you do the job.

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When I switched to elementary OS in late 2020, I decided that my commitment to it would include trying to use as many applications coded specifically for the distribution as possible. So far, I've succeeded. While I do use some so-called standard open source applications, much of what I use on my desktop is curated for elementary OS in its AppCenter.

Let's spend the next few hundred words looking at three of those applications. I might not use them all of the time, but they definitely come in handy when I need them.

Minder

Mindmapping can be a very powerful creativity technique. A mindmap lets you visualize your ideas and how they fit together, and can unblock a mental log jam.

I usually pull together mindmaps on paper. But when I don't want to kill trees and waste ink, or don't have pen and paper handy, I turn to Minder.

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I can't believe I missed the announcement (and thanks to Steven Ovadia for pointing it out): elementary OS recently turned 10.

And can't believe it's been 10 years since the project started! That tempus sure does fugit ...

I heard about elementary when it came out a decade back, but for a variety or reasons (which I've forgotten) I waited a couple of years before taking it for a spin. That was just before the distribution switched to its current window manager, so the elementary OS desktop looked a bit different than does today. It still looked fine, but there were a few unsanded edges.

Even then I saw the potential in elementary OS — a Linux distribution for average computer users, folks who didn't want to embrace their inner geeks. They just wanted to get stuff done on desktop, and maybe move away from MacOS or Windows with a minimum of fuss and pain.

As acquaintance said, elementary OS carries forward the promise that Ubuntu made, then abandoned, about being the Linux distribution for everyone. And I believe it is.

While I didn't think elementary OS was quite ready to be my daily driver in its early days, I kept an eye on it. The distribution got better and better as time passed. It became more polished, more stable. Then in 2020 I embraced elementary OS fully. I haven't looked back and don't see a reason to switch to another flavour of Linux.

Here's hoping for another 10 (and more) years of elementary OS. I'm looking forward to seeing how it evolves and grows in the coming months and years.

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #desktop #elementaryOS

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

Ever have a moment in which an idea or thought or quote or whatever suddenly popped into your head. A moment when you needed to get that idea or quote or whatever down before you forgot? Yeah, me too.

Once upon a time, people did that with pen and paper using something called a scratchpad. Actually, they still do. Using a paper scratchpad works, but why scramble for analog tools when you can go digital? And why use something complex when you can use plain text?

Why a Scratchpad?

You could, as I just mentioned, have a thought or idea. Something that you need to do or someone whom you want to contact. A scratchpad can be an extension of your short-term memory. Use one to put down whatever’s popped into your head before it fades away.

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Once upon a time, carrying your todo list with you mean keeping a sheet of paper or a notebook in your pocket or bag or somewhere else within easy reach. Nowadays, it's a lot easier thanks to smartphones.

There are more than a couple of todo list managers for Android. Some of them are even open source. I've tried several over the years and they've either been bare bones or they've packed every bell and whistle imaginable. One of the better ones that I've tried is Tasks, which is based on the late, lamented Astrid todo list app.

Tasks lies in the middle ground between the simple and the (sometimes overly) complex mobile todo list apps out there — it does a lot, but doesn't (and doesn't try to) overwhelm you.

Let's take a look at it.

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(Note: This post was first published, in a slightly different form, at Opensource.com and appears here via a CC BY-SA 4.0 license).

One perception that Linux can't seem to shake off is that you can't do anything without using the command line. A number of people in my circle have been using Linux effectively for years, and they've yet to crack open a terminal window.

Having said that, working at the command line can make certain tasks faster and more efficient. If you’re using older hardware, command line tools are an excellent alternative to graphical applications since they don't use too many resources.

One of those tasks playing music. You can do that in a terminal. How? Here’s a look at three command line music players.

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Once upon a time, I used a Linux distribution called Ubuntu quite extensively. One of my favourite apps for Ubuntu was a Markdown editor called UberWriter.

What made UberWriter a favourite was that it was minimalist. It was clean with no distractions. It was easy to use. And it had several nice features that complemented its aesthetics.

Then, one day, UberWriter started acting wonky on my desktop. I can't remember how or why, but it became practically unusable — and not just for me, either. I uninstalled it, opting instead for a text editor and never looked back.

Recently, though, a friend pointed me in the direction of a Markdown editor called Apostrophe. After doing a bit of poking around, I learned that the editor is UberWriter in a new guise. Of course, I immediately decided to give it a go. Here's what happened.

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