Open Source Musings


A good utility is worth it's weight in ... well, whatever you use to weigh something valuable. And while you might not use certain utilities often, when you do I can bet that you're happy those applications are installed on your computer.

Let's take a quick look at three utilities for the Linux desktop that I find quite useful. Who knows, you might find them useful too.


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.


(Note: This post was originally published, in a slightly different form, at 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.


(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.


(Note: This post was first published, in a slightly different form, at 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.


How do people take notes on the Linux desktop? Let us count the ways ...

Actually, let's not. There are just too darned many ways to do that deed.

Into that mix comes Notes-Up, a simple yet flexible app for taking, editing, and organizing notes on the elementary OS desktop. Let's take a closer look at Notes-Up why don't we?


For the most part, I like my software simple and focused. Software that does one thing, does it well, and with the minimum of frills.

That goes for the music player that I use on the Linux desktop. I only need something that plays music. I don't need equalizers, harmonizers, transmogrifiers, or anything that makes the hearts of so-called audiophiles flutter.

While idly leafing through the elementary OS AppCenter recently, I came across Byte. It's a music player that (gasp!) plays music. It can do one or two other things, too, but at its core Byte is a music player and nothing else.

Let's take a quick look at it.


Something that that Linux desktop isn't lacking is tools for working with plain text. That's especially true for text editors. I should know — I've tried more than a few in my time.

A while back, I was having a spot of bother with an editor called Gedit. That bother had to do with the editor's search function — I don't recall the details, to be honest. To get around that problem, I turned to another editor called FeatherPad.

I found FeatherPad to be a more-than-adequate editor, one with several useful functions. Even though I looked at it briefly in another post, I've been meaning to take a closer look at FeatherPad. So why don't we do that now?


If you've been around the web for a while, you might recall the First Browser War. It was a digital arms race between Netscape and Microsoft to cram as many features into their web browsers as they could. And they did. The result of that war was buggy, bloated, ungainly software. I don't miss those days ...

Things aren't quite that bad in the web browser world today. But as this article points out, modern browsers still try to do too much. They try to be too much. Even though I use Firefox, I'm always on the lookout for a good minimal, open source web browser. And like the writer of that article, I've used, written about, and liked one called Min. But I also try to keep my options open.

Recently, I was reacquainted with Web, the browser that comes with the GNOME desktop. I remember Web when it was called Epiphany. Back then, it was a lightweight browser with more than a little promise. In those days, it wasn't quite where I thought it should be, though. Several years on, I decided to take another look at Web. Here's what I found.


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

Unless your a coder, a system administrator, or a DevOps person, that editor doesn't need to be bristling with functions and functions. A lightweight text editor is more than enough for most people.

Choices abound. You can use the editor that's baked into your Linux distribution or you can go with one of these lightweight text editors.