Open Source Musings

desktop

I've never been one for desktop RSS readers. I'm not sure why, but I've never found one that I really enjoyed using. Instead, I've been happy to lean on web-based readers and to use Newsboat at the command line.

Recently, however, I was looking at what's new in the elementary OS AppCenter and stumbled across Communique. It's a relatively new desktop RSS reader, based on one called Feed Reader, that I thought looked interesting. So, I installed it and gave it a test drive.

Let's take a quick look at Communique, shall we?

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

In the early days of the web, a hundred browsers bloomed. Well, figuratively at least. Back then, there were more than a few of web browsers, but eventually that number was whittled down. Today, we're left with the Big Three and a (very) small handful of other web browsers.

Does the world need another web browser? I'm not the one to decide that. But some people think there is room for alternatives to Firefox, Chrome, and that other browser.

One of those alternatives is Min. As its name suggests (suggests to me, anyway), Min is a minimalist browser. That doesn't mean it's deficient in any significant way. Being open source, under an Apache 2.0 license, of course piques my interest in Min.

Let's take a look at Min and see what it can do.

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While Apostrophe is my Markdown editor of choice at the moment, others occasionally catch my eye. It's not that I'm constantly looking for a new Markdown editor, but part of me likes to know what's out there.

Recently, I stumbled across an editor called Ghostwriter. Well, stumbled across isn't quite the way to describe this discovery. I've used Ghostwriter in the past, and was impressed by its combination of a minimal design and a decent feature set. So I thought it was time to revisit Ghostwriter.

Let's take a look at it.

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

Even though I write for a living, I rarely use a word processor these days. I do most of my work in a text editor. When I do need to use a word processor, I turn to LibreOffice Writer. It's familiar, it's powerful, and it does everything that I need a word processor to do.

It's hard to dispute LibreOffice Writer's position at the top of the free and open source word processor food chain — both in popularity and in the number of features it has. That said, Writer isn't everyone's favorite word processor nor is it their go-to application for writing.

While the number of free and open source word processors has dwindled over the years, LibreOffice Writer isn't the only game in town. If you're in the market for an alternative to Writer that's also open source, test drive these three word processors.

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As someone who writes for a living, I tend to take a lot of notes. Once upon a time, I used a desktop application called Tomboy to do that. Tomboy was a nifty little app, but it ran a bit slowly for my tastes. And I found that it could be more than just a little unstable at times.

On top of that, Tomboy needed something called Mono in order to run. To say that Mono has something of a controversial rep in the Linux world is like saying a monsoon is a little bit of rain. I'm not a zealot, but having Mono on my laptop to run a single application seemed like overkill to me. So, it was bye-bye Tomboy and Mono.

While I now use Standard Notes to take notes, my road to it took me through several other applications, both on the web and on the Linux desktop. With the latter, one that I tried and liked was Gnote — a rewrite of Tomboy in the C++ programming language.

Recently, I decided to give Gnote another look. Here's what I found (and recalled).

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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.

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For the longest time, my favourite tool for manipulating PDF files was pdftk. It's billed as a simple tool for doing everyday things with PDF documents and, believe me, pdftk lives up to that billing.

While I don't use it any longer, I still think pdftk is a great tool and that it can be very useful. But it's a bit too much for my needs at the moment.

So what do I use when I need to fiddle with PDF files? The tool that I turn to most often is PDF Tricks. While limited in what it does, PDF Tricks does that very well. Let's take a look at it.

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

For me, a word processor isn't the best way to write and publish an ebook. It's just a bit too cumbersome for my taste. Having said that, for many people using a word processor is the fastest, easiest, and most familiar option for writing a book.

Firing up your favourite word processor and typing isn't enough, though. You need to, and should, follow a format. That's where a template comes in. A template ensures that your book has a consistent look and feel.

Creating a template isn't difficult and doesn't take too much time. That time and effort, though, can give you a better-looking book.

I'm going to walk you through creating a simple template for writing individual chapters of an ebook using LibreOffice Writer. You can use this template for books in PDF and EPUB formats, and modify it to suit your needs.

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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