Open Source Musings

desktop

Note taking applications like Obsidian, Logseq, Craft and others have become the darlings of the personal knowledge management (PKM for short) crowd. Tools like that have many features and offer opportunities for their users to endlessly twiddle and twern to make those applications more than they are. Or, sometimes, more than they should be.

But not everyone is an adherent of PKM or of pushing tools to their limits. There are folks out there who only need something simple with which to jot down ideas or thoughts, to store that pithy quote or link or recipe. Something that's basic, fast, and which packs few frills.

A note taking tool which fits that bill is V-Notes, a very stripped down app for the GNOME desktop. 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?

Text Pieces

Described by its developer as a Swiss knife of text processing, Text Pieces kind of lives up to that billing. Text Pieces does some weird, wonderful, and at times geeky things to plain text.

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One of the growing cottage industries in the software world is note taking applications. Over the last few years, they've bloomed like a hundred flowers — on the desktop, on the web, and for mobile devices.

Many of those tools are over engineered, with a large number of moving parts and features that the personal knowledge management crowd has embraced and believe are essential. Many of us, though, don't need anything remotely that complex. We only need something basic, with which we can quickly jot down short (or not so short) thoughts, ideas, and the like.

Enter Iotas, which lies on the minimalist end of the note taking tool spectrum. It's a small, simple, and streamlined application for the GNOME desktop. While the developers state that:

It's fairly early days in development here, so please expect a few rough edges.

Iotas actually isn't too bad a tool at the moment, and it has a couple or three interesting features. Let's take a look at it.

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I've never been a distro hopper. Since I first installed Linux on a Pentium 300 desktop in 1999, I've only mainlined perhaps four or five distributions. And always for the longer haul — when a Linux distribution gets plonked on to my hard drive, it usually stays there for years. There's only been one case when that didn't happen, but I don't like to talk about it much.

That said, I have test driven more than a handful of Linux distributions, either via a live CD or live USB, since early 2000s. A few have impressed me. One or two were frustrating. The others left me feeling a bit cold or just ambivalent.

But one distro I hadn't taken a close look at is Zorin OS. It's a distribution that I'd heard about more than once over the years, and usually in glowing terms. Until recently, though, Zorin OS was never strongly enough on my radar for me to give it a go.

In July, 2022 curiosity (for whatever reason) gripped me and I took an extended peek at Zorin OS using a live USB. I liked what I saw, and installed it on my spare laptop. I also decided to use that laptop and Zorin OS as my daily driver for several weeks.

Let's take a look at what happened.

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Despite what the why not just use Emacs/vim/VSCodium/whatever brigade may think and say, not everyone needs a powerful text editor packed with every feature. Including a sink and a death ray.

Some folks just need something simple, something basic with which to edit text. You can do that on the GNOME desktop using Text Edit, which is a stripped down version of the venerable GNOME editor Gedit.

While Text Editor has been around for a few years, I haven't used a GNOME-based text editor in that time so it's kind of new to me. To be honest, I liked using Gedit, so I was surprised when found this application in the elementary OS AppCenter. Just to take it for a spin, to see how well it works. Here's what I learned.

Note: I'm approaching Text Editor from the perspective of someone who writes, not as coder. I'm not in a position to judge how well or badly it works for development tasks. You have been warned.

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Here's a quick look at another trio of useful little tools for elementary OS 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. You can quickly install them from the elementary AppCenter.

Just so you know, two of these apps are pay what you can. You're not obliged to pay to full amount a developer asks for, or pay anything at all. However, any money that you can pass the developer's way helps support the continued development of those apps.

Hourglass

Who doesn't need a simple alarm or timer every so often? One of the simplest and easy to use app of this kind that I've come across for elementary OS is Hourglass.

You can create alarms and countdown timers, and also run a stopwatch. I've never used the stopwatch, and really don't see myself ever needing it. But the alarm and timer functions are very useful.

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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 Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.)

Back in the early and mid-1990s, there was a boom in dedicated HTML editors. Those were a mix of code editor and WYSIWYG tools, which were designed to get more and more people publishing in the then-burgeonening World Wide Web. As the years passed, so did most of those editors.

Over the last while, something similar has been happening with dedicated Markdown editors. Not to the extent of their HTML-only predecessors from a few decades back, but there are more than a handful on the market.

Those editors range from being just glorified text editors to some which are quite good. One dedicated Markdown editor that I've been exercising a lot is Mark Text. It reminds me of an open source version of Typora. While not quite as polished as Typora, Mark Text is quite a flexible editor.

Let's take a look at it.

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

I don't do Windows. The operating system, I mean. At least, not on my own computers and not with any of my own work.

When I was a consultant, I often had to work out of my clients' offices, which meant using their hardware, which also meant using Windows at many of those offices.

Even when using Windows, I tried to install as much open source software as I could. Why? Because it works as well as (if not better than) its proprietary equivalents. One of the applications I always installed was Notepad++, which I looked at for The Plain Text Project.

To be honest, I've wanted a version of Notepad++ for Linux for a while now. Someone made my wish come true in the shape of Notepadqq. Although it's billed as “a text editor for developers,” it's not a bad tool for writers or anyone else, either.

Let's take a look at it.

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Despite all the grand talk of us being in the digital age and of the paperless whatever, many of us still receive and handle more paper than we care to. While most of that can be recycled or shredded, we might need to keep a few of those documents for posterity.

No one wants to deal with drawers full of paper. So why not archive all of your important documents? If you have a scanner or a multi-function printer, and are running the GNOME desktop, then using Document Scanner (which was known for the longest time as Simple Scan) is a quick, easy, and efficient way to do that job.

Let's take a look at it.

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When it comes to editing images and photos on the Linux desktop, the first application that comes to mind is The GIMP. And with good reason: The GIMP is big, powerful, and flexible.

It's also a bit much if you only need to do some basic image editing. Not everyone is a professional photographer or designer. Most of use only need to do basic tasks like cropping, resizing, minor retouching, and the like.

A good option for that is Pinta. To paraphrase Jack Tramiel, Pinta is image editing software for masses, not classes. It's reminiscent of Windows Paint, but with a few more features. Features that you might actually use.

Let's take a quick look at how to do some basic image editing with Pinta.

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