Open Source Musings

desktop

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

(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, 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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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?

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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.

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