Open Source Musings

elementaryOS

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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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

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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When I switched to elementary OS, I resolved to use as many applications written for that Linux distribution as I could. There are quite a few that help me do the work that I need to do.

One of those tasks is outlining, mostly of my writing. I usually use an outline when tackling longer works, but every so often an outliner comes in handy when I need to structure a shorter piece or if something's working out the way it should.

I haven't used a desktop or web-based outliner in a while. Most of my outlining of late has been done in plain text. While I wasn't looking for it, I stumbled across an outliner specifically developed for elementary called (predictably) Outliner. Like many of the applications developed for elementary, Outliner is simple — both in the number of features and to use. But it is quite effective and efficient at what it does.

Let's take a closer look at Outliner.

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It all started with an upgrade.

In October, 2020 version 20.10 of Ubuntu came out. As I usually do, I duly clicked the button to start the process.

That upgrade seemed to go smoothly — everything installed quickly with no conflicts or error messages. I walked away to make a cup of white tea, and when I came back the installation had finished and my laptop rebooted.

It was then that I noticed a problem. A fairly big one. Instead of a login screen, I saw a field of aubergine (the colour, not the vegetable). I thought that my laptop was sleeping, so I pressed some keys to try to wake it up. It didn't work. I rebooted, but I was faced with the same problem.

That definitely wasn't a good place to be in.

It would have been easy to freak out, but instead I saw this an opportunity to do something that I had planned to do in early 2021: migrate to elementary OS.

Luckily, I'd done a backup a couple of days previously and my day-to-day work is synced with Nextcloud so I wasn't going to lose anything. On top of that, I had a bootable USB flash drive with elementary on it so I was ready to go.

As a friend wrote in an email:

I'm guessing you experienced one moment of dread (as the screen sat there, blank and aubergine, lifeless), followed by one moment of elation (a blank slate! I can finally do that thing!).

I did feel both. And I embraced that elation.

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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 licence.)

I've had a soft spot for Elementary OS since I first encountered it in 2013. A lot of that has to do with the distribution being very clean and simple.

Since 2013, I've recommended Elementary to people who I've helped transition to Linux from other operating systems. Some have stuck with it. Some who moved on to other Linux distributions told me that Elementary helped smooth the transition and gave them more confidence using Linux.

Like the distribution itself, many applications created specifically for Elementary OS are simple, clean, and useful. They can help boost your day-to-day productivity, too.

Let's take a look at five of those apps.

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Since I first encountered it in 2013, I've had a soft spot for Elementary OS. I like Elementary because it's simple.

It's not a Linux distribution for the techie. Elementary is for the ordinary person, the person who just wants to get some work done. It's not for someone who likes to finely tweak their desktop or who edits configuration files within a centimetre or two of their lives.

No. Elementary is simple. It's concise. It's easy to learn and use. As someone I know pointed out, Elementary OS carries forward the promise Ubuntu made, then abandoned, about being the Linux distribution for everyone.

It's been a while since I last used Elementary, so I figured it was time give it another look. Ready? Here we go.

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