Getting Stuff Done on Linux [Part 1]

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One thing you hear often about Linux is that there’s no software for it. This is simply not true. There may not be much proprietary software for it, but there is some, and there are plenty of free alternatives to what most offices use every day.

This is just a quick overview of some of the programs out there, and it’s the first of two parts.This first posting focuses on applications for creating content. The next one will be more internet-based. I’ll go more in-depth into some of them at a later time. Many of these are also available on Windows and OSX, so you can experiment with them in the comfort of whatever OS you’re used to without making a commitment to switch. This listing is focused primarily on the types of things that are commonly needed for work- or school-related tasks, not necessarily for home desktop use.

Office Space

Open Office

Common tasks in any office environment include word processing, working with spreadsheets, making presentations, and sometimes handling databases. All of these tasks can be completed using, a spinoff from Sun’s Star Office.


OOo is a cross-platform office suite, so you can try it out without switching to Linux. For Mac OSX users, though, I’d recommend trying it out with NeoOffice, which is Aqua-native. It also has support for Microsoft formats, so you can share files with MS users. Be warned that this can be imperfect, usually if a font used to create the document is not available on the other computer.

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OOo Writer (the word processor) has a better layout engine than MS Word does. The frames for holding content and adding captions are a good idea taken from desktop publishing suites. For presentations, Impress is top-notch. The ease of switching layouts for the slides and changing the whole presentation’s theme is great. Base is a bit of an unusual program. It can make its own native standalone database files, but it can also work with databases running on the computer, such as MySQL. Calc is the one part I would say isn’t really up there with MS Office. Excel is very good. Basic spreadsheet tasks work fine in Calc, but if you want to do something advanced, like find the trend line of a scatter plot, you need Excel. If you need Excel’s advanced features, MS Office can be installed on Linux using software like Crossover which adds just enough stuff to the Linux install for the Windows program to feel like it’s running on Windows. Lighter-weight alternatives to OOo include Abiword (word processing) and Gnumeric (spreadsheets). And of course there is always Google Docs.


For making signs, fliers, brochures, newsletters, etc., you want Scribus. Scribus is a desktop publishing program that gives you complete control over the layout of elements on the page. It works with CMYK color profiles and has PDF output, so the results are perfect for sending off to the printer’s. Because Microsoft has not seen fit to release specs for their Microsoft Publisher format, .pub files cannot be imported, unfortunately. Scribus does run on all major platforms, however.


Everybody mentions the GIMP, but how many mention Krita ?


The GIMP’s greatest shortcoming is its lack of CMYK support. It only does RGB. Krita does CMYK. If you don’t know what that means, you probably don’t care. Pro photographers and printers care though, because CMYK are printer colors. Krita’s a bit limited as compared to the GIMP, though, so if whatever you’re doing is going to stay digital, go with the GIMP. GIMP’s on about the same level as Corel Paint Shop Pro, in terms of what it can do. If you are used to Photoshop’s layout but don’t need its advanced features, GimpShop is a modified version of the GIMP, made to feel like Photoshop. If you do need the advanced features, Photoshop CS2 can be used on Linux if you use WINE, the Windows compatibility layer on which Crossover is built.

(By) Mackenzie is a college student who likes to promote Linux and Free/Libre Software. Most of her free time is spent on the computer, helping new users, or hanging out with some of the friends she’s made in the Linux community. Check out her blog, Ubuntu Linux Tips & Tricks.

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Comments (29)
  • mp3fake

    The Possibility development given project for other operating systems? As beginner user LINUX I am certainly interested in given application. And it is impossible will cite an instance and comparisons with the other utility?

  • moc

    There’s actually more software available for Linux than there is for Windows if you’re capable of searching. You don’t have to worry about it spying on you either. I do things with my computer that most people didn’t even have a clue is possible. I’m glad that noobs don’t “get it” with Linux. We don’t need them nor want them onboard. Linux is for the elite and Windows is for everyone else, the way it should be and the way it should stay.

  • IceTheNet

    Linux falls far short of windows on many applications. Applications do exist for Linux but the level of complexity and sophistication fall way short. Most applications are clunky and lacking in functionality and design. Tell me one application that can touch even close the capability of Dreamweaver or Photoshop and would use Linux full time. I love Linux it is one of the best internet servers in the world. It does many things well but trying to say that gimp or Scribus or any other application that exists for Linux is any competition at all for adobes offerings is incompetent at best. If you want some basic graphics and mediocre web development equipment perhaps a word processor then Linux will fill your need. If you need to get real work done and explore the full capabilities of graphics and web design / programming then windows will be the obvious choice. I run windows and have Ubuntu running in Virtual Box for testing apps on a Linux platform. All of my serious work is done on windows. I do however have high hopes for Linux someday it may become good enough to actually compete with windows but not today, not today. First Linux needs a major overhaul we have the technology but not the ambition. the file structure is a joke. who thought that it would be cool to name directory’s etc or bin. It makes it hard to navigate and find applications that are a breeze in windows because you know you find them in “program files”. The whole structure leads to a very messy operating system that makes you search for hours just to find a simple file. Separation of information is what is holding Linux back. the information for each program needs to be held together so that both programmers can find and fix problems fast and that end users can find what they are looking for fast. I end up searching through endless amounts of icons just to find a simple file to edit to make something work. I usually have to goto the program manager and get a file listing to figure out where the heck some idiot has thrown the darn configuration file so I can edit it and get what I want to work working. Not to mention the endless hours of searching the scattered documentations reading endless bull that some moron has spent way to much time on unnecessary wording just to find the information on what I need to change. Honestly I think they spend more time writing than programming. No Linux has a long way to get to get to the point where it is anything close to windows in the realm of serious applications and structure that is user friendly. Linux has good points and bad points just like windows.

    • Mackenzie

      The vast majority of people out there using pirated Adobe software will never use half of what the open source alternatives offer, let alone all that the Adobe stuff has. Unless you are a professional photographer, you don’t need Photoshop. Personally, I can’t stand Photoshop because it overcomplicates everything. What I like is Jasc Paint Shop Pro 8. I have no idea how it is since Corel bought it though.

      Dreamweaver is to avoided anyway. It makes a mess nearly as bad as Front Page. Nvu Kompozer is a WYSIWYG which, unlike the competition, knows how to work with CSS properly.

      Perhaps you haven’t heard of the $PATH variable (just as you’ve never heard of paragraphs). The $PATH variable means you don’t need to know where the program lives. Just type the name of it, and the system will find it for you. The separation of files is a good thing. It’s what allows different programs to share libraries so that you don’t have 15 copies of the same libraries and giant installers, like on OSX and Windows. Users do not need to go about in the directories outside /home. The filesystem is fine. It matches all UNIX filesystems, and it makes perfect sense to anyone willing to look into it–just as I suspect the stuff inside C:\SYSTEM32\ makes sense to anyone willing to look into it. Do end users look in C:\SYSTEM32? No. Do they look in /usr or /sbin or /var? No. The farthest they may look is /etc for system configuration, but they needn’t. There are graphical tools for configuring all of that. Unless you’re administrating a server (in which case you’d better know your way around the file system and have no fear of the command line, because that’d simply make you unfit to be a server admin), you don’t need to look at system files.

  • James

    If you’re going to mention KOffice apps, you should mention KWord too. Its use of frames sticks it neatly between typical word processors and those obsessive behemoths like Aldus/Adobe PageMaker.

  • Troberg

    Some links to pages suitable for finding Linux alternatives to Windows software:

    A good start for any Windows -> Linux convertee.

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For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
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