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Ubuntu Logo I have now made a switch – I am a full time Ubuntu user and I love every minute of it. Ubuntu is one of the best Linux releases in my opinion, although I’ve only tried 3-4 other Linux distros. I know that hardcore Linux people may argue, but Ubuntu is the only OS that enabled my sound card and my wireless internet connection without as much as a sweat.

I am all for configuring OS options, digging into the roots and so on, but I want to do this to make it look good, go faster or do some extra stuff, not to make it actually work. I now do not use any illegal software whatsoever and I’m not really missing any of them. What Windows software is there to miss that I used a lot?

Office

I used MS Office although with the dawn of AJAX and fancy new technology I use online word processing 6 Free Office Suites That Are NOT Microsoft 6 Free Office Suites That Are NOT Microsoft Read More more. Open Office is also a great alternative although Excel is very hard to beat.

I also used Microsoft’s OneNote and as note organizers go, I have never found a really suitable alternative. With Linux I found it after about 5 minutes of searching. Basket Notes is a very capable replacement with possibly less features but the basic idea is the same.

There was also a time I used Evernote, although I didn’t like it very much. If you want to take notes on Ubuntu I don’t think Tomboy is beatable. I don’t think actually any Windows application beats it either, it’s just phenomenal. The interlinking wiki style goodness and simplicity is just awesome. Mackenzie mentioned it Getting Stuff Done on Linux [Part 2] Getting Stuff Done on Linux [Part 2] Read More earlier as well.

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Graphics

Photoshop was an application I used quite a lot to edit some pics for my own blog, but GIMP has replaced it totally. I always had something against GIMP, but maybe I used an older version because it is easy to use and can do everything I require of it. The navigation differs a bit from Photoshop which took some time to get used to, but the learning curve isn’t steep at all.

Desktop

I always liked having multiple desktops and I used various ways on Vista to get what I need. I created separate user accounts for different tasks, tried software VirtualWin, but since Windows isn’t really built for a multiple desktop environment all of these methods had problems. Enter Ubuntu 7.10 with all these features virtually built in. With Compiz already installed, all you need is a couple of downloads and you will be off to 3D goodness, with rotating cubes, wobbly windows and all the bells and whistles you need.

Email

Outlook is an industry standard software solution to email and task management and is actually very good at it. It is one of the best apps for Windows and I thought finding a replacement wouldn’t be easy. Well, there are numerous ways to replace your trusty Outlook. One of the best and most complete solutions is Evolution, which is really an Outlook clone with a lot of the same functionality.

I actually switched to a fully online based email management system but I wanted to keep a separate contact manager. Rubrica Address Book was my application of choice. It’s just a simple, but effective task manager with a unique tab-based approach to task management. Another application I used in Windows was Gmail Notifier, which is officially not available for Linux, but clever people have written an application which does exactly the same. Take a look at the Linux based Gmail Notifier.

Stay tuned for the next part of the article where I will be covering media players, torrent clients and other apps.

  1. Eve
    September 21, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    I would like to try Linnux as opposed to Windows. Am shopping for a new notebook and wonder if I could get this preinstalled along with Mozilla Firefox. I am sick of Microsoft and don't want to give them any more of my business. How hard would this be to accomplish?

  2. William Bertram
    May 3, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    I've been a *nix user off and on for ~10 years. I've ran FreeBSD web / ftp servers, Debian Firewalls, and tried a ton of desktop distros along the way. None of them really even came close to meeting my desktop needs until Ubuntu 5.04. I used 5, 6, and 7 on my laptop then switched the main computer over to 8.04 (lock stock and barrel) after running the beta on live CD for a few weeks.

    Everything works great except Flash. The Adobe Flash driver is crashy (Googling verifies that many, many people are having this problem). There is an alternative called Gnash, but it's not compatible with Flash 9, and the quality is not as good. Another alternative is swfplayer, which is more stable, and quality is good, but it doesn't play automatically (you have to click the play button), and it also does not appear to be compatible with Flash 9. I have read "it works on my computer" type responses in forums, so you might not have Flash problems if you are lucky.

    There also is not a Silverlight player. Not a huge issue now, but Silverlight seems to be catching on quickly.

    Another minor beef with 8.04 is the decision to ship with Firefox 3 beta. It's a good, fast, stable browser, but many add-ons are not compatible yet (TinyURL, GButts, and Google Bookmarks for Firefox to name a few). These can all be easily worked around with the bookmarks toolbar, it's just not quite as good. :)

    Anyway I see Ubuntu as a viable desktop OS.

  3. Keith Sanders
    April 4, 2008 at 6:34 am

    Linux is cool and fun to play around with. But, there are two software areas that keep me from migrating to Linux as my primary operating system.

    1. I don't know of any personal finance software of the caliber of Quicken / Money that will run in the Linux environment.

    2. Games: World of Warcraft, Entropia Universe, etc.

    So unfortunately, it's still relegated to playing second fiddle on an old computer or as a dual boot setup.

    • Mackenzie Morgan
      April 4, 2008 at 12:14 pm

      I've never heard of the 2nd game, but WoW works fine in Wine.

    • Richard Chapman
      April 7, 2008 at 9:43 am

      It's called "personal computing" and for a very good reason, it's personal. If you want to know what it's like for a blind person to have her house, rooms and all, completely changed, then try a different desktop environment. Applications fall into the same allegory. In many, not all, but many of the complaints I've seen regarding Open Source equivalents the phrase "not as good" should really be replaced with "not as familiar". It's not the Open Source application that's being hurt by this attitude, it's the potential customer.

  4. Adam Kane
    April 3, 2008 at 11:20 am

    Great post. I like the Rubrica Address Book, though I mostly use Gmail now. There is a similar post for alternatives to windows programs written a while back if anyone is interested.

  5. Nick W
    April 3, 2008 at 6:52 am

    I tried to make the switch to Ubuntu after a crippling HD failure, since it lost Windows I chose to install 7.10 and see how it went. I'd had it installed on a different machine and it worked wonderfully. All the hardware seemed to mesh. The wireless drivers took a little bit of work but once I had it hooked up to a cable all went very smoothly. So when I got a "new" pc from a roomie that owed me some cash I decided to go Ubuntu all the way. All I can say is that it gave me nothing but issues. Video card wouldn't mesh, xorg kept blacking out the monitor, sound card issues, disc drive issues, you name it and it seems like that pc was built NOT to be compatible.
    I finally reinstalled Windows and decided to dual boot when I have the time to fight with it.
    The point being I think that the Linux distros I tried (Ubuntu/Kubuntu 7.10 - Hardy Heron 8.04) had Windows beat HANDS DOWN when it came to software. There are so many options to do everything you need it to, and then some, the range is quite amazing. My issues really boil down to hardware conflicts which I'm guessing will just take time (And cooperation on the part of developers/manufacturers) to get sorted out.
    I totally suggesting at least TRYING the different distros because they'll do all you want and then some. As long as it plays nice with your system.

    • Richard Chapman
      April 3, 2008 at 8:41 am

      One of the easiest ways to overcome hardware issues is to try a different distribution. You only tried one distribution, Ubuntu. Kubuntu is just the KDE desktop on the Ubuntu core. I once had PCLinuxOS, Ubuntu, DSL and Fedora fail on a computer (terribly so too). I tried SimplyMepis next and it worked like a charm. Why? I have no idea.

    • Mackenzie Morgan
      April 3, 2008 at 10:44 am

      The (basic) rules of hardware for Linux:
      - No ATI graphics
      - No Broadcom wireless
      - No Creative audio
      - Intel wireless will always work (was: "if your distro includes the binary firmware and daemon", now: "new stuff's all open, all distros should include it")
      - Intel graphics will always work

  6. Gerald
    April 3, 2008 at 6:52 am

    Switch to Linux?? Why would anyone want to??

    • Tina
      April 3, 2008 at 7:46 am

      Yeah, why would anyone want to try anything new? Let's think about that...
      Maybe because it's free?
      Maybe because it's open source?
      Maybe because being open source makes it more secure?
      Maybe because there is an active community of users eager to fix any bug immediately, and provide free drivers and software?
      Maybe because having an active community makes it so much more flexible?
      Maybe because it demands less from the hardware, albeit being much faster and more stable? (At least that's what I hear...)
      Maybe because it's an adventure?
      Maybe because people will stop asking whether they can use your computer since the mere idea of Linux running on it confuses them to no end?
      Geez, why am I still using Windows?

  7. Jason
    April 3, 2008 at 6:30 am

    Great article with some great ideas. I'm a sometimes Ubuntu user and while most of what I do is online, I have tried GIMP and I absolutely hated it. I also tried GIMPShop, as Rogun mentioned, and hated it, too. I don't think you can go back, once you've used Photoshop. Although I am quite enjoying Pixelmator on my Mac and I find it very Photoshop-like.

    • Mackenzie Morgan
      April 3, 2008 at 10:28 am

      I've gladly gone back. If I never see that sorry convoluted excuse for an interface again (Photoshop), I'll be very happy.

    • Devon
      May 3, 2008 at 6:38 pm

      If you can't break the photoshop habit, Krita is a great open source alternative. It doesn't quite have all the features of photoshop, or even GIMP, but you might find the interface more familiar.

  8. Yeti~
    April 3, 2008 at 5:05 am

    Maybe i should try ubuntu, i tried fedora as a test machine to setup a web/ftp server and the whole thing was nothing but fail from the word go, trying to set up ftp to the www folder was a nightmare i'd rather not go through again (wish it was as easy as a windows box). My experience with linux so far hasnt been good but im not giving up on it yet.

    As for switching.... dont think i would make that jump just yet

    • Aibek
      April 3, 2008 at 9:07 am

      "...the whole thing was nothing but fail from the word go" :-)

      I know exactly what you mean. Been there several times.

  9. Jackson
    April 3, 2008 at 8:42 am

    Maybe someone should raise the question about Linux vs Mac OS and what it would be like to switch from Mac to Linux, instead of the same old Windows.

    • Mackenzie Morgan
      April 3, 2008 at 10:30 am

      You'd suddenly have choices. I didn't do a "virgin" trip from Mac to Linux though. I've done the reverse because I had to use a Mac at work. OSX just gives me this horribly restricted feeling. It's like they gutted all the features. Going to Linux after 3 months of having to use OSX was *wonderful*.

  10. Mackenzie
    April 3, 2008 at 12:48 am

    I prefer KAddressbook over Rubrica. Rubrica seems to have tried to recreate the rolodex...including those little tab separators. Since computer have this amazing ability to search through data, that's unnecessary and somewhat confusing for the interface.

    Check GNOME Mail is, IMO, nicer than the GMail Notifier.

    I've just started trying to use Evolution now because using GMail for me and MakeUseOf's GMail-based email confuses Firefox regarding which username to automatically fill in. I'm still not so happy about it being monolithic. I don't like Outlook.

  11. rogun
    April 3, 2008 at 12:30 am

    I'm probably not what you'd call a hardcore Linux person, but I have been using Linux for 12-13 years and have tried dozens of distributions in that span. Though there are many really nice distros available today, I also prefer Ubuntu, but can understand why others might prefer something different.

    Tomboy rocks and I'm eagerly awaiting the w32 release, so I can synchronize Tomboy notes with my Windows machine. I've been messing around with Basket, and like how it integrates into Kontact, but haven't spent enough time with it yet.

    Speaking of Kontact, I use it because I actually use Kubuntu, due to my preference for KDE. It's been a while since I've used Outlook, but Kontact is the best PIM I've ever used. Evolution is nice, but the only thing I like better about it is how it works with the clock applet. I really like that and really wish it were available with Kontact.

    Btw, if you want something more familiar to Photoshop, you might want to try the modified version of GIMP called GIMPShop. I haven't tried it, but it sounds like a good idea. I also believe there's another new project to make GIMP more familiar to Photoshop users, but I can't remember what it's called or where I've seen it; just that it looked very enticing.

  12. trent
    April 2, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    I loved tomboy notes until I discovered Tiddlywiki! That is probably the best option.... There is also something called zimwiki I believe, which is also pretty cool.

  13. Michael
    April 2, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    I'm not a huge fan of Evolution; I found Thunderbird to be an easy option that I'd already seen in my native Windows.

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