Ubuntu for Windows Users: What About My Applications?

LibreOffice screen in Spanish
LibreOffice comes with Ubuntu 13.04

Previously, I wrote about “What Is the Best Computer? Why Do You Need a Computer, Anyhow?”  In it, I wrote:

Someone recently asked me which is better, Mac or PC.  My answer is what it always has been: Depends upon what you are trying to do.

The “what you are trying to do” is done through application software.  Sometimes application software comes bundled with a new computer or with an operating system.  Virtually all modern operating systems come with a web browser, for example.  A web browser is an application used to surf the web.  Likewise, you probably need an email client, a word processor, a spreadsheet program, etc.

It can get confusing because sometimes computer manufacturers put trial software onto their systems.  People sometimes don’t know how to get rid of them, and unfortunately they can cause problems.  I’ve had to fix more than one system with mixed versions of Microsoft Office or with multiple antivirus solutions.

For most programs, I have been able to find a suitable Ubuntu alternative.  Some of them work better than others, and one in particular is annoying because it was written for a different environment.  This just goes to show that if you want to ensure the software works with the standard Ubuntu 13.04 with the Unity desktop, it should list either Unity or 13.04 in their specs.

The following were some applications I was interested in replacing.  For others, I would suggest alternativeTo or Ask Ubuntu.  Also, there is the Ubuntu Apps Directory.  Adapt as needed.

I should mention that you can add repositories, should it be needed, to Ubuntu through the GUI.  Just copy and paste the “ppa:xxxx/yyyy” into the software repository.  Personally, I prefer to open up a terminal window ([Ctrl]-[Alt]-[T]) and type in the repositories.  Seems faster to me, and errors become more evident.  However, none of the below should need this.

1. MS Office – Libre Office

First, the easy one, and probably the second most people worry about.  Ubuntu 13.04 comes with Libre Office.  There also is OpenOffice.org, but I find I like this one better.  It seems to keep the formatting a little better.

2. Quicken/Quickbooks/TurboTax

By contrast, this is the toughest one.  I have yet to find one that really does totally replace any of these.  So, I’m putting Quicken into a virtual machine (VM) for now.  The interoperability between TurboTax and either Quicken or Quickbooks will be hard to beat.  More on virtual machine software is down the list.

3. Antivirus – F-PROT for Linux

You’ve probably heard it before: Linux doesn’t get viruses.  There is no such thing as a virus proof operating system.  Linux and to a lesser extent Mac OS aren’t as popular, so virus writers have a habit of targeting Windows because they can hit the most users.  That doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

ClamAV is a virus scanner that is open source and comes with Ubuntu, apparently.  However, I’ve found that it keeps having repository issues with 13.04 for some reason.  AVG seems to have even worse problems, complaining about a bad package.

So, I ended up putting on F-PROT Antivirus for Linux.  Windows users might not have heard of it before, but if you ever had to deal with Macs in the 1990s, you are probably quite familiar with F-PROT.  It is an established name in antivirus products.

4. Outlook – Thunderbird

Thunderbird has been around a long time, and Lifehacker named it “The Best Email Client for Linux“.  With some additional addons, it can do a lot of the things that Outlook can do, and if you have a Google Calendar, it can do more!

First, download Thunderbird and install it.  Once you get your email all setup, here are some useful addons:

  • United States English Spellchecker – not sure why, but British English seems to be the norm here.
  • Provider for Google Calendar and Lightning – both used to sync with Google Calendar
  • Google Contacts – sync with your Gmail contacts
  • Google Search for Thunderbird – by default Thunderbird uses Bing, which I don’t care for
  • Google Tasks – sync with your Google Calendar tasks
  • Google Talk Plugin – needed for Google Voice
  • LookOut – enables the viewing of TNEF rich-text documents that some Outlook clients create

If you have multiple email accounts (and most people do any more), be sure you have the right “Thunderbird Default Account” set.  Also, one advantage of Thunderbird over Outlook is the Unified Folders feature, which works a lot like the Unified Inbox in iOS mail.

I like to place in my sig a thanks and other stuff rather than a couple of dashes.  Using the Config Editor, you can “remove the signature dashes in Thunderbird” by changing mail.identity.default.supress_signature_separator to “true”.

Also, if you don’t like Thunderbird’s default behavior of going to the next email after a delete or move but rather want it to go to the previous one, check out the setting for the mail.delete_matches_sort_order.

Like Outlook, Thunderbird is so much more than just an email and calendar client.  If you have newsfeeds in Outlook, don’t forget to export your RSS feeds from Internet Explorer so you can import them into Thunderbird.

5. inSSIDer – LinSSID

I don’t know.  I was told that there was an inSSIDer for Linux, but I couldn’t find a version that worked.  I came across LinSSID, and it works just as well.  If you have difficulties with wi-fi channels or even if you do tech work and need to know signal and channel information, this is a handy tool to see how crowded the wi-fi channels are.

6. OpenVPN

This isn’t a replacement, as I was using OpenVPN on Windows.  Since it is open source, it is available on various platforms.  Don’t forget that VPNBook uses it, has excellent setup instructions and is free.

7. Windows Live Writer – Blogilo

Blogilo is a lot like Windows Live Writer, but it is still pretty rough around the edges.  It has a nasty bug where it won’t save posts locally unless you follow a specific routine.  I save them as drafts on the blog site, which is a work-around.  The other blogging editors didn’t look very impressive, so I’ll use this one as long as something better doesn’t come along.  The spellcheck doesn’t work with Unity, as it is a KDE application.  Consider this a recommendation with a couple of huge caveats.

8. Windows Virtual PC – VirtualBox

Actually, I had already started playing around with VirtualBox in Windows, as it is nicer and easier to setup and maintain.  VirtualBox is owned by Oracle, so it isn’t going away any time soon.

I will be using VirtualBox to contain Intuit products like Quicken 2012, which are such a headache.  Also, since Citrix GoToAssist doesn’t have a Linux version, I will put it into a VM as well, at least until I figure out a more unified approach.  Stay tuned!

9. e-Sword – Bible Analyzer

Not all things are free just because you move to Unix.  However, in the case of Bible software, many things are cheap if not free.  Bible Analyzer is a free program, but if you’re like me, you’ll want to spend a few bucks for some addons.  Like e-Sword was basically free but you could pay for additional modules, this is much the same way.  I like it because I need to be able to take notes without flipping around a bunch of screens!  It’s one thing to do that at home, but while in church I want to concentrate on listening to the sermon more than whether or not I was in the correct program at the moment.

I do recommend installing it from the apps repository first.  You can purchase addons as needed after that, which includes commentaries (such as from The Companion Bible) or maps.

Now, I did have one weird thing happen.  Firefox is the default browser, and every time I would click on a link, it would bring up the BA help????  No one seems to know, but I use Chrome for my default now anyhow (it wasn’t available when I first upgraded to 13.04).

10. Google Chrome

Yes, Chrome is much better than Firefox, IMO.  Watch out for “Chromium” in the Ubuntu Software Center, however.  While basically the same, it isn’t exactly.  Follow the link to Chrome instead.

11. Dropbox

No fear!  Supported in Ubuntu!  You might, however, want to share the same folder you use in Windows, so check out “How do I move my Dropbox folder to a new location?

12. Skype

It’s an older version, though.  It hearkens back to Skype’s klunkier days.  Now that MS owns it, who knows if it will ever be updated?

If you have more than one Skype number, you can follow iheartubuntu‘s advice on how to “Run Multiple Instances of Skype 4.0“.  Basically, you duplicate your settings and then create a desktop item for each using “gnome-panel” (“sudo apt-get install –no-install-recommends gnome-panel”).

13. iTunes

No substitute — yet.  Suppsedly, Rhythmbox, which comes with 13.04, will transfer music back and forth, but that doesn’t help much with podcasts.  Of course, nothing but iTunes will do software updates, but that might not even be a big deal since you can now download them over wi-fi most of the time.

14. OneNote

This was the one I was most worried about.  OneNote does not have a Linux client, and it only recently became all that useful frankly because it could sync between desktop and mobile.  Evernote sounded like the perfect replacement, but they too didn’t have a Linux client.  I chronicled all this in “Confessions of an Evernote Convert” in how I discovered NixNote, a Linux Evernote client.

Not Done Yet

I’m sure I will update this from time to time, especially to address these specific areas and also to update when I find suitable alternatives.  So, stay tuned!