As described in another post, I was in the process of developing a Linux Mint system. Finding good programs was an important part of that project. A separate post presents a list of 95 Windows programs for which I had some identifiable need. The present post looks for Linux counterparts to those Windows programs.
This post constituted an intermediate step on my progression from Windows to Linux. The impressions presented here were tentative, not final. Later posts would revise some of the conclusions reached here.
- Windows Programs Irrelevant to Linux
- Windows Programs Available in Linux
- Windows Programs with Good Linux Alternatives
- Windows Programs with Tolerable Linux Alternatives
- Windows Programs with Mixed or Sketchy Linux Alternatives
- Windows Programs Running in Linux (Wine or VM)
In other words, this post starts by eliminating the desired Windows programs that are simply not needed in Linux. BlueScreenView is an example. It exists to aid in the viewing of information about Windows Blue Screens of Death (BSODs). There are no Windows BSODs in Linux. I gathered that there were effective ways of troubleshooting system problems in Linux, but in any case those would have no use for BlueScreenView.
The second of the foregoing categories is Windows Programs Available in Linux. Firefox was an example. There was no need to find an alternative to Firefox, when I could just use Firefox for Linux in place of Firefox for Windows. It was possible that one version would have strengths and/or weaknesses that the other version lacked. Generally, there were many things to learn about all of the Linux programs. But at least there was no need to search for a Firefox equivalent in Linux: it was already there.
The third category contains Windows Programs with Good Linux Alternatives. Microsoft Office was an example. For many purposes, the free (and, by the way, all of these Linux programs were free, unless otherwise indicated) LibreOffice suite provided substantially the same functionality.
But here, in this third category, we begin to get into more subjective or individualized determinations. I was not, in fact, sure that LibreOffice Writer, the counterpart to Microsoft Word, would do the things I needed. So it was true that there was a good Linux alternative to Microsoft Office; but it was also possible that I would still need to revisit Microsoft Office in categories 6 and/or 7, which deal with running the actual Windows program in Linux, either with a compatibility assistant like Wine or inside a Windows virtual machine (VM) running on Linux.
The possibility of using Wine or a VM to run the actual Windows program becomes stronger as we move to the fourth category, Windows Programs with Tolerable Linux Alternatives. Adobe Photoshop was an example. Yes, there were image editing programs like Photoshop in Linux. But no, they did not appear to be as good at imitating Photoshop as LibreOffice (above) was at imitating Microsoft Office. I was not a heavy user of Photoshop. For most if not all of my purposes, those Linux alternatives might be fine. But I wouldn’t be surprised if there were times when I did decide to run Photoshop itself, either on Wine or inside a VM.
By this point, we have eliminated a substantial majority of the Windows programs on my short list. Now, in the fifth category, we are getting to the hard cases. This category, Windows Programs with Mixed or Sketchy Linux Alternatives, includes for instance Recuva, the program to recover deleted files. It was going to be tough to find a Linux counterpart: there really weren’t even any Windows counterparts. But that’s not to say there were no ways to recover deleted files in Linux. They just weren’t in the same league as Recuva.
Those five categories take care of the possibilities for running Linux counterparts or alternatives to the large majority of the Windows programs on my short list. Now we turn to the options of running the Windows program itself in Linux. The sixth category involves the use of Wine or a VM to run, in Linux, those Windows programs for which I found no good alternative in Linux.
Note: many of the following program descriptions refer to the Synaptic Package Manager in Linux. This did not have a Windows counterpart. In Windows, to install a program, I would buy or download it and install it, or I could run it as a portable. I could do that in Linux too, but the recommended approach was to install through the package manager. Synaptic provided a graphical user interface (GUI), making the package manager easier to use. The package manager would keep track of the files and programs being installed or uninstalled. In Synaptic, I could select many programs for installation at one time. (On that last point, Ninite provided a comparable but limited service for Windows.) The discussion of CCleaner (below) contains more information.
1. Windows Programs Irrelevant to Linux
Some of the Windows programs on my short list were rarely if ever necessary for, or applicable to, Linux systems. Those included the following:
AVG Antivirus and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware. The common belief that there were no viruses in Linux was evidently incorrect (see Goretsky, 2015). To protect against that, AV-Test found that the most effective antivirus tools in Linux were Kaspersky Endpoint (100% detection), ESET (99.7%), and AVG (99%). ClamAV, McAfee, Comodo, and F-Prot were much worse (achieving between 23% and 66% detection). AV-Test recommended Sophos or AVG for end-user Linux systems. Neither was readily available via the Synaptic Package Manager in my new Linux Mint 17.3 KDE installation, so I would have to find and install them by other means. How-To Geek argued that, for end users as distinct from servers, viruses were possible but remained rare and would largely be defeated by simple precautions, such as keeping software updated, avoiding phishing scams, and not running untrustworthy commands. Given the impression that antivirus scanning usually reduced performance somewhat, I decided to forego the antivirus software for now.
BlueScreenView. This NirSoft program provided a handy viewer for minidump files created during Windows Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) crashes. Not that there would never be crashes in Linux, but they would be fewer than in some Windows installations. When crashes did occur in Linux, I would need Linux-specific troubleshooting tools, not a BSOD tool; Linux did not have BSODs.
EasyBCD. This utility landed on my top-95 list because, at some point in the not-too-distant past, I had used it to sort out a boot problem. I remembered using it, but didn’t remember the specific issue. More recently, though, I had been using Boot-Repair-Disk to automatically resolve Windows/Linux dual boot issues. At any rate, as far as I could tell from my own experience and the EasyBCD webpage, this program was not likely to be heavily used outside Windows.
GWX Control Panel. This utility existed solely to help Windows 7 users resist Microsoft’s efforts to force them to switch to Windows 10.
Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder. A tool to find product keys for installed Windows programs for which the user did not keep a record of the (usually purchased) product key. The good news here was that most Linux programs were free. The bad news was that there were no Linux versions, free or commercial, of some programs that I might have been willing to buy.
Microsoft FixIt. As described by iTechTics, Microsoft FixIt was “a wonderful set of tools from Microsoft which can fix the problems encountered by users automatically.” In other words, this tool was completely Windows-specific. Not to deny that a comparable tool would be useful sometimes in Linux.
OORegEditor. A useful alternative to the registry editor (regedit) built into Windows 7. As expressed in a StackExchange entry, “Thankfully, there is no Linux equivalent of the Windows registry. Configuration is kept in (mostly) text files . . . . [R]egistry edits are completely Windows-specific.
Ultimate Windows Tweaker. UWT conveniently combined in one place a number of oft-used Windows tweaks. AlternativeTo named Ubuntu Tweak as a comparably popular Linux alternative. The tweaks in UWT were specific to Windows; running them in Wine or in a Windows VM would be irrelevant to the Linux system. I needed all the help I could get, and did think it was possible to construct a more comprehensive Linux tweaker, though undoubtedly difficult. Lifehacker’s review concluded that there was no real alternative but the command line for tweaking Linux. That was not ideal. Then again, it was not as bad as the situation in Windows. I did not have a problem with issuing preset commands. That was much more efficient than the scenarios that UWT was intended to reduce in Windows: open this screen, mouse over there, click on that, open the third item, click OK, etc. UWT itself only covered a fraction of the many tweaks that I had to make in Windows 7. It was rarely if ever irreplaceable; it just made things more convenient in the Windows environment.
Unlocker. My review of Windows programs missed this utility because it did not appear in my Start menu; rather, it was installed and used as a right-click context menu option in Windows Explorer. Its purpose was just to facilitate renaming, moving, or deleting files on which the Windows operating system had established a seemingly irrational hold.
2. Windows Programs Available in Linux
Some of the programs on my short list were available in Linux. I would not be able to verify their quality until I had spent some time using them, but it seemed likely they would be roughly on a par with their Windows counterparts. These multiplatform programs included:
Audacity. A quick look into Synaptic on my new Mint installation confirmed that Audacity, a popular audio editing program free for use in Windows, was available in Linux as well. Audacity (rated by users at 4.0 out of 5 possible stars in Softpedia) was on my list primarily as an alternative to Cool Edit 2000 (below). Audacity was surely better than Cool Edit for many purposes; I was just not as familiar with it. If both of those programs failed to meet my needs in some particular situation, MakeUseOf recommended buying Ardour (3.3 stars in Softpedia, though presumably from an audience that was more demanding and/or that expected its money’s worth).
Beyond Compare. In six years of daily use, I had found Beyond Compare (BC) extremely helpful, and of very high quality, in comparing my current set of files against older backups, to verify what had changed. Scooter Software did offer Linux versions of its Standard ($30) and Pro ($60) editions of BC. It appeared I would have to download this software. A popular alternative available through Synaptic: Meld. A search led to statements suggesting that Meld was slower than BC, and that BC in Windows was better than Meld and other free alternatives. Then again, Slant offered comparisons suggesting that Meld might be the better choice, at least for developers. It looked like my BC license included both Windows and Linux versions, so I planned to start with that.
BitTorrent. This well-known tool was available through Synaptic. MakeUseOf, It’s FOSS (short for “free and open-source software”), and Code Condo primarily recommended Deluge, qBittorrent, and Tixati, and secondarily Vuze and Frostwire. They also mentioned the relatively simple Transmission, which was evidently the default in Ubuntu. For my simple torrent needs, a brief review suggested going with Transmission.
Format Factory. As its name suggested, Format Factory offered the possibility of converting files among numerous media (i.e., image, video, audio, document, disc) formats. According to (1 2) sources, with very little tweaking, Portable Format Factory could run directly in Linux without Wine. On closer inspection, though, those sources looked sketchy. Instead, AlternativeTo named HandBrake, especially, and also ffmpeg, as far more popular alternatives, both of which were available in Linux as well as Windows. But HandBrake was explicitly limited to video conversion, and ffmpeg was a command-line tool for audio and video. It’sFOSS named mencoder (video only) and Arista (apparently for video, audio, and discs) as other alternatives, and also clarified that there were, in fact, GUIs for ffmpeg (its No. 1 choice). Techman’s World suggested FormatJunkie. Given the large sizes of video and WAV files, I did not think that it would be ideal to upload and download files to the cloud (i.e., to websites offering free format conversions), but Free File Converter, ClipConverter, KeepVid, TheYouMp3, and FullRip would be options up there. I decided to install Handbrake and Arista, and also look into ffmpeg GUIs — which wound up meaning WinFF. For image conversion, it appeared that XnView MP would be the first choice, with ImageMagick as an alternative.
Google Chrome. A recent PM Student Helpdesk article described Chromium as the open-source counterpart to the Google Chrome web browser (as distinct from the Chromium operating system used in Chromebook computers). That article held that Chrome had many advantages over Chromium. Chromium did, but Chrome did not, come up when I searched in Synaptic. It appeared I would have to download Chrome in the form of a 64-bit .deb package, installable on Debian and Ubuntu and, reportedly, on Mint as well. (32-bit Chrome was no longer available.) According to Wikipedia, Opera (among other web browsers) was based on Chromium. MakeTechEasier (Diener, 2015) said that “Chromium really is the Google Chrome browser with a different icon and all of the closed source stuff ripped right out . . . . [M]ost people would barely be able to tell the difference.” Then again, that article noted that Chromium lacked a PDF viewer, couldn’t run Adobe Flash, and couldn’t use Netflix or other websites needing HTML5 video support — that, in short, it had “very poor multimedia support.” Commenters said there were workarounds for some of those problems, including recent indications of a solution for Netflix. I thought I might start with Chrome.
Google Earth. Like Chrome, this tool was available for download directly from Google. I also found a google-earth-stable package in Synaptic. A Linux Mint Community article provided instructions on proper installation in Linux Mint 17 x64. Those instructions were inclined toward the Synaptic package, not toward the direct download. Instructables offered a single command for installing Google Earth in Linux.
LibreOffice Calc and Writer. LibreOffice programs were available through Synaptic and were already installed in Linux Mint 17.3 KDE.
Mozilla Firefox. Available through Synaptic; already installed in Mint 17.3 KDE.
Opera. Available through Synaptic.
Oracle VirtualBox. Available through Synaptic.
Skype. Available through Synaptic.
Media Players. VLC Media Player was available through Synaptic and pre-installed in Mint 17.3 KDE. VLC was far more popular than any competitor, according to AlternativeTo, with MPC-HC coming in second — itself getting more than three times the votes of Windows Media Player (WMP). I had often found WMP useful, but did tend to use the others more. Of these three, only VLC was available in Linux, but that was not of great concern to me: except as otherwise described in these paragraphs, I did not need an especially sophisticated media player. Among (1 2 3 4 5 6 7) sources consulted, other Linux options drawing frequent mention included SMPlayer especially, and also MPV Player, Miro, Banshee, Gnome Videos (a/k/a Totem), Kodi (formerly Xbox Media Center/XBMC), Xine, Bomi (CMPlayer), UMplayer, and Kaffeine (in KDE). I planned to start with VLC and perhaps install SMPlayer as a fallback.
Other Web Browsers. In Windows, aside from Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and Internet Explorer (the only one of those not available in Linux), I occasionally used Midori, Pale Moon, and Safari. A search led to (1 2 3 4 5) sources suggesting that Linux, too, enjoyed a plethora of browsers. They recurrently recommended the Linux versions of Midori and Pale Moon, as well as Linux-only tools like QupZilla and perhaps Vivaldi, Konqueror, and Epiphany. A few also mentioned SwiftFox, Links, elinks, w3m, Iceweasel, and Lynx. I planned to start with Midori and Pale Moon as backups to Firefox, Chrome, and Opera.
Thunderbird. This email client inadvertently failed to land on my short list, but was undeniably a part of my Windows system. Thunderbird was available via Synaptic.
VeraCrypt. Linux version available for download.
Wget. As detailed elsewhere, I used wget to back up my blogs. There was no worry about it being available in Linux: it was, in fact, a Linux tool that I began to use only after it was ported over to Windows. It was available through Synaptic and installed in Mint 17.3 KDE.
3. Windows Programs with Good Linux Alternatives
As above, I could not be confident that the following Linux programs would perform as well as their Windows counterparts until I had actually used them. But there were some Linux alternatives that seemed likely to perform well. In some cases, I thought they might actually be better than their Windows counterparts.
There are two notes that I should add here, applicable to sections 3, 4, and 5 of this post:
- In some cases, it appeared that a cloud solution — that is, a program or function provided through a website — might provide a better Windows replacement than anything available in Linux. Cloud suggestions offered here came mostly from (1 2 3 4 5 6) sources identified in a search. Of course, there were endless web tools beyond those mentioned here: movie venues, calculators, accounting and financial tools (e.g., QuickBooks), shopping websites, and so on, equally available to users of any operating system.
- Some programs are marked with an asterisk (*). These are revisited in section 6. In most cases, this means that I decided to try running them in Wine even if they did have good Linux counterparts. Sometimes I did that just out of curiosity; sometimes there were other reasons; but for the most part, this was because I had a heavy investment of personal training or familiarity in them and/or I seriously doubted that their Linux counterparts would be good enough for me personally.
With those preliminaries out of the way, here is the discussion of the programs on my short list for which I found good Linux alternatives.
7-Zip and WinRAR. In Windows, between these two programs for file archiving (i.e., combining multiple files into one) and compressing (i.e., saving in a smaller space), I preferred WinRAR because it offered the option (which I used frequently) of automatically deleting the compressed files after producing a compressed archive. But I had bought the premium version of WinRAR, and the Linux version (called “RAR for Linux”) had no graphical user interface (GUI). So I was open to convenient Linux alternatives. A search led to indications that relatively popular GUI options in Linux included xarchiver and PeaZip, the latter recommended by LifeHacker. For at least some purposes, there was the online ezyZip. Someone also pointed out that tar (a file archiver) with optional gzip (a popular file compressor) was already included as a right-click option within the Linux file manager. If I was willing to use the command line, LifeHacker recommended tar/gzip or p7zip, the latter being the Linux version of 7-Zip, available for download and installation outside of the Linux package management system. I was inclined to favor the clarity of a GUI, because I often zipped large and mixed sets of files; I wanted to see clearly what I was doing. Since PeaZip was not included in Synaptic, I decided to start by trying tar/gzip and then, if needed, installing PeaZip.
CCleaner and Revo Uninstaller. CCleaner, whose name was reportedly short for “crap cleaner,” was designed “to clean potentially unwanted files (including temporary internet files, where malicious programs and code tend to reside) and invalid registry entries from a computer” (Wikipedia). The official purpose of Revo Uninstaller was to scan for files left over after Windows programs had supposedly been uninstalled. For that purpose, it was far more highly rated than its competitors at AlternativeTo. I rarely used either of these programs. I knew that many people believed in CCleaner, but on one occasion it had seemed to mess up my system. Similarly, when I did recently need Revo, it performed unsatisfactorily. Still, there were those times when a Windows user might turn to this sort of tool. But how about in Linux? In a StackExchange discussion, the predominant message was that Linux uninstalls tend to be complete when performed through the package manager. But (1 2 3 4) results of a search conveyed the impression that useful Linux cleanup commands might include “sudo apt-get autoclean,” “sudo apt-get clean,” and “sudo apt-get autoremove,” along with installing and using fslint and localepurge, removing the residual config package from Synaptic, using gtkorphan to remove orphaned files and debfoster to track dependencies, and taking other steps as well. Collectively, there appeared to be a number of ways in which users could clean up leftover materials in Linux. I did not explore the question of whether BleachBits would do all these things or, more generally, would accomplish, in Linux, what CCleaner and Revo tried to accomplish in Windows. But evidently BleachBits did something, or at least people believed it did: users gave it 4.4 (141 users at Softpedia) to 4.8 (67 users at SourceForge) stars. I decided to ignore the question of system cleanup for the short term, and later to look closer at BleachBits and at the various commands just listed, as needed.
Copernic Desktop Search and Locate32. I had used Copernic for some years to do full-text searches of file contents across my hard disk drive (HDD). At its best, it was great. But it had always been a resource hog, and sometimes it failed to find things that I knew were there — as I demonstrated when I had it running on two synchronized machines holding the same data files. I had heard that Locate32 was a good alternative, but did not yet have much experience with it. Under these circumstances, I was open to any decent full-text searching tool. An older TechRadar (Sharma, 2010) article considered several and chose Recoll (available via Synaptic). Other endorsers of Recoll included Linux Magazine (Byfield, 2015) and Noobs Lab (Riaz, 2016). There was a video demo of Recoll. One user reported that, in his/her case, the size of the Recoll indexing database was actually larger than the total size of the files being indexed. Linux.com (Minaev, 2009) had previously chosen Beagle first, and Recoll and Pinot second, but Beagle appeared to have been discontinued and Pinot had averaged only 3.1 stars from users at Softpedia, as compared to 3.7 stars for Recoll and 4.0 stars for Locate32. AlternativeTo users named DocFetcher as a superior alternative to Recoll; but at Softpedia, while the Windows version of DocFetcher averaged 3.6 stars, the Linux version got only 2.4 stars. KRunner was reportedly a sensible option only for those running the KDE desktop, as it entailed many KDE program dependencies. It appeared KRunner users might appreciate Recollrunner, combining the strengths of both tools (averaging five stars from just a few Softpedia users at this point). On the other hand, a search for recent remarks suggested many problems with KRunner. Based on this information, I decided to start with KRunner and perhaps experiment with Recollrunner if I was using KDE, and Recoll otherwise.
CPU-Z, CrystalDiskInfo, and Speccy. In Windows, I used these and other tools to obtain the names, performance levels, condition, and other details about my installed hardware. A search led to (1 2 3) sites recommending especially I-Nex, Hardinfo, and KInfoCenter. Tecmint offered, in addition, a number of command-line options. These appeared to produce information comparable to what those Windows utilities provided.
Daphne. This alternative to the Windows Task Manager was useful, for me, for its option of moving a pointer to the window of a nonfunctioning program and letting Daphne automatically terminate that program, where I might not be sure which process was responsible for it. Unfortunately, I found that neither Windows Task Manager nor Daphne (nor anything else) was able to terminate some processes. I hoped that the Linux System Monitor tool and various command-line options discussed by MakeUseOf and How-To Geek would prove more effective.
Debut. I used this NCH software to capture video or other events unfolding on my screen. It was a more complete but space-consuming alternative to the series of screenshots provided by Shotshooter.bat (below). A search led to several Linux tools for the same purpose. After reviewing various webpages, I decided I would probably start with VLC, since it was already included in Mint. If that didn’t work, the number of mentions and the level of enthusiasm evinced by various sources would point me toward SimpleScreenRecorder, Open Broadcaster, and RecordMyDesktop. Other possibilities listed by various sources (e.g., MakeUseOf (1 2); AlternativeTo; Beebom; Linux Mint Community; TechApple; SourceForge) included Screencast-O-Matic, Cinnamon’s Desktop Capture, Shotcut, ScreenStudio, Gnome’s Screencast, Cheese, Bandicam, Wink, Krut, Vokoscreen, Kazam, and Avconv. AlternativeTo indicated that the Windows versions of several of these programs were more popular than Debut. It appeared likely that I would find at least one — probably several — Linux programs to take the place of Debut.
Dimension 4. The purpose of this utility was, according to its webpage, to “synchronize your PC’s clock to within milliseconds of ‘real’ time.” It was possibly not the best Windows tool for the purpose: MakeUseOf named others that would synchronize one’s computer to an atomic clock. A search led to indications that time drift was an issue in Linux as well as in Windows. AlternativeTo did not identify any Dimension 4 alternatives for Linux. Boelen (2016) offered a general Linux-oriented discussion, with an indication that an NTP client approach would use the command-line tools ntpdate or rdate with cron. A search on that approach led to more detailed explanations by Nayak and LostSaloon. It appeared that these would adequately address the issue.
Disk Defragmenter. According to an article in MakeTechEasier, Linux disks rarely needed defragmentation, “due mostly to the excellent journaling filesystems Linux uses,” such as the ext4 system that I had chosen for my Linux partitions. The article seemed to say that fragmentation would be most likely, in Linux, where drives were mostly filled, and that the user could check by running the fsck command, looking for the non-contiguous percentage, and defragmenting if that percentage exceeded 20%. In that case, the article suggested a series of commands or, more simply, the e4defrag program. HowToForge echoed the recommendation of e4defrag and pointed out that, in Windows and Linux alike, defragmentation was an issue only for hard disk drives (HDDs), not solid state drives (SSDs).
DoubleKiller. This program was able to find duplicate files by numerous criteria (e.g., similar size and/or name; byte-for-byte duplicate; CRC similarity). AlternativeTo said that Duplicate Cleaner and dupeGuru were more popular in Windows. DupeGuru and FSlint were popular on Linux as well. The dupeGuru documentation was encouraging. It appeared that I might be able to use dupeGuru to do what I had been doing with DoubleKiller.
HGST WinDFT Drive Diagnostics, SeaTools for Windows, and Other HDD Diagnostics. I rarely used these tools in any event, and even more rarely used them while running Windows. My usual preference was to boot my YUMI multiboot drive and use it to run various disk utilities on a standalone basis. There appeared to be various drive diagnostic tools that could run in Linux, some of which (e.g., GSmartControl, gnome-disk-utility, diskscan) were available via Synaptic. I would have to learn more about these tools in practice, but I doubted I would much miss the Windows tools.
Hourglass. A search led to (1 2 3 4) indications that this was actually not one of the best Windows stopwatch or timer apps. Another search led to HecticGeek‘s suggestion of Zeegaree Lite; the Linux Mint Community suggested stopwatch; and there was also Easy Stopwatch, Desktop Timer, the Teamwork Timre App, Active Collab Timer, Gnome Shell Timer, and Go For It. Other than Zeegaree, none of these seemed to draw multiple mentions. My needs in this area were minor. It seemed that experimentation would probably lead to an adequate result, from one of these or elsewhere.
Microsoft Image Composite Editor (MICE). In Windows, I used MICE (alternately, the File > Automate > Photomerge option in Adobe Photoshop CS4) to stitch together multiple photos to create a panorama image. AlternativeTo suggested that Hugin was the most popular alternative on any platform (indeed, more popular than MICE itself), and the results of a search tended to confirm the dominance of Hugin in this area. The current version drew an average of five stars from raters at Softpedia and 4.7 stars at SourceForge. It seemed that Hugin might represent a step up from MICE, which itself had been good enough for me.
Microsoft Office.* Microsoft Office had the advantages of being entrenched and deeply supported. This meant, among other things, that if I had a problem or a special need, I would be more likely to find a solution in Microsoft Office than in some other office suite. There was also the prospect that, since I had been using Microsoft Office for years, I would be more likely to know the solution already, without much of a learning curve. But clearly there were other office suites with excellent capabilities: multiple sites (e.g., PCMech, the University of Wisconsin, Softpedia, MakeUseOf) pointed particularly to Google Docs, LibreOffice, OpenOffice, and WPS Office. (For graphing, see also RAW; for online databases, see Soda.db; for desktop publishing, see Lucidpress.) Among installed programs (as distinct from the cloud-based Google Docs — or Microsoft Office Online), in my impression LibreOffice tended to be favored; it was available through Synaptic and already installed in Linux Mint 17.3, so I would probably use it to some extent.
MiniTool Partition Wizard Free. For some purposes, I preferred Partition Wizard over GParted, the default Linux partition editor. It was available as a bootable program on my YUMI multiboot drive. It would not run inside Linux, whereas it would run in Windows. But I rarely used it that way. For my usage, then, the switch to Linux did not have significant impact in this area.
Moo0 SystemMonitor and Process Hacker. I used these and other tools (e.g., Windows Resource Monitor) to find out what processes were burdening my system and where (e.g., RAM, HDD) the system was experiencing bottlenecks. A search led to (1 2 3 4 5) sites mentioning a number of command-line, textual, and graphical tools, including Glances, atop, Psensor, Vmstat, ps, free, iostat, Cacti, KSysguard, Gnome System Monitor, meminfo, Conky, System Load Indicator, Monitorix, and smem, among others. For Cinnamon, NixMash (Burke, 2015) recommended Multi-Core System Monitor. In short, there appeared to be many tools for the purpose. My experience in Windows suggested that I would probably have to play around with some of them before finding some that would be particularly useful for my purposes.
Notepad++. AlternativeTo said that the closest Linux competitor for this advanced text editor was Sublime Text (available via download and Synaptic). Others included vim and gedit. Aside from blogging, my word work usually required either an advanced word processor (e.g., Microsoft Word) or plain old Notepad, so I did not explore these alternatives in detail.
PrintScreen. I wanted to be able to capture screenshots, edit them, and save them as image files (e.g., jpg, png). In Windows, I used the PrintScreen button to capture, Ctrl-V to paste the capture into IrfanView (below), left mouse button drag to mark an area for cropping, and then Ctrl-Y to crop. According to WikiHow, Ubuntu and Mint supported the PrintScreen key. Other alternatives included Alt-PrtScn and Shift-PrtScn, for selected portions of the current screen. For my purposes, the question then would be whether I could easily paste the screen capture into an image editor. WikiHow went on to explain how various Linux image editing programs had their own screenshot capabilities. (For recommendations pointing toward tools other than the PrintScreen button to capture screens, see MakeTechEasier, Tecmint, LinuxLinks, and Unixmen.) Presumably browser capture add-ons (e.g., Nimbus, Fireshot, and Awesome, for Firefox) would work about the same in Linux as in Windows.
Stoic Joker’s TClock. I used this little tool to configure the clock in my Windows system tray (i.e., the bottom right corner of the screen, at the right end of the taskbar) so that it would show today’s day, date, and time. A search quickly confirmed that various Linux desktops (e.g., Cinnamon) supported similar customization without an add-on.
TreeSizeFree and WinDirStat. These tools provided information about the size of files in various folders or drives on my Windows system. TreeSize had the advantage of being incorporated into the right-click context menu, so that I could quickly get a sense of how large a single folder might be. WinDirStat offered a treelike map and also a graphical representation, with blocks of different colors, sizes, and locations quickly depicting where the big space-hogging files and folders were. AlternativeTo reported Disk Usage Analyzer (formerly Baobab) as an alternative for both WinDirStat and TreeSize. MakeUseOf cited Disk Usage Analyzer too, and also reported that KDirStat (available via Synaptic) was the original source of WinDirStat and was now updated in K4DirStat (for KDE), along with GdMap (lacking WinDirStat’s tree listing, but providing the graphical picture) and JDiskReport. SourceForge offered TreeSize for Unix. A StackExchange discussion mentioned fsview and FileLight (also lacking a tree). Depending on my success in using KDE, and on the possibility of incorporating tools into the right-click menu in a file manager, it tentatively appeared that these programs would fully match the functionality of their Windows counterparts.
VisiPics and Awesome Duplicate Photo Finder. These Windows programs found and displayed visually duplicative image files, so that users could identify which one to keep. I generally found VisiPics better than Awesome, and am focusing on that here. AlternativeTo did not find good alternatives, but did incidentally draw my attention to Similarity as a comparable tool for finding duplicate songs. A search led to recommendations for several Linux programs: Geeqie (formerly GQview), DigiKam, FindImageDupes, ImageMagick (installed by default via Synaptic in Mint KDE), and dupeGuru Picture Edition (3.0 stars at Softpedia). I decided to start by trying the latter, since I was planning to try dupeGuru’s main edition as a replacement for DoubleKiller.
Winamp. Linux competitors to this MP3 player listed by AlternativeTo included Clementine, Amarok, and Rhythmbox, in that order — along with the vastly more popular VLC Media Player. Various searches led to (1 2 3) indications that lesser viable Linux alternatives to Winamp could include Banshee, Miro, Audacious, and DeadBeef, in apparent declining order of popularity — and Winamp itself, of uncertain quality, at least for Red Hat compatible systems, or perhaps via Wine (in which Foobar2000 would be another option), or if there was a way to run the Mac or Android versions that Winamp released before it shut down in 2013. Various (1 2 3) sources noted that Audacious, in particular, could be configured to look much like Winamp. Spotify was a cloud-based alternative. (See also Midomi, to figure out what song you’re thinking of if you just sing a bit of it.) My needs were basic; no doubt most of these players were able to do what I needed. In particular, I had a growing impression that VLC was a multimedia Swiss Army knife.
Windows Explorer (WE) and alternatives, notably Q-Dir and Explorer++. There were a few things I disliked about WE: its lines of data were loosely spaced, whereas I preferred to see more filenames onscreen; it did not support tabs, meaning that I had to open a new session of WE every time I wanted to view a different directory without losing the one I was on; all of the open sessions would crash when explorer.exe crashed; and when I was browsing folder contents in IrfanView, clicking the X to delete one file would de-select all of the files I had selected in WE. Thus, I used Q-Dir and Explorer++. But for some reason, those had lately been crashing. AlternativeTo indicated that Double Commander and Midnight Commander were both more popular than WE, Q-Dir, or Explorer++. A search led to an AskUbuntu discussion mentioning a number of other alternatives. A Linux.com page listed still others. MakeTechEasier advocated Sunflower. I was particularly interested in the screenshots provided by OpenSource.com for Konqueror, Krusader, and the built-in Dolphin (probably in that order; all for KDE systems) as well as XFE, which several of the other sites had mentioned.
Windows Fax and Scan (WFS). I did not actually use this program very often. For one thing, I no longer had a land line, so I did not use it for faxing, and I did very little faxing in any case; my usual (free) faxing solution was FaxZero. Failing that, there seemed to be multiple acceptable alternatives for faxing in Linux. I usually did my scanning through Adobe Acrobat or by using the buttons on my Brother scanner. A review of the situation regarding my Brother printer (below) suggested that the latter approach would probably work in Linux. WFS was a fallback, for times when Acrobat and the scanner’s buttons were uncooperative or did not provide quite the desired outcome. OpenSource said that Simple Scan, gscan2pdf, and GIMP (with QuiteInsane plugin) all provided good scanning results.
Honorable Mention. There were many programs, or types of programs, that deserved mention even though, for one reason or another, they did not appear in my short list. One was the cloud storage program. There appeared to be ample Linux alternatives in this area. For instant messaging (e.g., AOL, mIRC, MSN Messenger), the Linux Alternative Project (LAP) named multiple Linux replacements. LAP also listed a number of alternatives (beyond other programs already discussed here) to DVD Shrink, Microsoft Frontpage, Microsoft Project, Microsoft Visio, Microsoft Windows Media Center, mIRC, Mp3tag, MS Paint, Quicken, and numerous other programs. In addition, Datamation (Harvey, 2011) provided a list of “50 Must-Have Open Source Apps for Your Home Office,” among which there appeared to be many Linux programs still in active use. Beebom recommended (among other things) Choqok as a Twitter client, TeamViewer’s Linux version, Tor and Tox for secure browsing and communication, and the Gufw firewall. Other possibilities not included in my list included Evernote and Privnote for cloud-based note taking, Steam as a well-known Linux games venue, Rescoper for project management, and the Instacalc online calculator. An earlier post cites examples of big iron being accessed from small computers in areas like statistics and accounting, along with numerous other lists and programs not repeated here.
4. Windows Programs with Tolerable Linux Alternatives
In some cases, the tools that I would be using with Linux were visibly not as good as the ones I had been using with Windows, but I might be willing to accept that. The following fell into this category.
Acronis True Image Home 2011 and Macrium Reflect. I had made considerable efforts to find a drive imaging tool that would work for me as well in the Linux world as Acronis had done in the Windows world. Those efforts had failed. As detailed in another post, I had wound up with Clonezilla for the time being, but continued to hope that someone would develop a better alternative. Macrium was a Windows alternative. Recently, I had also used AOMEI Backupper. But neither of those was a good Linux solution. In short, I could make backup images of my operating system drive or partition in Linux, but perhaps not as conveniently and compactly as in Windows.
Adobe Photoshop and Paint. In Windows, other programs handled some of my image editing tasks: (1) For simple image edits (e.g., cropping, resizing) on one or many images, I used IrfanView and, optionally, its Batch Conversion/Rename tool. (2) For automated panorama creation, I used Microsoft Image Composite Editor. This post has separate treatment of both of those options. But for other image editing tasks, I tended to use Photoshop, with Paint as a rarely used fallback. A search led to (1 2 3 4 5) sites naming Linux or web-based alternatives: Pixlr; Pixeluvo; Pinta; Lightzone; Krita; MyPaint; Inkscape; and GIMP and various modifications thereof, including the one-man GimPhoto project and the controversial and apparently outdated GIMPshop. Other online alternatives included Google Photos, BeFunky, FotoFlexer, as well as Adobe Photoshop Online and some specialized tools (e.g., Icon Generator; Background Burner; Picture to People). (See also Gizmo’s list.) GIMP, Krita, and Inkscape seemed to be the most commonly mentioned among those options. Lifehacker (Brandt, 2014) suggested that GIMP could actually be preferable to Photoshop, but that did not appear to represent the dominant opinion. I had tried GIMP and found it nonintuitive. Elsewhere, I heard that Inkscape had issues. I was reluctant to use a KDE-based program (which the K in Krita was a clue for) unless I was running KDE. The Linux Alternative Project named Cinepaint as a leading alternative, but I did not work primarily in the artistic realm. I was inclined to start with Inkscape, Pinta, or possibly the online Pixlr.
Adobe Premiere Elements and CyberLink PowerDirector.* My review of Linux alternatives to these Windows video editors proceeded in two waves. First, I looked at (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9) sources that largely sought to identify worthy Linux video editors. That inquiry yielded a number of impressions:
- Among the Linux video editors most commonly mentioned, several were outdated or of limited quality or usefulness. These included Avidemux and LiVES. Kino was said to have a place for initial work with digital video (DV).
- Open Shot was widely recommended for beginners and occasional moviemakers. Vivia was an alternative. Pitivi had potential but would not be a first choice.
- Among intermediate (i.e., potentially complicated) video editors, Kdenlive (called by one source “a feature monster,” but described by another as incorporating “most recent video technologies”) would probably have priority over Cinelerra, which evidently had powerful features and a simple interface that one reviewer considered somewhat outdated (but see Cinelerra-CV). Flowblade is “an excellent video editor,” though arguably second to Kdenlive. Shotcut was not for beginners but was nonetheless a “popular” and “powerful” open source option.
- Among Linux video editors arguably suitable for professional video editing, Lightworks had been used to create Hollywood movies, and Blender offered an incomparable array of features and capabilities. Both would carry the downside of a steep learning curve. Blender simply “isn’t a consumer video editor.” What this meant came out in, for example, a “quick start” page on using Blender for video editing: it called for writing scripts to tie together discrete PNG files.
Others appearing on Wikipedia’s list of FOSS Linux video editors: Lumiera, Natron, and VideoLan (VLC). Other proprietary and commercial alternatives on that list: Clesh, FORscene, and SGO Mistika. With that information, I then looked at (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9) recent lists of best video editors on any computing platform. These lists mentioned relatively few of these Linux programs. Lightworks was the most commonly mentioned; others included Pitivi, Blender, Avidemux, Shotcut, Kdenlive, Natron, and Open Shot. From these inquiries, I concluded that I would find capable Linux video editors, possibly even preferable to those that I had been using in Windows. I intended to start with those in the intermediate category (i.e., Kdenlive, Cinelerra, Flowblade, and Shotcut, probably in that order), with a possible look at Blender, Open Shot, and Natron. As above, I doubted that I would want to upload large video files to the cloud, but in a pinch I could look at web-based video editors.
Batch Files Generally. I was able to write Windows batch files that would accomplish various basic tasks. My batch scripting ability was not extensive, but it served for many practical purposes. I had no such ability in Linux. On the positive side, experience suggested that I could probably translate most of my existing batch files to Linux with the investment of occasional hours here and there, and that I would probably pick up some basics of Linux scripting as I went along.
Bulk Rename Utility (BRU).* This powerful utility enabled me to rename multiple files at once, in many different ways. There was, among other things, the option to insert or remove characters anywhere in the filename, to replace certain characters (e.g., “United States”) with other characters (e.g., “U.S.”), to add dating and numbering, to move characters from one part of the filename to another — all the while seeing a before-and-after display of what I was about to do. AlternativeTo suggested that BRU had no close competitor in Linux, and only one real peer (ReNamer) in Windows. A search led to a How-To Geek indication that, of course, you could do all sorts of file renaming at the Linux command line — but that was missing half the point. Some Linux file managers had the feature, also available in Windows, that would at least allow users to rename multiple files according to a standard template (e.g., X.dat and YZ.dat could become A1.dat and A2.dat) but, again, this fell far short of BRU. A StackExchange discussion and a Webupd8 page pointed toward a few Linux renamers, including Metamorphose, KRename, and pyRenamer, among which pyRenamer seemed to be the favorite. A very brief review of screenshots did not convince me that these were great tools. I expected to try pyRenamer first.
Eraser. The webpage for this program, sometimes called Heidi Eraser, described it as “an advanced security tool for Windows which allows you to completely remove sensitive data from your hard drive by overwriting it several times with carefully selected patterns.” It could be used to wipe entire disks, selected files or folders, or unused space from which previously deleted files might be resurrected. Gizmo named it best in its class, but it averaged only 3.8 stars at SourceForge. Although AlternativeTo contrasted it against DBAN and CCleaner, those programs did not offer the secure-overwrite option for selected files or spaces, as distinct from entire partitions. AlternativeTo mentioned no serious Linux competitors. A search led to an indication that BleachBit could handle this sort of task, though I was not sure whether such tasks could be scheduled as in Eraser. LinOxide and UbuntuGeek named several Linux command-line alternatives: secure-delete, shred, dd, and wipe, each of which could presumably be scheduled, and each of which would probably carry a fair risk of erasing something other than what one intended to erase.
Everything.* This was a quickly accessible tool for finding files by name. Previously, I had used Ava Find. Both were available by hotkey, but Everything was faster. AlternativeTo found nothing remotely as popular in the Linux world. One inquiry generated the suggestion that Recoll (see the discussion of Copernic) might work; other possibilities, more oriented toward file type, included Mlocate, Rlocate, and Doodle with the optional Catfish frontend. In a related search, AlternativeTo users named Cathy as an inferior Linux alternative to Locate32, whereas Gizmo (2015) considered Cathy the best free indexer of file names. Another search yielded a suggestion that Krunner (see Copernic), Dolphin (see Windows Explorer), and Nepomuk (all in KDE) could do this. Someone else suggested Fsrunner. Chris Jean recommended four command-line tools (locate, which, whereis, and find) as the best file finders in Linux. One source said that searches in Linux could not be as fast as those conducted by Everything because of an advantage in the NTFS filesystem. Another user acknowledged that difference but still sought at least a GUI comparable to that of Everything, but his/her particular query drew no replies.
h2testw. This utility was one of several recommended by Raymond to test and detect counterfeit or fake USB flash drives or SDHC cards. A search led to (1 2) indications that F3 (incorporating several distinct tools) would provide similar functionality, with potentially greater transparency and speed but perhaps without the same convenience. Discussions in SuperUser and Ubuntu Forums addressed command-line alternatives.
Helium Audio Joiner (HAJ). As its name suggests, this program would join two or more audio (e.g., .wav, .mp3) files into one. Of course, this could also be done in an audio editor like Audacity; it was just faster to drag, drop, click, and combine into HAJ in Windows. A search yielded a number of command-line solutions in Linux, along with a few pointers toward FFmpeg and mencoder (see Format Factory).
PDF Creation. In Windows, many programs were able to produce PDFs, and I also had virtual PDF printers through Adobe Acrobat ($$$) and Bullzip (4.0 stars at Softpedia). In Linux, it likewise appeared feasible to install a general-purpose PDF printer, and cups-pdf (available through Synaptic, averaging 3.3 out of 5 stars at Softpedia) apparently served as a PDF-printing utility, as did GSview (3.7 stars) as a front end for Ghostscript (3.1 stars). Individual programs also offered PDF output options. For example, LibreOffice Writer 5 offered File > Export as PDF; Abiword reportedly offered similar functionality; and Scribus could produce PDFs from various desktop publishing formats. Generally, I was inclined to say that the Linux options did not appear as reliably easy and trouble-free as their Windows counterparts — but, on the other hand, without Acrobat, I would have had problems in Windows too because, for some reason, Bullzip and CutePDF no longer worked correctly.
PDF Reader.* In Windows, I used Adobe Acrobat as my primary PDF reader. Unfortunately, Acrobat was not available on Linux, nor were some of its most popular alternatives. According to Linux.com (Wallen, 2014), Evince was the default PDF reader in Gnome and Unity desktops. I saw that Evince was also an option in Synaptic on Linux Mint 17.3 KDE. The default PDF reader in KDE was Okular — which apparently had more features than Evince, but would still have problems with some government and tax documents. For example, dg1261 said that Wisconsin online tax forms contained program code that only Adobe products (Reader or Acrobat) would run. Perhaps the only real solution, in that case, was to follow written or video tutorials on installing Adobe Reader in Linux Mint — though possibly this would not guarantee full compatibility with PDFs designed specifically for Windows or Mac systems. For users who appeared willing and able to get by without full Adobe PDF features, there were alternative PDF readers. A number of sources recommended Foxit Reader for Linux. MintGuide and UbuntuHandbook offered Foxit installation instructions. Some users complained that Foxit inserted crapware during its download and/or installation processes, or for other reasons preferred lighter alternatives. Those alternatives included MuPDF (available in Synaptic, reportedly much better than Evince at handling large PDFs, nonetheless not highly popular, but enthusiastically supported by those who become familiar with it); qpdfview, Zathura, and Xpdf (all available via Synaptic); and PDF.js for use in Chrome and built into Firefox.
Shotshooter.bat. I wanted to be able to capture multiple screenshots in adjustably rapid succession, and save each screenshot as a separate image file. In Windows, I used my Shotshooter.bat script for that, producing large numbers of images for later combination and/or bulk editing (typically using Adobe Acrobat, IrfanView’s bulk editing or slideshow option, or a video editor). I used this capability infrequently, and at this time did not conduct a detailed investigation of the possibilities in Linux. One StackExchange discussion and the results of a search suggested, however, that I might be able to piece together a solution using the command line. There were apparently also ways of capturing multiple images in specialized contexts — using e.g., the VLC scene filter for movies or the Grab Them All addon for multiple websites in Firefox. In addition, it looked like DebugMode’s Wink program might do the job, and Wikipedia provided a list of screencasting programs, including at least a half-dozen other Linux options.
Yawcam. For webcams. AlternativeTo said that the Linux Cheese package (available via Synaptic) was much more popular, but Cheese averaged only 3.2 stars at AlternativeTo, while Yawcam averaged 3.5. Someone suggested using VLC. Other possibilities included guvcview, Qtcam, and notably WebcamStudio (5.0 stars from 17 reviewers at SourceForge). Here, again, my needs were basic, but I did want something that would work, without a lot of complexity. It seemed that I could find Linux webcam software; I just wasn’t yet confident that it would be very good.
5. Windows Programs with Mixed or Sketchy Linux Alternatives
In some cases, I was not able to verify that there was a specific Linux program or technique that would perform a task I had previously been performing in Windows. It appeared there might be a worthy Linux solution, but I was not presently able to form a working impression of whether Linux would let me do what I had been doing in Windows.
Aqua Deskperience.* I used this program to capture a text version of the information presented onscreen by a given program, where there was no option to export that information to a text file. I rarely needed this capability for any purpose other than when working with the audio files listed by Olympus Digital Wave Player (below): that program provided date and time data differing from the data reported by programs like Windows Explorer. Preliminary inquiries led to a few command-line suggestions for achieving similar functionality in Linux. There were reports that some of those suggestions worked, but there also appeared to be some complications.
Classic Shell. As detailed in another post, in Windows I had used the Classic Shell program to develop a Start Menu that, for my purposes, was efficient and organized. My investigations so far had not made clear that I could have that sort of menu in Linux. After looking at hundreds of images of various Linux desktops and menu arrangements, I had not yet seen anything that looked substantially similar to my Windows menu. It was possible that I would arrive, in Linux, at an arrangement that I liked even better than what I had in Windows, even if I didn’t ultimately have quite the same kind of menu arrangement. But at present that possibility was uncertain.
Cool Edit 2000.* I bought this audio editor at approximately the year specified in its name. It was the junior partner to Cool Edit Pro, both produced by Syntrillium. Adobe bought Cool Edit, eliminated Cool Edit 2000, renamed Cool Edit Pro to be Adobe Audition, and ran it into the ground by making it a successively more upscale product largely limited to long-time users like me, now available for as little as $20/month, although (1 2) sources also carried older versions. I was used to using Cool Edit for its cue list feature, and had not yet found a competing and affordable alternative: it was reportedly available in at least some versions of Sony Sound Forge, and CD Wave was also apparently able to detect and split on empty spaces. That feature permitted me to mark segments of an audio recording, and then save each of them as separately named audio files in one step. Given the apparent absence of that feature from Audacity, my first choice was to find a way to run Cool Edit 2000 in Linux.
EmailStripper.* Originally, I used this utility to remove email forwarding characters. For example, if someone sent me a message, and if I forwarded it to someone else, the forwarded text would have “>” characters and line breaks scattered throughout, like this:
> sent him the document as soon as I
> received it, but nobody wrote back.
> So I called Jim and left a message that
EmailStripper, provided by PaperCut, would remove those “>” characters and line breaks, so that I would have continuous text. More recently, I had been using it just to remove line breaks (in e.g., text copied from PDFs). So now the question was whether Linux had something like that. There did not appear to be any obvious candidates. A search led back to the PaperCut page, which indicated that EmailStripper ran under Wine, with confirmation from another webpage. An old LinuxQuestions discussion pointed toward the possibility of using Thunderbird extensions for the purpose, as well as a find-and-replace in the Linux gedit editor, perhaps coupled with something like the TextFixer online tool.
Hardware.* Generally, I found that I was able to connect various pieces of hardware to a Linux machine, and they would work without problems. Alternately, instead of connecting devices, according to PC World, I could consult relevant hardware compatibility databases, including the Ubuntu desktop certified hardware database, the Ubuntu component catalog, a Linux Mint database, and Linux-Drivers.org. PC World noted that, to check the Linux compatibility of computers themselves, the user could try a live CD or buy a machine from various Linux-specific vendors. I was concerned with these pieces of hardware in particular:
- My Brother DCP-7065DN printer did not seem to come up in the Ubuntu catalogs (perhaps I wasn’t searching correctly), but in the Linux-Drivers.org page for printers and scanners, there was a link for Brother Linux drivers. But that link was dead. A search led to a Brother download page offering what appeared to be a full set of necessary drivers. The other half of the question was whether accompanying user software would also run on Linux. That page did not offer a Linux version of the Brother Creative Center program, and a search suggested there was no such thing. I did not expect anyone else to have devised a Linux version of that program, so it appeared I would have to use Wine, or else run that program in a VM, if I wanted to use it.
- Another post describes the steps I took to connect my Olympus VN-960PC digital voice recorder (DVR) and run the accompanying software. As of this writing, the situation described in that post was that the hardware connection worked — I was able to upload data from that DVR — but the software did not, not even in Wine, so apparently a VM would provide the only solution.
ImgBurn.* AlternativeTo indicated that K3b (for the KDE desktop) and Brasero (for Gnome) were the most popular alternatives in Linux, but also that neither was remotely as popular as ImgBurn. The situation was not much better among Windows alternatives. Tech Drive-In listed some other possibilities. In short, there appeared to be a considerable preference to be able to keep using ImgBurn in Linux. The WineHQ AppDB indicated mostly Gold and Platinum ratings for attempts to run ImgBurn, using a variety of ImgBurn and Wine versions.
IrfanView.* I valued IrfanView for its ability to handle many tasks, including quick image editing, bulk image editing, and moving rapidly among multimedia files with a single keystroke. AlternativeTo named XnView MP as its closest (but not very close) Linux competitor. It had been some time since I had tried the Windows version of XnView. At that time it did not match IrfanView in the specific capabilities I tended to use on a daily basis.
PDF Editing.* Entries for PDF Creation and PDF Reading (above) address parts of what I was able to do, in Windows, with Adobe Acrobat. Other PDF tasks for which I often used Acrobat included splitting and merging, cropping, annotating, marking up, extracting text, and optical character recognition (OCR). In response, there appeared to be two routes in Linux:
- I could try to patch together a PDF editing solution from freeware tools. There were numerous possibilities. Okular, a PDF reader (above), offered a few Acrobat-type capabilities. Kami, a Chrome browser plugin, also offered some PDF markup abilities. LibreOffice Draw (and Inkscape (available via Synaptic) and, reportedly, GIMP (installed in KDE)) could make simple PDF edits. It was reportedly possible to achieve PDF OCR through a combination of gscan2pdf, tesseract-ocr, and ocrfeeder. Foxit Reader also claimed limited PDF editing capabilities. Other options of varying capability included pdfedit (although rated poorly); PDFtk (a command-line tool averaging 4.6 stars from a few users at Softpedia, available via Synaptic); PDFsam, to split, merge, and encrypt PDFs (or do more, in the Enhanced version) (averaging 3.0 stars, available via Synaptic); FreeOCR (online); FreeMyPDF (online, to remove passwords); and PDF Mod, with functionality like PDFsam (4.7 stars from a few users at Softpedia; well received at Linux Mint Community). (See also Gizmo’s list of best online PDF tools.) Wikipedia said that Xournal (2.5 stars at Softpedia but 4.9 stars at SourceForge; see also Linux Mint Community; available via Synaptic) could add complex annotations to a PDF. Or, for something really complicated, I could use PDFTools inside Emacs.
- I could seek a Linux program that would compete against Acrobat head-to-head. There appeared to be few choices. Foxit defensibly claimed its Phantom PDF ($89/$129) as having capabilities equal or superior to those of Acrobat, though at least one critic faulted its OCR capabilities. MakeUseOf highlighted PDF Studio ($89/$129) and Master PDF Editor ($50), and recommended buying PDF Studio for anything beyond the simplest PDF editing. In my browsing generally, Master PDF Editor drew numerous positive comments.
In the view of Linux.com, Linux PDF editors remained severely deficient in comparison to Acrobat. I was not sure whether this assessment included those paid alternatives. My most likely course of action was to try some of the free options and then, as needed, explore the possibilities for running Acrobat or one of its free or commercial Windows competitors via Wine.
Recuva.* As described in another post, in one project I spent a fair amount of time working with Recuva and TestDisk, its closest Linux competitor according to AlternativeTo, in attempts to recover lost files. Really, there was no comparison. If I had used TestDisk frequently, I might have found it more useful, but it was not remotely as intelligible to me, a lay user, as Recuva. A search led to a number of command-line solutions for Linux, some of which appeared quite technical. My experience in that instance inclined me, instead, to find ways to use Recuva in Linux. This quest was aided by Recuva’s addition of ext2/3/4 support, starting in version 1.52. In other words, if the user could make an ext2, ext3, or ext4 Linux drive accessible to Recuva, Recuva would be able to read it, along with Windows (NTFS, FAT16, FAT32) drives. Connecting the drive to a Windows machine running Recuva would thus be one solution. Another possibility was to boot the Linux computer with a USB drive containing a tool that would run Recuva. A brief look suggested that the Ultimate Boot CD would be one such tool; there appeared to be others. The remaining question was whether Recuva would work in Wine, or would be able to scan a Linux disk while running inside a Windows VM.
Remove Empty Directories.* This handy utility took care of a minor but useful function in Windows. A search led to a seemingly less focused and confusing Linux alternative graphical program called fslint. Beyond that, the Linux options seemed limited to the command line. My sweeps for empty folders were infrequent; it was likely to be a while before I would become familiar enough with the appropriate command to issue it without prior research or review. There would probably also be some times when I would issue the wrong command, with potentially disastrous results. The developer speculated that it might work in Linux with Mono, which presumably meant Wine. I was not sure whether that meant it could scan Linux filesystems.
YUMI* and XBoot. I had used YUMI many times to create bootable USB drives and SDHC cards, and XBoot to create a bootable DVD disc, all containing multiple tools (e.g., partition editors, HDD testers, imaging software, Windows rescue disks). YUMI in particular was very easy to use, and the results were quite reliable. At this writing, Pendrivelinux said that it did have a Linux version of YUMI, but that it was “currently being rewritten.” There appeared to be no Linux version of XBoot. Pendrivelinux offered MultiSystem (see instructions) as a Linux alternative. There was also a manual approach. Linux Community said Mintstick was the default maker of live USBs in Linux Mint. AlternativeTo indicated that UNetbootin was much more popular than any of the above. But UNetbootin apparently allowed installation of only one tool per USB drive. Until YUMI for Linux returned, MultiSystem appeared to be its only multiboot Linux alternative.
Zemana AntiLogger. This program sought to protect against keylogging and other intrusions. Against earlier contentions that keystroke logging was essentially infeasible on Linux systems, a search for more recent remarks conveyed various concerns (e.g., Hacker News). Another search failed to lead immediately to obvious Linux solutions. For the present, I did not have a Linux alternative to Zemana.
6. Windows Programs Running in Linux (Wine or VM)
The preceding sections describe the Linux situation for each of the Windows programs on my short list. Now it was time to revisit the short list programs marked with asterisks (*) above.
This revisitation turned out to be quite time-consuming. Most of that was due to various efforts to find ways of running certain Windows programs in Linux. Originally, I planned to write up the results of those efforts here. Instead, I produced several other posts exploring the use of these Windows programs in Linux.