Academic Lifehacker


Tools and ideas to improve academic efficiency

Making the switch to Linux Mint

Nearly two years after my original post on Linux software for academics, I’ve officially made the switch to Linux. To be specific, I installed Linux Mint 10 as my primary OS. I was originally planning to go with Ubuntu, but after reading this interesting post over at Lifehacker (“Why Linux Mint Might Be a Better Beginner’s Linux Than Ubuntu”), and doing a bit more research, I decided to go for the latest version of Linux Mint instead.

So, how am I dealing with the switch? Surprisingly well. I’m thoroughly enjoying the interface of the new OS– Linux Mint 10 (“Julia”) is beautifully designed. My main concern was that finding replacements for favourite and often-used Windows programs would be something of a challenge, but so far so good.

Here are my suggestions for replacement or equivalent software alternatives for academics making the switch from Windows to Linux:

Task Windows Software Linux Replacement
Document management and note-taking Evernote Nevernote
Reference management and PDF organizer Endnote Zotero
Email Desktop Client Microsoft Outlook Evolution Mail
Mozilla Thunderbird
Text Editor Notepad++ Kate Editor
Word Processor Microsoft Word Open Office
IBM Lotus Symphony

Happily, Firefox runs wonderfully in Linux (hurrah for open source!). I’d miss my plugins, especially customized searches for Google Scholar, WorldCat, and Wikipedia.

There are some interesting Linux-compatible programs in development right now that hold potential for academics switching to Linux. I’ll be keeping a keen eye on updates for the following:

Zotero Standalone
“We are excited to announce the alpha release of standalone Zotero, part of the larger Zotero Everywhere project. Standalone Zotero Alpha does not require Firefox to run and is available for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux.”

Scrivener for Linux
“Scrivener isn’t meant to replace OpenOffice Writer for dedicated word processing needs but rather for help in ‘structuring and writing those difficult first drafts of long texts such as novels, scripts and thesis’.”

“LyX-Outline is a forthcoming add-on to the popular document processor, LyX, that will give it many of the same features as the writing tool, Scrivener. This add-on is a recognition that writing is about more than just plugging away at a piece of prose until it is finished. It’s also about tracking down loose ends, trying to visualize structure, and avoiding as many dead-ends as possible. In a word, it’s about getting from first to final draft by the quickest route possible, which may not necessarily be a straight line.”


Filed under: Academia, Bibliographies, Bibliography, Computer, Email, Files, Linux, Open-Source, Organization, PDF, Research, Software, Ubuntu, Writing

7 Responses

  1. harris_matrix says:

    I am just now starting the process of switching from OS X to Linux (not sure what flavor yet, typing this in Natty in a VM), and the main reason is that Scrivener is developing in Linux. It has saved my (previously) somewhat disorganized academic behind quite a few times. If it ends up with half of the functionality of its current release in mac, there is no looking back for me. It’s a tremendously powerful program for those early stages of writing, and especially writing while actively researching. The ability to have multiple file types (pdf, audio, video) open in the same window while writing is indispensable.

    The one thing I am curious to see is if they will have any compatibility out of the gate with any of the Linux-based citation managers.

  2. some dude says:

    The major hurdle in completely switching to Linux is my crippling dependence on PDF annotators (Skim & PDF-Xchange) & reference/citation-management software (EndNote X 4 & 5). Am planning to switch to TexMaker + BibTex to address this. But we really need a solid PDF annotator for Linux (Okular is ‘ok’, will try out the others mentioned in your earlier post). Hence, am juggling Debian, OS X & Win 7.

    Have tried Mint 11″Katya” (loved it), Ubuntu 11.04 (too much OS X-like) & finally settled on Debian 6 “Squeeze”. For beginners, I too would recommend Linux Mint. (Debian is my favourite – rock solid, but unlike Mint, doesn’t use the latest software & doesn’t come preloaded with Flash, Java & AV codecs – probably an issue for beginners. But it’s good for ‘really learning’ Linux.)

    Thanks for the write-up. Really useful info for folks in academia. Much appreciated.

    -some dude

  3. Seb says:

    Hello there,

    @some dude: I haven’t tested it myself yet, but according to a lot of sources on the net it’s possible to run PDF-Xchane Viewer under Linux, using the wine compatibility layer. It seems to run just fine.

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  6. Constantijn Seys says:

    If you want an online alternative, you can check (currently in private beta)

  7. lightbox works fine in IE on a PC, so I supposed you’re dropping it because it breaks on IE / Mac… Click

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