10 May 2014

#opensource: stick to illegal app or move to open source (part1)

This post is a bit provocative to undergrad students who are nearly to become junior researchers. 

You might be surprised that there's at least one open source-equivalent app to every common commercial apps that you use. You just need to dig a little bit in the internet.

Let's just start:

1. Operating system: 
Most of you probably use Ms Windows. And the most used version would be Windows 7, because it needs low to moderate specs to run. You can always turn to Linux. there are "too" many flavour of it that you can use according to your personal taste. The easiest version (or distribution) according to me is Ubuntu. The 14.04 stable version has already launched on 17th April this year. There are "too" many discussion groups or tutorials on You Tube that can answer any of your question, starting to the most basic to the advanced-hardcore ones.

[This is a screenshot of my Ubuntu 13.10 Desktop]

[And this one is a screenshot of multiple desktop on with Ubuntu 13.10. 
Windows can't do this without additional apps. Each box is a desktop that can run multiple apps individually. So you can have four screen instead of one]

2. Document processor: 
Well, my hands down to Ms Office. I remembered the days that WordStar and ChiWriter were the two major word processor apps, Lotus 123 and Quattro Pro were the spreadsheet apps, and Dbase and FoxPro were the database apps. Now they're all gone with the development of Ms Word, Ms Excel and Ms Access.

LibreOffice (LO) is my first choice as an equivalent to Ms Office. it has a fresh conventional look with all ability to imitate Ms Office facilities.  LO is a fork (son) of OpenOffice (OO), an open source project that was initiated by Sun Microsystem. It is compatible with MsO files. From my own experience, a simple word doc with no specific outline layout or figure settibg, can be opened seamlessly by LO. So don't worry to exchange files with friends and your profesor. I've exchanged a 80 pages doc file with one of my student and it went well.

[This is a screenshot of LO. Upper left is "Writer" ~ "Word", upper right is "Calc" ~ "Excel", 
lower left is "Impress" ~ "Powerpoint", and lower right is "Draw" ~ "CorelDraw"] 

If you like to go very technical and keen in scripting and coding, you can try LaTeX. With this beast you can be more focus in writing than in format etc. All formats will be typed and not clicked. Therefore you would never get a moving paragraf or moving pic and table along the page. Everything is fixed like how you want it to be. I use TeXStudio as my interface. Or you can try LyX as an interface, as it has more easy to follow click on menu than TeXStudio. 

[Above is a TexStudio screenshot. Left window shows doc structure (chapters etc), mid window shows the Latex code and text, and right window shows the preview in pdf format]

[and this one is a shot of LyX, a more user-friendly Latex interface]

... To be continued :-)

Part 2: Document processor (cont): Reference Manager

Part 3: Integrated Development Environment (IDE)

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