By now, you’ve probably discovered how delightful the Firefox Web browser is to use while surfing or working on the Internet. One of its best features is that it’s easily customizable by using add-ons to add extra functionality. Here are 10 favorites that make getting things done a little easier, more efficient, and fun.
In a symbolic show of support for Free Open Source Software and the OpenDocument Format, Brazilian President Lula da Silva recently attended the Linux-related FISL 10 conference in Porto Alegre, Brazil, where he gave an address underscoring the importance of Free Open Source Software to Brazilian national interests. He appears here wearing a hat with the ODF logo (the OpenDocument Format is a legally unencumbered document format upon which any company or community project can easily build.)
Illustration 1: Brazilian President Lula da Silva dons an ODF hat. Credit: paulohenrique.net (Flickr)
If your laptop is getting long in the tooth, there is no reason to rush out to buy a new one. Instead, you can relegate the most demanding computer tasks to your desktop machine and use your laptop to run applications remotely. This solution (often called the server/thin client model) has several advantages. The obvious one is, of course, that you can give your old laptop a new lease of life without spending money on memory or hard disk upgrades. Moreover, since all your documents and files are stored on your desktop computer, you don’t have to worry about keeping your data on different machines in sync.
When the third largest city in Germany rebuffed Microsoft, even people in the US were talking about it. The Munich city council’s decision some years ago to gradually banish Microsoft software from City Hall computers made news in American newspapers. In the meantime, while the software revolution has quieted down, the change goes ahead with zeal. And other governmental authorities have now dialed back use of Microsoft software. But Microsoft is not conceding the field without a fight. “We are learning,” says Microsoft manager Andreas Hartl.
If you rely on computers to help you get things done in your personal or professional life, then you’re probably on the lookout for useful applications that will help you stay on top of things. Recently, we took a look at productivity tools for the KDE desktop, but there are plenty of options out there for the GNOME desktop, too. Here are a batch of tools designed with GNOME users in mind.
Welcome to OpenOffice.org, the world-class office suite that’s also free and open source. This is your new-user orientation. You probably already know that OpenOffice.org includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation application, drawing program, and database: you stay productive without touching your wallet. What you may not know are all the resources to help you make the most of your experience. Read on to discover support, tutorials, community insights, templates, clip art, extensions, and blogs.
OpenOffice.org is organized differently than its main competitor. Hoping to entice business users to purchase support and services, Sun Microsystems (recently purchased by Oracle) gives away not just the OpenOffice.org free of charge, but also its source code (the blueprints) and a significant degree of control. OpenOffice.org is organized as a community under the leadership of Louis Suarez-Potts, the community manager employed by Sun Microsystems. Sun funds the infrastructure and most of the software engineers. The community provides additional software engineers, quality assurance experts, marketers, translators, template developers, trainers, help desk staff, and other important roles. Anyone may participate in the community. Continue reading
FastMailMerge is an OpenOffice.org extension for those who feel intimidated by other alternatives. Unlike the standard OpenOffice.org merge tools or KBarCode, and allows you to see what you are doing each step of the way.
Like any other extension, you can install FastMailMerge by downloading it, then opening Tools -> Extension Manager in OpenOffice.org. The next time you start OpenOffice.org, the extension is ready to use — but note that its icon is placed on Calc’s toolbar, because, even though it outputs to Writer and other text formats, FastMailMerge uses a spreadsheet as the data source.
Tara Hunt’s book, The Whuffie Factor, gives the Free Open Source Software world a tool for thinking about how to reach out beyond the echo chamber of technologists, who already “get” how important FOSS is, to the much larger world of technophobes who, with their dollars and keyboards, will decide whether FOSS will succeed on the desktop or not. We in the FOSS world are really good at writing game-changing code, but we need to get better at getting people to use the code in mainstream applications, and we need to get better at forging alliances.
Tara Hunt’s book, The Whuffie Factor can help us in both of those areas. Her book offers both principled guidelines and clear case examples for forging alliances and creating powerful, grassroots channels for reaching end users. The Whuffie Factor should become part of the discussion as to how we build community among mainstream end users.
Hunt’s premise is that social networking web 2.0 tools are leveling the marketing playing field a bit by offering small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) such as FOSS projects the opportunity to amplify their reach. That concept is not new, and Hunt didn’t invent it with her book, The Whuffie Factor (TWF). But what is unique to TWF is Hunt’s skill in identifying five core marketing principles and showing us how to implement them. The five core principles are:
- Turn the marketing bullhorn around and create continuous conversations with customers (end users). Stop talking and start listening.
- Become part of the community you serve. You can’t serve everyone, so don’t try. Identify communities with whom you can connect.
- Create amazing customer experiences. Design products and services people love.
- Embrace the chaos. Be agile. Respond to change.
- Find your higher purpose. Social capital only gains in value as you give it away. Figure out how to give back to the community, and do it often.
The economic situation is eating into your profits, and the Microsoft Office licenses look more expensive than before. Or maybe you are familiar with the way Microsoft Office has looked for over a decade: it had a file menu, edit menu, and format menu, and you balk at the thought of retraining your staff for Microsoft Office 2007’s bizarre ribbon. In either case, you don’t have to buy Microsoft Office thanks to OpenOffice.org: the best kept secret in office suites.
OpenOffice.org is a free office suite that includes a word processor, spreadsheet, slide presentation application, drawing program, and database. It’s compatible with practically all operating systems and runs well on old and new computers alike. Don’t worry about exchanging documents with Microsoft Office users because OpenOffice.org is compatible with many file formats including the new Microsoft Office 2007 formats.
Like any other modern GNU/Linux distribution, Ubuntu has no shortages of software for printing labels. Many users content themselves with the label and mail merge features in OpenOffice.org Writer or in Abiword or KOffice. All these solutions will do a basic job, especially with text. But what if you want elaborate formatting or graphics with your labels? What if you want a smaller, dedicated program that is quicker to load than a complete word processor? In these cases, you should consider turning to gLabels instead.
As you might guess by the name, gLabels is a program designed to run on the GNOME desktop. Specifically, it is designed for GNOME 2.16 or later, which means that it should work on any version of GNOME released in the last four or five years.
By Bruce Byfield