How Do I Do That?

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There are lots of tasks that may seem relatively simple in Windows, but may be a bit more difficult to do in Linux. This page presents a variety of these tasks, and the best ways to solve them using tools in Linux. Wherever possible, we'll try to notate when a solution is presented using Free software, and when a solution requires the use of proprietary software in Linux.

If you have other ideas, feel free to add them to this table, if you're not comfortable editing the HTML in this table, then add them to the list at the end of this page called I'd like to see how to do that!.

If you can answer an issue, please sign up below under I'd like to demonstrate how to do that! with the details.


Issue In Windows I'd Use... In Linux I'd Use...
Burn a CD/DVD
  • Roxio Toast
  • Nero
  • Nautilus, the file manager for GNOME has integrated burning of ISO backup images images.
  • k3b is a robust CD/DVD burner for the KDE desktop.
Rip a CD
  • iTunes
  • MediaMonkey
  • Nero
  • Sound Juicer is part of the GNOME desktop and automatically fetches the metadata for the songs including artist and track name. It can rip tracks to mp3, ogg, flac, and almost any other format you desire.
Rip a DVD Ripping video DVDs implies breaking of the CSS copy protection/encryption present on the disc. Although this system is very weak, it is a violation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to do so. As such, while it's easy to take a DVD and use a decrypter to copy the DVD, and even then later take the DVD image and shrink it to fit on a cheap 4.7GB disk, we can't tell you how to do it. But, we're sure Google could.
Record live television
  • SageTV
  • BeyondTV
  • Windows Media Center Edition
  • MythTV - Supports a wide variety of both standard definition and high definition tuner cards, including firewire cable boxes and the HD Homerun Ethernet attached HDTV tuner. Allows for pausing of live television, themable user interfaces, automatic commercial cutting, and more. Patrick Wagstrom
  • Freevo - while Freevo is much easier to setup than MythTV, it is not nearly as robust of a solution. It does not allow viewing of television until after the complete recording is done, and is lacking support for a wide variety of hardware.
Transfer photos off a camera Whatever software came with your camera
  • The GNOME desktop should automatically detect when you've plugged your camera in and ask if you'd like to download the photos. A word of warning for compulsive organizers, the import functionality provided directly by the desktop automatically rotates your images, creating a discontinuity between the image and its exif tags.
  • F-Spot has facilities to automatically import from a camera. Patrick Wagstrom
Organize photos
  • Picasa
  • Adobe Album
  • F-Spot works much like Adobe Album and the interface will be pretty simple to navigate for those experienced with Adobe Album. It also has the ability to tag the images for easier categorization of the images. Patrick Wagstrom
  • Picasa is also available for Linux. It's a fine example of utilizing Wine to easily port an existing Windows application. Its very nice for automatically touching up photos. not open source
Publish photos to a website
  • Picasa
  • F-Spot can publish photos to a wide variety of websites including flickr and Picasa albums. It also can create static HTML output, and if you're really adventurous, your own mini version of Flickr using PennAve.
  • Picasa can publish photos from Linux and windows. not open source
Play a movie Windows Media Player
  • Totem
  • Mplayer can play almost any type of media, provided you have the correct codecs. Most installations of Mplayer also ship with Mencoder which allows you create and change the format of video and audio tracks.
  • GStreamer is a flexible multimedia pipeline that can be used to do all sorts of wacky things with video. For a one shot effort, check out the gst-launch program.
Organize and manage MP3s
  • iTunes
  • MediaMonkey
  • RhythmBox
  • Banshee is a C# application for GNOME that manages your music and more thanks to its intelligent plugin structure. Patrick Wagstrom
Sync to an iPod
  • iTunes
  • Banshee supports syncing your music library to iPods, Creative Nomads, and a variety of other devices. It also is able to do on the fly transcoding of those files. Patrick Wagstrom
  • GTKPod
Edit ID3 Tags
  • MediaMonkey
  • Cowbell is a graphical ID3 and Vorbis tag editing program for GNOME.
Edit Video
  • Adobe Premiere
  • Microsoft Movie Maker
  • LIVES is a robust and actively developed video editing solution.
  • Cineralla is the 50 ton behemoth of video editing in Linux. Don't expect an easy to use solution here, but if you're looking for something that can max 6 channel 24 bit audio and full 1920x1080p video into the hottest H.264 output, this is the tool to use. If all that makes no sense, then Cinerella is probably not the tool for you.
Edit a photograph
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Picasa
  • The Gimp is the canonical graphics manipulation program for Linux systems. It is shipped with most versions of Linux and provides enough features to keep an amature photographer happy for quite some time. However, the Gimp is starting to show its age and is lacking features that advanced users may find helpful, such as color masks and 32 bit image depth. also availalble for Windows Patrick Wagstrom
  • Krita is a graphics editor for KDE systems that has seen rapid development in the past few years and is shaping up to be a true contender in the field of graphics.
Create a vector graphic
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • OpenOffice.Org for WIN
  • Inkscape is a powerful cross platform vector graphics editor that natively handles SVG images. also available for windows Patrick Wagstrom
  • Karbon14 is a vector graphics editor for KDE

Office Tasks[edit]

Issue In Windows I'd Use... In Linux I'd Use...
Write a letter
  • Microsoft Word
  • Writer Also available for Windows and Mac
  • KWord Also available for Mac
  • AbiWord Also available for Windows and Mac
Design a presentation
  • Microsoft Powerpoint
  • Impress Also available for Windows and Mac
  • KPresenter Also available for Mac
Create a small database
  • Microsoft Access
  • Base Also available for Windows and Mac
  • Kexi Also available for Windows and Mac
  • Rekall (front end only, requires a separate database installation)
Design a spreadsheet
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Calc Also available for Windows and Mac
  • KSpread Also available for Mac
  • Gnumeric Also available for Windows
Collaborate using groupware
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Evolution has some capabilities for groupware interaction and shared calendaring. In particular, it plays nicely with Microsoft Exchange servers.
Balance a checkbook
  • Quicken
  • Microsoft Money
  • GNUCash has matured into a very mature piece of financial software. It has some support for OFX transactions to download account information directly from your bank or credit card. The program has come a long way in the past few years, so if you remember it from the days when everything was in Scheme, you may want to check out the newest version.
  • JGnash is the program that WPLUG uses to manage their accounts. It's significantly simpler to run that GNUCash, but as a result, it lacks much of the flexibility inherent in GNUCash. This program is written in Java so it will run on most platforms. also available for Windows
  • Moneydance is a very flexible and powerful personal finance package written in Java. It has built in support for many banks and online account services, such as IRAs, credit cards, etc. The visualization tools have come a long way and the budgeting tools help you make sure you're not spending too much money. Moneydance is commercial software and costs $29.99. not open source also available for Windows Patrick Wagstrom
Manage business finances
  • Quickbooks
Fill out tax forms
  • TurboTax
  • TaxCut
  • Sidney from Solutions for Progress is a web based system for doing your taxes. At the current rate it has limited support for state taxes (Pennsylvania is included), has an income cap of $52,000, and is limited to the first 75,000 users. This program is written by one of the contributors to the Metacity window manager for GNOME.
Create a PDF file
  • Adobe Acrobat
  • Most Linux programs can print to PostScript, check the "Print to File" option if it's not available. Then use the ps2pdf program to translate.
  • has a feature to save directly to a PDF file
View a PDF file
  • Adobe Reader
  • Adobe Acrobat