Monthly Archives: July 2018

Ubuntu Budgie Whistles Up a Better Remix | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

May 3, 2018 5:00 AM PT

Ubuntu Budgie Whistles Up a Better Remix

If you have yet to try the developing
Budgie desktop, the latest release of
Ubuntu Budgie is a perfect opportunity to experience a classy and user-friendly computing platform.

Budgie is one of the first home-grown Linux distros to release its latest version based on Ubuntu 18.04. The independent developer announced Ubuntu Budgie 18.04 last week, coinciding with Canonical’s release of Ubuntu 18.04 LTS.

Canonical also offers a Budgie desktop option in Ubuntu Linux. However, the two Ubuntu-branded distros are not the same thing.

Ubuntu Budgie is maintained by a UK-based developer community. Formerly Budgie Remix, the Ubuntu Budgie distro is a desktop Linux distribution featuring the simple Budgie desktop. Ubuntu Budgie is not from Canonical.

The
Solus community originally developed Budgie from scratch and tightly integrated the desktop user interface with the GNOME stack. Solus also offers the GNOME and MATE desktops. Ubuntu Budgie only comes in one flavor.

Ubuntu Budgie 18.04 is the community’s first Long Term Support release good for three years instead of the nine-month release cycle. This new release comes with numerous new features, fixes and optimizations.

The improvements include more customization options via Budgie Welcome, more available Budgie applets, dynamic workspaces, hot-corners and Window shuffler, plus a new GTK+ theme called “Pocillo.” You also get new applets as standard in the panel or available to be added via Budgie Settings.


Ubuntu Budgie Welcome Screen

Ubuntu Budgie’s expanded Welcome Screen makes it very easy for new users to find what they need to get up to speed quickly.

Showing Progress

I have used the Budgie desktop with several Linux distros on and off over the last few years for a change of pace on a few of my secondary work machines. At first, I found Budgie to be a bit limited in what it offered.

However, with each new major upgrade, Budgie became more useful and flexible. It has now progressed to the point that it does not sacrifice performance in favor of simple design.


Ubuntu Budgie desktop settings

Budgie desktop settings are easy to apply and provide an expanded set of options.


I am particularly pleased with the latest release of Ubuntu Budgie. This distro’s implementation of the Budgie desktop has shown substantial growth in features and usability.

The developers are dedicated to mastering the user experience with just this desktop environment. That attention to detail has paid off.

Distro at a Glance

Ubuntu Budgie comes with a choice of three stable releases. Besides the latest 18.04 LTS edition, you can install version 17.10.1 and the 16.04.4 edition.

The latest edition (18.04) has Long Term Support until Apr 2021. The previous edition, 17.10.1, is a standard stable release and follows the Ubuntu support cadence for three more months. The oldest available edition, 16.04.4, will receive community support only until the end of this July.

Ubuntu Budgie is available in 64-bit and 32-bit versions. Given the short support period remaining on the other two choices, go with the latest edition to get the best experience with the Budgie desktop.

The 64-bit latest edition works well with computers running 4 GB or more of RAM on both Intel and AMD processors. It also works on modern Intel-based Apple Macs. If your hardware has UEFI support, be sure to boot in CSM mode. In other words, turn off Secure Boot in the BIOS settings.

Minimum system requirements invite a wide range of legacy computers to the Linux party, including the following:

  • Pentium Dual Core 1.6 Ghz
  • 2 GB of RAM
  • 16 GB disk storage

For better performance, your hardware should match these recommendations:

  • Pentium i3
  • 4 GB of RAM
  • 80 GB disk storage

What’s Inside

Out of the box, Ubuntu Budgie provides a complete set of applications for your daily basic computing tasks. The software center makes adding or removing applications quick and simple.

If you are inclined to be a software purist, you can spare yourself the manual labor by choosing the minimal installation option. It will give you a stripped-down install with just the Chromium Web browser and a few key utilities to get started.

You can elect to install third-party software for graphics and WiFi hardware components, along with MP3 and other media. You also can choose to download updates while installing the operating system.

If you bypass the minimal installation, you will get the latest version of the LibreOffice suite. Thanks to some tightly knit cooperation with Canonical, the installation process also bundles some useful Ubuntu-based applications:

  • spice-vdagent to improve performance in VMs such as GNOME Boxes and QEMU
    GNOME 3.28 applications;
  • Nautilus 3.26 to ensure desktop icons support is maintained throughout the LTS period;
  • Linux Kernel 4.15 to give you many fixes throughout the Ubuntu stack.

Working With Budgie

Budgie is designed for the computing experiences of modern users. Its display presents users with a simple and elegant design. It has a plain and clean style and is easy to use.

The Budgie desktop is not a fork of any other desktop project. Its designers planned for an easy integration into other distros, and it is an open source project in its own right.

Many of the limitations in earlier iterations of the Budgie desktop have been removed. Of course, those limitations were a tradeoff to simplify the user experience.

Budgie has an uncluttered design with little software bloat. To keep things simple and elegant, you still can not fully alter Budgie’s look and feel.

For instance, the desktop view remains uncluttered partly because you can not stick application icons anywhere. Another annoying feature of sorts is the inability to fully resize application windows.

One of my standard screenshot settings for distro reviews is to arrange a collection of interesting system tools or other running applications on the desktop. I still can not do that for the Budgie desktop. It is nearly impossible to squeeze in two reduced windows, especially if I combine the view with opened menu panels.

I still miss the ability to use favorite keyboard shortcuts, but I am much happier with the improved features for navigating among virtual workspaces.

So, there is a balance of good and not-so-good. Notice that I have not described these remaining limitations as bad things. Budgie just requires adjusting my workflow slightly.

Lay of the Land

Parts of the screen layout resemble GNOME 3. A quick launch dock, called a “Plank,” hangs on the left vertical edge of the screen. You easily can pin application launchers there or remove them.

A panel bar sits across the top of the screen. It has a few nifty icons to drop down handy things like QuickNote, Night Light, and some standard system icons typical for most Linux distros. You easily can add applets to the panel.


Ubuntu Budgie desktop settings

Ubuntu Budgie’s screen design includes a simple applications menu and functional top panel bar.


Ubuntu Budgie’s main menu drops down from the top left. The menu is just as simple and uncluttered as the rest of the user interface.

Right-clicking on the desktop opens a limited menu with the ability to create a new folder, change background, open terminal window and organize icons.

The application menu has no cascading views. It is a two-column design.

The left column lists the application categories. The right column lists the individual apps in that category. A search window at the top of the two columns makes it easy to quickly locate any installed program.

Ravin’ Design

At the heart of the Budgie desktop is Raven — an applet, notification and customization center. Combined with the system settings panel, it is the key to controlling the user experience through easy customizations.

To access Raven, use the super key + N key combination. You also can click on the Raven icon on the top panel bar. It slides out from the right screen edge much like the GNOME 3 virtual desktop display.

Within the Raven applet, click the Applets tab to access the controls for calendar, speaker and microphone. Click the Notifications tab to see unread system notifications.

Click the Setting gear wheel to open the Budgie settings panel. There you find two tabs: General and Panel.

Ubuntu Budgie strictly enforces the simplicity rule. Even the settings panel and the desktop right-click menu are neat and clean.

Bottom Line

The Budgie desktop lacks the glitz and glitter found in more seasoned desktop environments. Animation is nonexistent.

However, this latest release makes good on Ubuntu Budgie’s promise to provide simplicity and elegance along with functionality. It goes further down the development pathway to improve on the simplicity to make Budgie a solid desktop choice.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please
email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.





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Users, Groups, and Other Linux Beasts | Linux.com


Having reached this stage, after seeing how to manipulate folders/directories, but before flinging ourselves headlong into fiddling with files, we have to brush up on the matter of permissions, users and groups. Luckily, there is already an excellent and comprehensive tutorial on this site that covers permissions, so you should go and read that right now. In a nutshell: you use permissions to establish who can do stuff to files and directories and what they can do with each file and directory — read from it, write to it, move it, erase it, etc.

To try everything this tutorial covers, you’ll need to create a new user on your system. Let’s be practical and make a user for anybody who needs to borrow your computer, that is, what we call a guest account.

WARNING: Creating and especially deleting users, along with home directories, can seriously damage your system if, for example, you remove your own user and files by mistake. You may want to practice on another machine which is not your main work machine or on a virtual machine. Regardless of whether you want to play it safe, or not, it is always a good idea to back up your stuff frequently, check the backups have worked correctly, and save yourself a lot of gnashing of teeth later on.

A New User

You can create a new user with the useradd command. Run useradd with superuser/root privileges, that is using sudo or su, depending on your system, you can do:

sudo useradd -m guest

… and input your password. Or do:

su  -c "useradd -m guest"

… and input the password of root/the superuser.

(For the sake of brevity, we’ll assume from now on that you get superuser/root privileges by using sudo).

By including the -m argument, useradd will create a home directory for the new user. You can see its contents by listing /home/guest.

Next you can set up a password for the new user with

sudo passwd guest

Or you could also use adduser, which is interactive and asks you a bunch of questions, including what shell you want to assign the user (yes, there are more than one), where you want their home directory to be, what groups you want them to belong to (more about that in a second) and so on. At the end of running adduser, you get to set the password. Note that adduser is not installed by default on many distributions, while useradd is.

Incidentally, you can get rid of a user with userdel:

sudo userdel -r guest

With the -r option, userdel not only removes the guest user, but also deletes their home directory and removes their entry in the mailing spool, if they had one.

Skeletons at Home

Talking of users’ home directories, depending on what distro you’re on, you may have noticed that when you use the -m option, useradd populates a user’s directory with subdirectories for music, documents, and whatnot as well as an assortment of hidden files. To see everything in you guest’s home directory run sudo ls -la /home/guest.

What goes into a new user’s directory is determined by a skeleton directory which is usually /etc/skel. Sometimes it may be a different directory, though. To make check which directory is being used, run:

useradd -D
GROUP=100 
HOME=/home 
INACTIVE=-1 
EXPIRE= 
SHELL=/bin/bash 
SKEL=/etc/skel 
CREATE_MAIL_SPOOL=no

This gives you some extra interesting information, but what you’re interested in right now is the SKEL=/etc/skel line. In this case, and as is customary, it is pointing to /etc/skel/.

As everything is customizable in Linux, you can, of course, change what gets put into a newly created user directory. Try this: Create a new directory in /etc/skel/:

sudo mkdir /etc/skel/Documents

And create a file containing a welcome text and copy it over:

sudo cp welcome.txt /etc/skel/Documents

Now delete the guest account:

sudo userdel -r guest

And create it again:

sudo useradd -m guest

Hey presto! Your Documents/ directory and welcome.txt file magically appear in the guest’s home directory.

You can also modify other things when you create a user by editing /etc/default/useradd. Mine looks like this:

GROUP=users 
HOME=/home 
INACTIVE=-1 
EXPIRE= 
SHELL=/bin/bash 
SKEL=/etc/skel 
CREATE_MAIL_SPOOL=no

Most of these options are self-explanatory, but let’s take a closer look at the GROUP option.

Herd Mentality

Instead of assigning permissions and privileges to users one by one, Linux and other Unix-like operating systems rely on groups. A group is a what you imagine it to be: a bunch of users that are related in some way. On your system you may have a group of users that are allowed to use the printer. They would belong to the lp (for “line printer“) group. The members of the wheel group were traditionally the only ones who could become superuser/root by using su. The network group of users can bring up and power down the network. And so on and so forth.

Different distributions have different groups and groups with the same or similar names have different privileges also depending on the distribution you are using. So don’t be surprised if what you read in the prior paragraph doesn’t match what is going on in your system.

Either way, to see which groups are on your system you can use:

getent group

The getent command lists the contents of some of the system’s databases.

To find out which groups your current user belongs to, try:

groups

When you create a new user with useradd, unless you specify otherwise, the user will only belong to one group: their own. A guest user will belong to a guest group and the group gives the user the power to administer their own stuff and that is about it.

You can create new groups and then add users to them at will with the groupadd command:

sudo groupadd photos

will create the photos group, for example. Next time, we’ll use this to build a shared directory all members of the group can read from and write to, and we’ll learn even more about permissions and privileges. Stay tuned!

Learn more about Linux through the free “Introduction to Linux” course from The Linux Foundation and edX.

Linux Mint 19 Released » Linux Magazine


The Linux Mint team has announced the release of Linux Mint 19, codenamed Tara. Linux Mint 19 comes in three flavors — Cinnamon, Mate, and XFCE. Linux Mint 19 is based on the Ubuntu LTS 18.04 release, which is supported until 2023.

Linux Mint gained popularity during the early days of Gnome 3 and the Unity desktop. Linux Mint created the Cinnamon desktop, which offered the good old WIMP (Windows, icons, mouse & pointer), as compared to touch-friendly, future proof Gnome 3 and Unity.

One of the highlights of Linux Mint 19 is Timeshift, a name and feature borrowed from Apple’s Time Machine that enables users to create a backup of the system and restore the system if something goes wrong.

To make life easier for users, Linux Mint 19 simplifies the update manager. “The Update Manager no longer promotes vigilance and selective updates. It relies on Timeshift to guarantee the stability of your system and suggests to apply all available updates,” said the official blog post.

The Linux Mint team has offered an update mechanism, so users running Linux Mint 18 can upgrade to Linux Mint 19.

Linux Mint has not been free of controversies. The team edits Firefox to remove Google as the default search engine and replace it with Yahoo!

You can download Linux Mint from the official download page.



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Android P Tackles Phone Addiction, Distraction | Operating Systems


Google on Tuesday revealed some major new features in the next version of its Android operating system for mobile devices.

Now in public beta, the OS known as “Android P” includes features designed to address growing concerns about phone addiction and distraction.

For example, a dashboard will show users how often, when and for how long they use each application on their phone. What’s more, they can set time limits on usage.

With the help of artificial intelligence, Android P also will watch how a user handles notifications. If notifications from an app constantly are swiped away, Android P will recommend notifications be turned off for that program.

“Do Not Disturb” mode has been beefed up in Android P. Users will be able to set the mode so there are no visual cues at all on a display of notifications, not even in the notification drawer.

The mode can be activated simply by placing the phone face down on a flat surface. If a phone is set up to separate work from personal apps, it can be configured to mute all apps at once with a single toggle.

Moreover, there’s a “wind down” feature that will take the phone into Do Not Disturb mode at a bedtime set by the user.

Fighting Addiction

The new application dashboard and notification muting features target a growing social concern about smartphones.

“Google is making the product far more user-friendly and directly addressing at least some of the problems associated with smartphone addiction,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

That strikes a contrast with Android’s chief competitor, iOS.

“Apple is more focused on ensuring privacy and doesn’t seem to be as aggressively addressing the addiction problem,” Enderle told TechNewsWorld.

It remains to be seen whether users will take advantage of the tools.

“Folks should care more about this — but, like any addiction, they likely feel they can deal with this one without help,” Enderle remarked.

The success of the features will depend on Google, noted Gerrit Schneemann, senior analyst at IHS Markit Technology.

“I firmly believe that many smartphone users do not use all the features of their phone to their full potential,” he told TechNewsWorld. “It seems like that could be the case here.”

“If Google focuses on things like ‘wind down’ to expose users to the capabilities, I think there could be traction,” Schneemann said. “However, depending on users to discover the dashboard alone will be problematic on a broad scale.”

More Than Well Being

In addition to the new “digital well-being” features, Android P will provide a new way to navigate phones.

There’s the familiar home button, but with modified behavior. With new gestures, a user swipes up to get an overview of open apps, and swipes up further to go to the app tray.

The back button is still there, but it only appears inside apps.

Google has added screenshot editing to Android P, allowing users to mark up screenshots without having to use another app.

Google also has injected smarts into app searching in Android P. When a search is performed, things that can be done with an app appear along with its icon. So if you search for a ride-sharing app, for example, the results might include a button to hail a ride.

The Android P team partnered with
DeepMind on a new Adaptive Battery feature that optimizes app usage, noted Dave Burke, VP of engineering for Android.

“Adaptive Battery uses machine learning to prioritize access to system resources for the apps the user cares about most,” he wrote in an online post. “It puts running apps into groups with different restrictions using four new ‘App Standby buckets’ ranging from ‘active’ to ‘rare.’ Apps will change buckets over time, and apps not in the ‘active’ bucket will have restrictions in: jobs, alarms, network and high-priority Firebase Cloud Messages.”

Android P Adaptive Battery

Personal Touch

Android P shows Google wants to make the OS more personal and relevant for individuals, noted Brian Blau, a research director at Gartner.

“There’s a lot of new features in Android, but they all center on how can Google users have a more holistic and personal interaction with technology,” he told TechNewsWorld.

With Android P, Google is making a pitch to use less technology, Blau maintained.

“They’re saying you don’t need technology at every last pinpoint in every day of your life,” he continued. “Maybe you need more effective technology with fewer interactions. With Android P, Google is taking away the rough edges. That, over time, means what you will see is an Android that caters much more to the individual.”

From a feature and user interface perspective, Android P is one of the more significant rollouts for the OS in a while, noted Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.

“They’re also letting the beta run on more third-party phones,” he told TechNewsWorld. “In the past, betas only ran on a Nexus or Pixel device.”

Those third-party phones include the Essential Phone, Sony’s Xperia XZ2, Xiaomi’s Mi Mix 2S, Nokia’s 7 Plus, Vivo’s X21, Oppo’s R15 Pro and the soon-to-be-released OnePlus 6.


John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter
since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the
Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government
Security News
. Email John.





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Ribbons and Tabs Give OnlyOffice Suite a Fresh Look | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

Jul 10, 2018 9:56 AM PT

Ribbons and Tabs Give OnlyOffice Suite a Fresh Look

Ascensio System SIA recently released its free office suite upgrade —
OnlyOffice Desktop Editors — with a ribbon and tab interface plus numerous updated features. The refresh makes version 5.1 a potential alternative to Web versions of the Microsoft Office suite and Google Docs for Linux users.

The three-module set of OnlyOffice Desktop Editors has an impressive collection of tools geared toward individual consumers and small offices. It provides many of the conveniences available when using MS Word or Google G-Suite apps.

However, the real workplace benefits of collaborating on files through cloud storage come at an add-on cost once the free-trial period ends. Still, the core functionality — word processor, spreadsheet and slide presentations — remains free and installs locally as standalone apps in Linux distributions that use .DEB, .RPM and Snap software packages.


OnlyOffice Desktop Editors ribbon-style interface

The OnlyOffice Desktop Editors have a new tabbed and ribbon-style interface with numerous updated features.


The completely reorganized interface of the free version of OnlyOffice now matches that of the OnlyOffice commercial online suite. Its other benefits include a near-seamless connection to the Web-based OnlyOffice applications for collaboration tools that include two co-editing modes (fast and strict), commenting, built-in chat, tracking changes and version history. (But more later on how seamless is not always all that it seems.)

The free and the commercial versions of OnlyOffice on Linux offer a common appearance and tools organized into tabs by their purposes: File, Home, Insert, Layout, References, Collaboration and Plugins. OnlyOffice also gives users the ability to extend the fully functional office suite with ready-to-use add-ons such as macros, WordPress, Translator and YouTube.

Whether the mostly-free features will win out over the paid add-on collaboration tools depends solely on your workflow. I use the Google Doc apps only occasionally, having found over the years that the open source LibreOffice has met or exceeded my personal and professional office suite needs. I even run LibreOffice on my Windows computer instead of MS Office.

So for the purpose of this review, I used my hands-on familiarity with LibreOffice, MS Word and Google Docs as a baseline for comparisons. In most categories, OnlyOffice showed it was up to the task.

First Impressions

OnlyOffice is a free open source office suite that is well-tuned, and it reads and writes Microsoft Office file formats reliably. It also supports other mainstream file formats, making it a good contender for your computer’s hard drive.

LibreOffice developers have been slow to offer a ribbon-style user interface. So, that is a nice new feature in OnlyOffice, even though it takes some getting used to. Having open documents in tabs is a great design that is very useful.

OnlyOffice Desktop Editors use OOXML as a native format. The developer claims this offers better support for MS Office formats than any other office suite, allowing users to work with all popular formats: DOC, DOCX, ODT, RTF, TXT, PDF, HTML, EPUB, XPS, DjVu, XLS, XLSX, ODS, CSV, PPT, PPTX, ODP.

This wide range of file formats is a good mix for users who have to exchange a variety of file types created by most of the popular text and graphics creation applications. This ability is essential for using open source software for certain work tasks. While I have a few gripes about other aspects of OnlyOffice, file interoperability is not one of them.

Modern Interface Options

One of the biggest user features that sets OnlyOffice apart from other office suites is the tabbed interface. It brings the same convenience of moving among open documents that tabbed pages bring to surfing in a Web browser.

Writing and researching require that I bounce around several websites constantly. I normally use Geany IDE or gEdit text editors to take notes or write in multiple files when document formatting is not required. Those two text editors use tabs for open documents.

So I can use OnlyOffice as an all-in-one text editor and word processor. OpenOffice gives me built-in access to spreadsheets and slide shows using the same interface and other features. LibreOffice and other office suites for Linux — even MS Office on line — do not offer a tabbed interface. So pairing tabs for open documents with a ribbon style interface is a great productivity combination.

Work in the Cloud

I often work with multiple computers in several office locations. Cloud storage is more than just a convenience for my work flow. It is a necessity. My primary cloud storage solution has been Dropbox, which has nice integration with the several Linux distros that I use.

OnlyOffice blends access to its own online storage and its online office service from the OnlyOffice Desktop Editors. That cloud access and the availability of collaboration tools, even with an add-on price — give me that same degree of flexibility.

The OnlyAccess cloud server is similar to Google Docs with its automatic storage on Google Drive. When you install OnlyOffice Desktop Editors, you also are prompted to set up a free account on the OnlyOffice cloud service associated with its standalone desktop office suite.

The Downside

OnlyOffice Desktop Editors give you solid performance and several reasons to switch from your current Linux office software — but it is not a perfect solution yet. This application has several quirks.

The spell check feature is active by default. You do not have to add anything. However, you can not add words to a personal dictionary. Your only option is to ignore words flagged as errors.

OnlyOffice is missing two critical components for any office software suite. It has no thesaurus or option to add one. Ditto for a grammar-checking feature.

Another big weakness in OnlyOffice Desktop Editors is the absence of significant settings to personalize or adapt it to your user preferences. There are no application-wide user preference settings. In an open file, however, under the File/Advanced Settings menu, is a skimpy check list for very minimal user options for that file. There is nothing “advanced” about these settings choices.


OnlyOffice File/Advanced Settings menu

In OnlyOffice no application-wide settings exist, but you can make slight adjustments to default settings in an open file using the File/Advanced Settings menu.


More Feature Flameouts

Each of these feature missteps might be minor to some users. However, regular professional users will suffer from OnlyOffice’s shortcomings:

  • You can auto recover a file, but you cannot set an auto save interval;
  • There is no save all option; if multiple document tabs are open, each must be saved manually;
  • You can not modify the tool bar or create special quick access icons. You must click through the ribbon categories;
  • There is no ability to get a word count of highlighted text;
  • You can hide/unhide the toolbar, but you can’t configure it — only a save icon, a print icon, and undo/redo arrows are available.

Two more bothersome quirks involve file conversion and spell checker glitches. I opened an MS Word document that had large bullets in the text. OnlyOffice replaced the bullets with small question marks in a box.

The spell checker did not always replace the selected correction from the options list. I had to redo the spell check correction several times for it to replace the typos.

Usage Fail Issues

I did discover one potentially serious flaw in the otherwise impressive ability of the OnlyOffice Desk Editors to read and write so many file formats. The seamless functionality the developer touts may have limitations. If you save your documents only to a hard drive or the OnlyOffice cloud, the process works reasonably well.

However, two quirks in the way OnlyOffice manages documents may force you to develop workarounds for the way *you* work. One, the OnlyOffice Desktop Editors insist on converting file formats from older to most-current versions. Two, it seems to have its own mind about where it places the file.

It took me a while to figure out what was happening. I would open an existing file created with another office application. After editing the file, I would click the Save File icon. A Save File As dialogue box would appear on the screen. At first, I didn’t pay close attention to its content. I merely clicked the OK button and closed the application.

In subsequent work sessions, I would open the file to resume editing by clicking on the file name in File Manager or from the recent files list within OnlyOffice. The file that loaded was not the last file saved. The content I added or edited was missing. This happened regularly if I used a different workstation or mobile device to access the file.

Remember what I said earlier about my cloud storage setup? Each of my computers has a Dropbox folder with subfolders. These instantly sync with my master files stored in the Dropbox cloud. The key to this file management process is having the same folder and subfolder tree on each device and in the cloud storage system.

Problem Exposed

This was a major usability issue for me. When I clicked the Save File Button in OnlyOffice, the Save As dialogue box displayed two things that caused the problem.

One was the file location. It did not keep the path location of the opened file. It always defaulted to the main folder location, not the designated subfolder.

Two, OnlyOffice converts the existing file type when a document is first opened to a different file type. This is a problem with files created in another office application that were saved in an older format version. If you create a new file, on first saving you select the file type. However, OnlyOffice uses the latest file version for new file creations.

For example, when I first began testing OnlyOffice, I created a new file to write my observations and first draft of this review. I then used OnlyOffice to continue work projects on existing files. That is when I noticed the content was different.

Why Stuff Happens

OnlyOffice has a menu option to open local files. There is no auto save feature, so the first save pops up the Save As dialogue box. It defaults to username/documents/filename and adds the latest file format. Older format options are not available. Therein lies the problem for reliable file interoperability.

For example, I opened a work document saved as “ARTICLE1.DOC” created in MS Word stored in the /Dropbox/documents/Freelance/Client A subdirectory. OnlyOffice saved the file as “ARTICLE1.DOCX” in the /Dropbox/Documents directory.

When I thought I was resuming work on that file in a subsequent editing session, the recent documents list in the menu loaded an earlier file without the latest changes in it. The same wrong file loaded when accessed from my other devices.

A similar scenario occurred when I loaded a spreadsheet file in OnlyOffice created with LibreOffice Calc. OnlyOffice saved the original “SPREADSHEET2.xls”
as “SPREADSHEET2.xlxs” in the /Dropbox/documents/ directory.

Another usability issue involves default application status. OnlyOffice automatically appoints itself the default application after installation. In order to stop this default status, right-click on a file name in File Manager and select the file as the default application for that type of file. Some Linux distros give you that option in the Preferences panel also.

Give It a Spin

Unlike most office suite applications, OnlyOffice has a single launcher. It has no separate launchers for word processor, spreadsheet and slide presentation module. You click on the single menu item and the application opens to a file manager type page.


OnlyOffice file manager page

OnlyOffice does not have separate launchers for word processor, spreadsheet and slide presentation modules. You click on the single menu item and the application opens to a file manager page. From there you create a new file or open an existing document by clicking on the file name.


In the left column are buttons to create a new file for each of the three modules. On the larger right side of the screen is a directory view based on which option you select in the left column.

Under those options are buttons to display a list of recent files on the larger right column or open local files stored on the computer. Three other buttons let you sign up for a free trial period of collaboration features. The options are Share and Collaborate, view version histories, and collaborative review.

The OnlyOffice Desktop Editors release is available for Linux, Windows and Mac OS. The source code is available on GitHub released under the AGPL v.3 license.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please
email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input.


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.





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