Living (and dying) with Linux in the workplace

A Windows power user gives Linux a fair trial as her primary operating system at work. Does the open-source OS have what it takes to make her switch for good?

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The first major snag

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It's day 3, and I've discovered the first application I desperately miss: NoteTab Pro, a $30 text/HTML editor I've used for years. It's got elegant one-click menu commands for everything from adding HTML tags and links to changing text case, joining lines, stripping HTML (with or without keeping links), quoting and unquoting text, and checking spelling.

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My favorite text editor in Windows: NoteTab Pro. (Click image to see larger view.)

I'm well aware that there are better pure text editors out there, and better pure HTML/programming editors as well. But the intersection of functions NoteTab offers is what I need on the job. NoteTab has a somewhat quirky scripting language, one I wouldn't want to learn as a standalone programming language, but I've developed a bunch of scripts to automate routine editor tasks we do here, such as cleaning up text when freelancers send in heavily formatted Word docs.

When I get my first major feature as a Word doc, it opens up fine in OpenOffice, and I do some editing in there. But without NoteTab, I have no automated way to strip out Word formatting I don't want and add in HTML coding I do want.

Having a Windows virtual machine on my system would let me run NoteTab. But one point of this experiment is to see whether I can live solely with Linux on the job, theoretically avoiding the expense and support costs of a second operating system.

So I turn to CodeWeavers' CrossOver Linux Professional, which is designed to allow you to run Windows software on Linux without needing a Windows license (or installation). CrossOver Linux is based on the open-source Wine project, offering what it calls "a compatibility layer for running Windows programs" based on the Windows Application Programming Interface.

I'm thrilled when NoteTab Light, a free version of NoteTab, seems to install seamlessly, even though NoteTab is not one of the officially supported CrossOver apps. It's especially entertaining when, during the installation process, CrossOver says: "Simulating Windows reboot."

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Attempting to install NoteTab Pro using CrossOver Linux.
Alas, the more robust Pro version won't even open. And Light seems somewhat flaky when I try to add my scripts (called "clips" in NoteTab-speak). There are other annoying glitches. Much of the time, there's no option to save when I'm working on a document, so I've got to close my document to get the "Do you want to save?" dialog box each time I want to store my work. I also encounter glitches from time to time when trying to place my cursor within a document, and "select all" often doesn't work. Search and replace seems somewhat hit and miss.

Ah, well. I begin the search for a replacement text/HTML editor. ActiveState's Komodo Edit holds promise. It's got recordable macros as well as programmed ones. However, it's designed for developers, not journalists, so it doesn't include editorial functions such as spell check.

Kate, a text editor included with my SUSE Linux desktop, is a possibility, since it has many of the NoteTab functions I've used to save time, such as joining lines and changing text case, although not some of the more elegant one-step, built-in commands such as "strip HTML but leave the links."

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Komodo Edit (top) and Kate (bottom) are two Linux text editors I'm trying out. (Click either image to see larger view.)

I move my feature into Komodo Edit and then Kate until I finally get it "clean" enough to put into our straight-ASCII-only Web content management system. Most annoyingly, I end up coding all the paragraph marks by hand, since I don't have the patience to figure out the Linux end-of-line character and run multiple search-and-replace commands (some paragraphs had one line break, others had two). Just like back in 1995!

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7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
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