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8 More Free Linux Tools

Chapter 8, More Free Linux Tools, describes various free open source tools and includes the following four sections

8.1 How to find Alternatives to Windows Programs
8.2 How to Set Up a Free Calendar and Email Organizer
8.3 Linux Desktop Screen Recording Tools
8.4 How to Run Windows Programs on Linux
In this article, we will review how to use a free Linux program called Play On Linux to install and use Windows based programs such as Microsoft Office in Linux Mint.

Folks are usually shocked to learn that not only can Libre Office open and manage MS Word documents but Linux can open and manage MS Windows programs. You should install Play On Linux even if you have no intention of using MS Office because some programs are only available as Windows programs. This includes the Kindle Previewer and Google Sketchup. Play On Linux creates a “virtual Windows machine” inside of Linux which allows you to view Kindle Books inside of Linux. Also learning how easy it is to use Play On Linux will reassure folks who might be worried about running their favorite Windows programs if they know that their Windows programs can still be run even if they make the switch to Linux.

Play on Linux versus Wine
Wine is the most common Linux program used to play Windows based programs. However, Wine can be difficult to learn and use. Play On Linux has a much better User Interface – meaning you just click on buttons rather than entering computer commands into a terminal. We will therefore use Play On Linux.

Download Play on Linux
Play On Linux is most easily downloaded from the Linux Mint Software Manager. Type Wine into the search box but do not select Wine. Instead select Play on Linux.

Then click Install. It is a big program and will take a while to install. Note that Play On Linux will install whatever versions of Wine you need for any Windows program so you do NOT need to also install Wine.


Then go to the Mint Menu and find Play On Linux in the Games section. Right click and select Add to Panel. Then right click on it again in the bottom panel and select Move. Then move it to the hidden side panel. Then click on it to open it. There will be a first use process we need to go through to set it up.


Click Next. Then Next again. During installation, it will ask you to accept the Microsoft license. Check the box and click Yes to finish the install. During installation, if you have a Libre Writer document open do not worry if the Writer fonts become compressed. This will resolve itself once the install is complete. Also do not worry if the installation progress bar becomes stuck at 67%. Wait a few minutes. Then close the Software Manager. You should now find Play On Linux listed in your Mint Applications Menu under Games. First, make sure you are connected to the Internet. Then move Play On Linux to your desktop and click on the icon to open it. It may warn you that you are missing a program.

Go to the Software Center, search and install this extra program.


After the set up process is done, the following screen will appear:


It may say that an updated version is available. For most older Windows programs, it is not necessary to update to the latest version of Play On Linux. We the blue update bar at the bottom of the screen is done loading, we are ready to add any of hundreds of Windows programs.

Install Google Sketchup
Google Sketchup is an example of a program that does not come in a Linux version. But it is a common program for students to learn how to do 3D graphic modeling. We will therefore run through the steps for how to install it with Play On Linux. To install any Play On Linux (POL) supported Windows program is very easy. Just open POL and click on the INSTALL button at the top of the screen. This brings up the Install Menu.

In a later book and website called Create Your Own Video Channel, we explain how you can set up your own YouTube channel. There we go into much more detail about creating, editing and posting videos. Here we will describe three ways to create our videos from our desktop to either place on our YouTube channel or upload to our website or simply display in a class or team meeting.

First, we will describe how to use a video screen capture tool called Simple Screen Recorder (SSR) to record our computer desktop or any part of our desktop. This method is used primary to demonstrate how programs are used. Second, we will describe how to use a tool called GUVCView to use our web camera (inside or connected to our computer) to create a video. This method is used to create a video of you looking into the camera – the “talking head” kind of video. Third, we will describe how to use SSR and GUVC together to create a video that captures both the desktop and talking head in a corner of the desktop.

In our Video channel book and website, we also explain how to use Google Hangouts video conferencing to create a video, how to use an external camera to take real world videos and “green room” virtual videos and how to combine cameras to create a video from multiple angles using a virtual studio. Then we explain how to edit all of these videos using a free Linux tool called Open Shot to add sound and special effects tracks. But for now, let's get started with installing and using Simple Screen Recorder.

How to use Simple Screen Recorder to Create a Desktop Video
Our assumption is that you have read our previous tutorials on how to add the free Linux Mint operating system to your computer. A huge advantage of this program is that it comes with the option to install up to 70,000 other free open source programs just by opening the Mint Software Manager from the Main Menu. One of these programs is called Simple Screen Recorder (SSR). To install it, from the Mint Software Manager, just type the word Simple Screen Recorder into the search box. Then click on Simple Screen Recorder. Then click on “Install.”


Then close the Mint Software Manager. There are two other very popular free Linux Mint video screen capture tools. These are called Record My Desktop and Kazam. But Kazam has a problem recording a selected area of our desktop. As this is the primary method we will use to record videos, this makes Kazam a bad option. Record My Desktop has problems displaying properly with some computers and tends to be too complex for many users. In addition both Kazam and Record My Desktop output videos in a file format that YouTube does not like. Simple Screen Recorder recorders videos in the YouTube favored file format called MP4. This eliminates the need for file converters and results in a simple high quality video that can be directly loaded into YouTube or any video editing program.

To open Simple Screen Recorder go to the Mint Menu and click on Applications, Sound and Video. Right click on Simple Screen Recorder and drag it to your desktop or your Task Bar. Then click on the SSR icon to open it.

Linux offers several free calendar and email organizers. The two most popular ones are Thunderbird and Evolution. Thunderbird is made by the same people who make the excellent Firefox web browser. I prefer Evolution because it comes with a calendar as part of the package. With Thunderbird, we have to install a separate calendar. However, Evolution is having problems right now integrating with Google Calendar and Google Contacts. Also, Thunderbird is multiplatform in that it can also be used by people who are stuck for whatever reason with a Windows computer. We will therefore use Thunderbird and the Lightning Extension. We do not even need to install Thunderbird because it comes loaded in Linux Mint by default. In other words, Thunderbird is likely to work well with Linux Mint because the Linux Mint group checks with each version to make sure they work together. To install the Lightning extension, open the Mint Software Manager and type the word lightning into the search box. Then click on XUL EXT Lightning to open it. Then click Install.


Go to the Mint Menu and find Thunderbird under the Internet tools. Then right click on it and select Add to Panel. Then right click on the icon in the bottom panel and click Move to move it to the hidden left panel. Then click on the icon to open it. It begins by asking you if you would like a new email address.


Click Skip and use my existing email.


Enter your email address and password. You can use any email address. However, Thunderbird is most likely to be able to import your contacts if you use a Gmail email address. Then click Continue. Then click Done. Then enter your email password again.

Then click Allow. Assuming you have downloaded the Lightning Extension, the following screen will show asking you if you want to create a new calendar.


Click Create a New Calendar.

In this chapter, we will look at free open source alternatives to Windows programs. Then in the next chapter we will look at how to run Windows programs on Linux computers. We will first outline some of the best free open source alternatives in each general category. We will then describe specific steps for moving to a better web browser, search engine, email address, and email organizer.

Free Open Source Alternatives to Windows Programs


Windows Programs

Free Open Source Alternatives

Operating System


Linux Mint 15 Mate


Web Browser

Microsoft Internet Explorer

Mozilla Firefox,


Web Search

Microsoft Bing

Start Page dot com

Email Service

Microsoft Yahoo



Email Organizer

Microsoft Outlook

Mozilla Thunderbird


Video Conferencing

Microsoft Skype

Jitsi Encrypted video chat


Video Editor

Windows Movie Maker

Open Shot






We previously showed you how to install and use the Linux Mint operating system. Linux Mint comes with Mozilla Firefox Web Browser and Thunderbird Email Organizer preinstalled. So just by installing Linux Mint, you are well on your way towards freedom from Microsoft. In this article, we will review resources for finding alternatives to nearly every Windows based program.

Websites that review Linux Alternatives to Windows Programs
There are several websites that provide summaries of Linux Alternatives to Windows programs. Here is the link to one called Linux Software equivalent to Windows software.

This is another well organized table of Linux Alternatives:


They also produced a detailed 5 part series evaluating the best Linux Programs in a variety of categories. Here is a link to Part 1.

Here's another table of Linux programs. This one lists Windows programs in alphabetically order and goes on for 18 pages. You can also click on about 20 categories in the left side menu. Each category is then sub-divided into several more categories. https://linuxappfinder.com/alternatives


Here is Ubuntu's Guide: