Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

PCLinuxOS Day 4 – Extending the system

PCLinuxOS comes with a decent set of basic applications. OpenOffice.org, Thunderbird and Firefox are all there, GIMP for graphics, K3b for burning your cd/dvd’s, Amarok and MPlayer in the multimedia department. Synaptic is the tool to extend the range of applications and graphical environments. To start with the latter. You should be able to install GNOME, Xfce and Metisse from the software repositories and I will try that later in the series.

For now I simply want to add my the extra software I want. That means the software that is part of so-called GNOME office, some financial software, I want Pidgin as a chat client. I also want at least KOffice.

Finding the software you like to have
PCLinuxOS-02-day4.png There are two ways to find the software in the repository. First, you can use the search option and type in either the name of the program (if you know it) or a more generic term like “spreadsheet”. Secondly, you can browse through the sections in the left hand panel. I think this could need a little work. For instance, Abiword wasn’t in the section Applications/Office nor in Office/Wordprocessors, but in Office. The section Office/Wordprocessors did have an interesting package I didn’t know yet, Celtx, with which you can write your own screenplay.

Another example, Pidgin. You have a section “Networking/Instant Messaging” (containing only aMSN), Applications/Communications (with Gizmo and Skype), Networking/Chat and Networking/Instant Messaging, where I found Pidgin. Admittedly, I didn’t check how the Ubuntu repositories are structured, so it might be just the same. The logic of having two sections Networking/Instant Messaging is lost on me however.

I sat down to browse through the various categories and it didn’t take long to gather my list of applications. In no particular order (other than the order I found them) I selected: Picasa, kbudget, kmymoney2, inkscape, filezilla, pidgin, evolution, google-desktop, bibletime, gnomesword, koffice, krusader, dia, planner, gnumeric, kde-pim, eqonomize, gnucash and wine. The idea was also to check how well all these applications integrate into the menu and to find out whether the depth of the menu had a valid use.

And?
Almost perfect! The installation of all these programs finished without any error message. Google Desktop and Picasa nested themselves in the menu, but all other applications found there were in submenu’s. Sometimes in multiple submenu’s. You can find Evolution in Internet-> Mail, Office -> Adress Books and Office -> Time Management. GNumeric wound up in More Applications -> Sciences -> Mathematics and Office -> Spreadsheets. The integration of KOffice could have been somewhat better. The KOffice workspace, the central hub of the whole set, is now tucked away in Office -> Accessories. Kontact can be found under Internet -> Mail. I am still not fond of the depth of the menu structure, but it does serve a purpose when you have multiple applications in the same category.

PCLinuxOS-04-day4.pngGoogle Desktop finds it’s way into the panel at the next reboot. Picasa is slow. very slow. I tried out the various GNOME-based applications, but they launched quite fast and without any problem as to icons or whatever.

What about the commandline?
Yes, you can use that too to install software. Installing software is as easy as typing # apt-get install packagename. Not something you might expect on an RPM-based Linux system, but I am not complaining. No, aptitude isn’t available. At least not by default, but it can be installed via the repository. And it works just as fine, so if you prefer one over the other there is a choice.

Conclusions
When you know what applications to look for, there is nothing wrong with Synaptic as a graphical frontend for software management. It’s a tool I am using for some time now and that made it easy to find my way around in the PCLinuxOS repository. I do think the categories could use some work to make it somewhat more intuitive to find your applications.

I have to adjust my opinion about the menu tree a bit. I can understand the logic about the depth somewhat more and even understand why one application could end up in various submenu’s. Which doesn’t mean I think it makes sense in all cases. On to the next experiment.

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