Struggling to use linux in college - GNU/Linux

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Houseoftea
Long time nixers
Hey everyone,
I thought I would share what I have been working on recently.

Sadly this past semester I was forced to scrap my lean debian system and use OS X + a windows 7 vm to get my school work done.

Being an economics major, I'm constantly using excel, and ran into issues using libre office calc. Most professors also insist upon posting their assignments in .docx format, which was really difficult to deal with on my linux machine that lacked a real WYSISYG word processor. Another difficulty I ran into was that class presentations are often done with powerpoint, I had originally planned to use the suckless tool sent for this, but professors like to have a copy of the presentation to view and are used to getting .ppt files to view in powerpoint.

Because of the switch I had to make, my productivity and workflow both suffered. I had to use the mouse a whole lot more. Instead of neat tiles, I had to drag and dig through windows to find what I was looking for. There was always a new update to be installed which would pop up in the corner, there was always something flashing around on screen. I knew I needed to get back to my linux set up.

Now that I have some more time over break, I want to prepare a linux set up for the spring semester.

What I want:
* Avoid using a virtual machine and the OS X / windows operating systems
* Find vim plugins that can ease in essay writing (live preview of markup!)
* Devise a way to handle .docx files (conversion?)
* Figure out how to get the functionality of excel through the command line (perhaps a program like sc?)
* Devise a way to handle .xls files
* Transition to using sent for presentations
* Editing pdf's on linux?

In particular I'm afraid of being unable to replace microsoft excel.

If anyone has advice or has experience using linux during college I would love to hear!
strang3quark
Members
Well I suffered from the same problem when I was taking my degree.

You can use tools like Google Docs, in my case I didn't bothered too much, the school offered licenses for Windows Education Edition and an Office 365, I just used a Virtual Machine when needed.

I know it's PITA to be tied to Microsoft and their proprietary file formats, you can try to suggest your teachers to provide the documentation in open formats.
jkl
Long time nixers
The most awesome way to handle Microsoft Office documents on Windows and Linux is SoftMaker Office IMO.
Houseoftea
Long time nixers
Update #1

This site has lots of software recommendations tailored to economics majors.
http://maxbruche.net/useful_software/index.html

SC-IM looks like a really neat excel substitute. Written in c. Vim keybindings.
https://github.com/andmarti1424/sc-im
SC-IM also plays nice with the microsoft excel .xls formats (import / export) and I will be able to share spreadsheets with classmates during group assignments.

It seems as if I will be able to use GIMP to edit pdf's, have to look more into it though.


Bonus old joke: Ubuntu Causes Girl To Drop Out of College
https://youtu.be/5Qj8p-PEwbI
jkl
Long time nixers
(25-12-2017, 12:41 PM)Houseoftea Wrote: Ubuntu Causes Girl To Drop Out of College
https://youtu.be/5Qj8p-PEwbI

Rekt.
z3bra
Grey Hair Nixers
Requesting "DOCX" or "Excel" homeworks is rather common in schools, and you cannot blame them after all, as they don't want to struggle openning documents from their students when they have to skim through hundreds of homeworks during late night.

The easiest way I found to use whatever soft I want is to export everything in PDF, or any common format readable by the Office suite.
You can also use Google docs when you're screwed, as they're platform agnostic.

For your reports there is always LaTeX which can be exported to PS/PDF. But markdown would be the simplest choice (learning curve is nearly flat). You can then export them to HTML, then PDF with your favorite browser, or to PDF directly with pandoc(1) (it will be your best friend for document conversion!).

For spreadsheets, I've always used CSV (doesn't support calculations though, I must say I never encountered this use case, and I'm glad I didn't!). I'm not expert there, so I guess google spreadsheet is your best choice.

And then presentations... At the end of my grade, all teachers requested powerpoints. I decided to screw this, and went with impress.js[0]. They were all impressed (hehe) and I got a pretty good note for originality!
It takes some work though, so for quick prez, sent(1) would indeed be best.
In case your teacher doesn't want to compile it from source, you can still screenshot all slides in fullscreen and make a PDF out of it.

There's always a solution, even if it might involve more work for you ;)

[0] https://impress.github.io/impress.js
Foggalong
Members
I had a similar problem in the first few years of university. My solution was a mix of Google Docs/Sheets/Slides exporting to docx/xlsx/pptx as required and an old Windows only laptop which ran all the software which didn't have Linux or cloud versions. It wasn't ideal but it was better than having to switch to Windows as my main OS.
evbo
Members
I'm a Windows sysadmin during the day that's implementing Office 365 Enterprise, so I know all about Office. If you're a college student, your best bet is to get a free student account to Office 365 and use Office Online. They're like Google Apps in that they run in the browser, but they're Microsoft Office. I don't know if there's anything fancy in Excel that the online version doesn't have, but it's worth checking out.

My solution for when I work from home is running Office 2010 in Wine. It works really well with some minor overrides and tweaking. I got a license through work, you may have issues procuring a legit 2010 license.

EDIT: Apparently I'm too tired to format a link properly today, so here you go: https://products.office.com/en-us/studen...-education
xero
Long time nixers
i have to plug "the botnet" on this one.
google docs, google sheets, and google slides provide as web based alternative for viewing and creating these document formats using only a web browser.

i use loonix at work, and often have to deal w/ excel docs sent by clients. google sheets works superbly for my use case. i don't do a lot of formulas, so i cant really comment on how much of that functionality exists. sheets lets you export in a variety of formats including powerpoint. just saying, using google docs has worked for me in the past, no vm required.
comrade
Registered
+1 for google documents. I went through college as an engineering major using a thinkpad with crunchbang. If I needed to work on a homework in MS Office I did in in google documents and then just downloaded it in the format I needed to submit.
apk
Long time nixers
replace the win7 pxe image that all the machines boot from and use plan 9
rocx
Members
Turbo late, but...

LibreOffice sounds like it would have easily checked off most of your troubles. It has a command line switch to convert documents to PDF and some basic support for DOC(X)/XLS(X)/PPT(X)/&c. Some tool called `docx2txt` might also work for some basic documents. Overall I haven't had any professors complain about the fact I upload all my documents and slideshows in PDF and they have also been considerate and provided me a PDF of whatever they hand out upon request.

No offense but until you know exactly what you want, know your tools very well, a WSYIWY{G,M} tool will be your best bet if only for discoverability and instant preview. Still want to deal with (La)TeX? LyX has been incredibly useful in that regard.

But alas, documents aren't your main problem. The real enemy lies in those that oppose a free/open workflow and by that I specifically am referring to DRM-riddled tire fires and certain Web sites that will refuse to work on a *NIX system either by malice or lack of support. I'd advise a separate Windows machine (virtual or not) to work around that, as much as you might not be fond of the idea.
resk
Members
Any updates on this I'm interested. What did you end up using (web apps?) and what was wrong with the libreoffice calc stuffs?
Houseoftea
Long time nixers
(11-01-2018, 05:43 AM)resk Wrote: what was wrong with the libreoffice calc stuffs?
Check out: https://wiki.documentfoundation.org/Feat...oft_Office, for the complete comparison.
What it boils down to for me is the lack of power in the table department. Pivot tables, table types, comparing tables are all awful on Calc I believe. I also harbor an unfounded dislike of Libre office for some unknown reason.

(11-01-2018, 01:30 AM)rocx Wrote: LyX has been incredibly useful in that regard.
I'll be sure to check it out! The allure of LaTeX to me is in the separation of text and formatting. College classes are a mess of different formats. English classes insist on MLA, Social science classes swear by APA, some history classes prefer the Chicago style of formatting. I detest having to stack style guides on my desk and flip through them to find out if my citations/works cited/footnotes/headers/whatever are formatted correctly.


I'll post a longer response later today with a bunch of updates from what I've been up to.
rocx
Members
(11-01-2018, 02:59 PM)Houseoftea Wrote: The allure of LaTeX to me is in the separation of text and formatting.

Ha. Good one. It takes discipline to actually separate those concerns even in something like TeX otherwise every few lines you'll render the paper to see how it looks after those changes. Then you'll be back into the WSYWY{M,G} camp.
zge
Long time nixers
(11-01-2018, 02:59 PM)Houseoftea Wrote: The allure of LaTeX to me is in the separation of text and formatting.

If you're into that, you should check out one of the newer pandoc releases (2.0+: with groff/pdfroff support! don't need to install half of texlive) or maybe even org-mode for emacs. I personally use groff+ms for nearly everything I have to submit for university, since they're sane enough to do everything in pdfs. Pandoc also has great citation suppoet, afaik. It's also far easier to write markdown with some TeX sprinkled in between than normal LaTeX (not saying it's impossible, it's ok with a good editor, but markdown is stll more pleasant)
Houseoftea
Long time nixers
New question. Most (all) of you have more experience than me with LaTeX, would you personally recommend I try it out, keeping in mind that I want a sane solution to the problem of writing various essays in different styles.

For the meantime I have decided on using Google docs. I liked them a lot better than the Microsoft 365 online suite (even though its provided free by my uni).
This will at least get me onto my feet for the semester that starts next week. I'll continue to look into other, better, options.
Obligatory scrot: https://u.teknik.io/S4JeH.png
z3bra
Grey Hair Nixers
LaTeX was a fun and worthy experience in my life as a student for two reasons:

First, I could get a nice document, well written, extremely clean that I was really proud of.

Second, It taught me why I would never use LaTeX agaon in my whole life.

To be honest, I'm glad I used it, and this markup language is really nice at creating clean docs to publish.
But it is awkward to type, takes really long to to configure properly (formatting wise), because yeah. It needs you to configure formatting, and it is way more complex than with CSS! Also, the copilation cycle can get tedious in the long run.

So yeah, latex is good, but not for everyday use!
mrtn
Members
(12-01-2018, 08:18 PM)z3bra Wrote: Second, It taught me why I would never use LaTeX agaon in my whole life

That's exactly what my professor said to me during my bachelor thesis, when i complained about latex and that i wished i've written it in open office. :D
josuah
Long time nixers
Though I do not use these tools any more, I happily submitted PDF written in org-mode (then converted to LaTeX) instead of GUI document editor with a close to binary (in readability) file format. It was easy with org mode, but I did not have to do anything complex. Configuring LaTeX for emacs and editing the generated document by hand might not be enjoyable.

I also wrote html directly and this was pretty easy, as html + css looks like to be made to write documents (think of CSS float, perfect to put an image in between text) and this was not actually painful, it is not centering div according to grandparent or JQuery debugging...

Then there's Troff, which is LaTeX counterpart. It has most of what you can expect from LaTeX but have a smaller community.

The popularity of the WWW made html easy to convert to .docx formats, and all the document structure, and maybe even the CSS, is preserved.

You can then write in markdown or anything else, add a .css, and then open it with libreoffice and save it to .docx for submitting it.

Not sure this is as easy with the other two unfortunately...
mrnd
Registered
Pandoc was already mentioned, but I'd like to reiterate on it's usefulness. Markdown -> PDF is extremely useful, but when minimal formatting is allowed and professors require editable document, Pandoc can also export to .DOCX. This has been a real lifesaver for me. Similarly simple powerpoints can also be written in markdown.

If nicer formatting is required, you can also write/find nice templates for most formats.

It also often works the other way around: It's quite common that I'm sent simple Word-documents that are quickest to view by converting them to markdown.
xero
Long time nixers
(15-01-2018, 08:05 AM)josuah Wrote: I also wrote html directly ...

The popularity of the WWW made html easy to convert to .docx formats, and all the document structure, and maybe even the CSS, is preserved.

i didn't want to suggest this, but i have to admit, i did this at uni as well. i'm well versed in the language(s) of the web, and making a well formatted document w/ images and texts that wrapped around them was far easier for me using html. then i just used the browser's print to pdf option and sub'ed it.
fraun
Members
Adding my two cents on the latex front, I'm currently using it every day while finishing my PhD thesis. I couldn't imagine using a wysiwyg editor for something so long, but for me the main allure of latex for me is the options for referencing. Using bibtex and the like are (to me) leagues ahead of endnote and similar, especially with >150 refs.
Latex is certainly not something that I see myself using daily in the future, but for reports >50 pages I wouldn't use anything else.

Also
(11-01-2018, 03:16 PM)rocx Wrote:
(11-01-2018, 02:59 PM)Houseoftea Wrote: The allure of LaTeX to me is in the separation of text and formatting.

Ha. Good one. It takes discipline to actually separate those concerns even in something like TeX otherwise every few lines you'll render the paper to see how it looks after those changes. Then you'll be back into the WSYWY{M,G} camp.

This was definitely me in my undergrad with tables and figures, but you definitely get out of it and just focus on the writing once you're confident of the render.

Finally, like markdown another benefit over .docx is version control.
josuah
Long time nixers
So in the end, simple text formats win: Easy to parse, they can be converted to whatever society come up with to publish documents.

Whatever Text Format (WTF™) -{Pandoc, Emacs, whatnot}-> LaTeX, HTML, Troff... -{pandoc, LaTeX toolsuite, web browser, GUI word processor}-> PDF, DOCX

Man pages anyone? Auto-generated man pages are rarely of an extremely good quality. I guess it might sometimes be the same for PDF and DOCX.

mandoc added -T pdf support to export pdfs that do not have anything binary (non-text), more readable, but still hard to come back to the previous format.
Whatever you choose it might be better to keep the original sources.

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fraun
Members
(18-01-2018, 10:40 AM)josuah Wrote: Whatever you choose it might be better to keep the original sources.

Definitely, have you ever tried to copy and paste from a pdf to a txt document? Especially ones with any columns, tables or figures.
spoonm
Members
Some of my assignments don't even require formatting, and while everyone in my class seems to have a Microsoft Word fetish, I always ask the teacher if it's okay to send them a plain text file. Problem with that is for a while I forgot about line terminations and was graded 0/100 for a few assignments I hadn't unix2dos'd.

Other than that, my teachers just don't want to comply with any requests. If we're using some tool of their choosing and the .exe files are provided through the local network, I ask them "is it available outside Windows?" and they ask me "why would you not use Windows?". When all their documents are .docx and .ppt files and I ask if I can maybe have a PDF, they tell me "use Microsoft Office or ask a classmate for pictures, I'm not converting anything".

That about sums it up for my experience of not using Windows in uni. I keep trying, but always get this kind of "you must submit to my standards" response rather than decency.
Houseoftea
Long time nixers
(28-01-2018, 12:50 PM)spoonm Wrote: but always get this kind of "you must submit to my standards" response rather than decency

I've had a similar experience, lot of teachers just are ignorant to alternatives to the windows ecosystem, or can't be bothered to adjust to alternative styles of submission.
fraun
Members
(28-01-2018, 01:17 PM)Houseoftea Wrote:
(28-01-2018, 12:50 PM)spoonm Wrote: but always get this kind of "you must submit to my standards" response rather than decency

I've had a similar experience, lot of teachers just are ignorant to alternatives to the windows ecosystem, or can't be bothered to adjust to alternative styles of submission.

Do you think this is subject / country(?) dependant? In my undergrad degree in Physics people were *way* more open to linux in general and most supplied notes from lecturers that were clearly written in latex.

Moving to Engineering for my PhD has made me see how against linux, against non-microsoft software and against non .dotx, .pptx file formats people can be.
spoonm
Members
(29-01-2018, 11:50 AM)fraun Wrote:
(28-01-2018, 01:17 PM)Houseoftea Wrote:
(28-01-2018, 12:50 PM)spoonm Wrote: but always get this kind of "you must submit to my standards" response rather than decency

I've had a similar experience, lot of teachers just are ignorant to alternatives to the windows ecosystem, or can't be bothered to adjust to alternative styles of submission.

Do you think this is subject / country(?) dependant? In my undergrad degree in Physics people were *way* more open to linux in general and most supplied notes from lecturers that were clearly written in latex.

Moving to Engineering for my PhD has made me see how against linux, against non-microsoft software and against non .dotx, .pptx file formats people can be.

It probably has to do with many different factors: here in Brazil some people outside the context of IT are(or were) driven to Linux because they're told it runs better on the machines they can afford, and it was free. Then computers became a little cheaper and I hear nothing of that anymore. People in Mathematics in my uni use LaTeX. They don't use Linux, though. 2 out of 8 people in my uni's software development laboratory use Ubuntu.

Your average Joe doesn't know what Linux is. Your average Joe doesn't know there are office suites other than Microsoft Office. As for people in IT and related fields, most see Linux as "the server command line". Teachers all use and recommend software for Windows because that's what people are used to, and my university in particular has ties to Microsoft and Dell through contracts: they use Dell laptops running Windows 10, and every student has a small discount on Dell computers they want to buy.

So I think these are in place:

+ *Economic situation* in the early 2000s drove some Brazilians towards systems other than Windows.
+ Servers are seen as *Linux territory*, and people in IT "learn it" so they can get jobs that involve Linux.
- Windows *comes pre-installed* on every computer nowadays.
- Microsoft has *contracts that tie institutions to Microsoft software*.
- *People don't even know what operating systems are*, let alone that there are more than Windows.
Houseoftea
Long time nixers
(29-01-2018, 11:50 AM)fraun Wrote: Do you think this is subject / country(?) dependant?

Very much so.
At my university most comp sci/physics/hard stem students will use linux (mostly *buntu)
Though there is this one guy who has arch+i3 that no one likes.
Most humanities and arts students have apple products. (macbook air/pro)

Something worth noting is that apple products have become a status symbol among college students in the states. Not having a macbook is equivalent to a declaration of poverty.