Moving away from Windows - the software checklist

Updated: March 9, 2022

After using Windows for some 30 years as my primary operating system, I have come to a difficult realization that I will need to wean myself off it for good sometime soon-ish. This isn't a trivial decision, and the outcome won't happen overnight. In fact, I don't expect my plan to be fully realized until 2025-2026, when Windows 10 goes EOL. But I must start somewhere.

What prompted me was the news that Windows 11 Pro will (most likely) need an online account to complete the installation process. Even if this doesn't happen or gets retracted, the very notion of a classic desktop formula being mangled so badly to serve some cloud-mobile greed model angers me. I have zero intention of using my PC like some smartphone chimp, on top of and beyond the technical inadequacies of Windows 11 itself. And then, later on in the future, an even more pointless idea of "desktop as a service" looms big. Nah. Not gonna play that silly game. And so, I am slowly starting the migration journey.

The plan thickens

As I've already mentioned, it won't be easy. I'm well entrenched in my workflows, and so moving all of my programs and data full-time to Linux will not be simple. Some of that can be done today, but some of my needs cannot be satisfied yet. The exact breakdown is a bit murky. But I decided to write this article, to map out my requirements. If you're pondering a similar move, you might find the information useful.

So here's what I'm going to do:

Native, WINE or alternative?

For the time being, this is the short list of the most important applications I can think of today. This means the programs listed will most likely be my first choice. But that doesn't mean I cannot be flexible, or compromise ever so slightly if needed, or adjust to a different usage model. Or that I am using something else at the moment, for whatever practical reason. Or that there may be superior solutions I've simply not thought of right now.

But just to help you understand a little better what I have in mind below, for instance, my preferred choice for a media player (video or audio) in Windows is VLC. As it happens, VLC is also available in Linux as a native application. Awesome. In this regard, there is really no work for me.

A different example. Text editor. Notepad++, no native build for Linux, but it does work via WINE. However, I'm also fairly happy using Kate and Geany, and a range of other text editors in Linux. That said, I still find Notepad++ functionality superior.

Anyway, let's break it down. In alphabetic order:

Category Windows Linux compatibility Comments
3D design Blender
SketchUp Make 2017
Kerkythea
Y
Works with WINE 1
Works with WINE

Excellent compatibility
Needs some extra work
Browser Firefox Y No (extra) work needed
Data backup Replicator N I will use native tools like rsync and/or GUI-based rsync frontend
Emulation DOSBox Y No work needed
Encryption TrueCrypt
VeraCrypt
Y No work needed
FTP client FileZilla
WinSCP
Y
Unknown
No work needed
Needs some extra work
Gaming Steam Y 2 Significant work needed
Image suite GIMP Y No extra work needed
Image viewer IrfanView Works with WINE Excellent compatibility
Mail client Thunderbird Y No work needed
Media player VLC Y No work needed
Office suite Microsoft Office
LibreOffice
Unknown 3
Y
I will need a plan for Office migration 4
PDF software Foxit Reader Unknown 5 Test with WINE or consider using Okular as an alternative
System imaging Acronis True Image N 6 Native alternative
Text editor Notepad++ Works with WINE Excellent compatibility
Text processor LyX Y No work needed
Virtualization VirtualBox Y No work needed
VPN PIA 7
Mullvad
Y No work needed
VoIP Skype Y No work needed
WYSIWYG editor KompoZer Y 8 Windows build also works through WINE

1 The last free offline edition of SketchUp (Make 2017) works great with WINE 6.X. Kerkythea also works with full compatibility, but I will need to provide you with a tutorial that outlines the setup, including the import of materials and old models.

2 While Steam works just fine, not all Windows-based titles are supported. Some games do have native builds, some do run (reasonably well) through the Proton compatibility layer. Among the many titles that I will need to check are: Age of Empires II/III, Age of Mythology, American Truck Simulator, ArmA 3, Assetto Corsa, BeamNG.drive, Caesar III, Cities: Skylines, C&C Remastered Edition, Civilization V, Euro Truck Simulator 2, GTA: Vice City, SimCity 4, Workers & Resources: Soviet Republic, Wreckfest, and quite a few others.

3 Microsoft Office Online works fine in Linux. However, I will need to check the compatibility of the offline suites, including both older and newer versions. At the moment, I think using Office 2010 will probably be the ideal setup. But I do not know if this is doable.

4 I will explore other paid office suites, which may have enhanced Office file format compatibility compared to LibreOffice.

5 Foxit Reader has an official build for Linux, but this is older software from 2013.

6 CloneZilla offers the necessary functionality in Linux.

7 These two VPN providers are listed among some of the (many) products that have good reputation, solid privacy (for the stated task at hand), and also offer native Linux builds.

8 Based on my preference for offline HTML editors.

Additional considerations

The list above is just a sample of the programs that I like, use, and/or have reviewed in the past, as you can quickly discover by browsing my 2,500-article catalog. There are many options here. For instance, if someone prefers Chromium-based browsers for primary or secondary use, they can go for Chrome, Chromium, Opera, Brave, Vivaldi, Edge, and then some. Similar considerations apply to media players and communication software.

I did not list a variety of tools that are considered less critical nowadays. For instance, DVD burning software. Or perhaps P2P software. Finally, there are also tools and utilities that need no "replacement" as their Linux comparables are equivalent or even superior in functionality. Here are some examples:

Where's the catch?

There are some things I can't answer just yet. For example:

Current situation ...

It's not all bleak. After all, I've been using Linux in my production setup for many years now, from the ancient Asus eeePC via Asus VivoBook. Both these endeavors were quite successfully overall. Moreover, for the past three plus years, I've been using the Slimbook Pro2 laptop with Kubuntu as one of my primary systems. And the experience has been solid. These adventures are outlined in no less than fourteen so-called combat reports, which detail the ins and outs of my Linux usage, covering everything: encryption, FHD display scaling, usage abroad while traveling, language support, drivers, updates, all of it.

In the end, the Windows-Linux discrepancy truly boils down to just two things. Office and games. However, there's a lot of gray area in between, which is why I will have to invest time and energy over the coming years in making everything dandy.

For instance, if someone has four hard drives or partitions in Windows, and they use them to back up their data, how will they map over the likes of C:, D:, E: or G: to the Linux filesystem and retain their backup scheme and scheduled tasks correctly?

People may also wonder about security. Someone might care about smartcard readers. Someone else may need VR support, good webcam support, screen calibration, a special government portal software (for tax returns), or they may need a piece of specialized kit for their particular hobby or profession.

I will try to cover many of these use cases in my journey, too. Of course, I will be selfish and cover my needs first and foremost. But along the way, I will also try to educate my readers and help where the transition from one operating system to another isn't trivial. Like the SketchUp installation. Or what one needs to do to configure their backups. Or the whole gaming thing. Lots of interesting things.

Conclusion

There you go. A very early, rudimentary plan for what I have in mind. Now, if I look at my computer usage over the past 10-15 years, it has changed quite a bit. Less Windows and significant fewer Windows-based software, more Linux and more serious Linux cases. I have, in a way, started this migration a long time ago, only now I've realized that it needs to be finished.

I am not happy that this is what I must do. But hey. Using Windows has become onerous. Even in Windows 10 Pro, I have to deal with low-IQ nonsense that simply has no place in a professional system I've paid for. Not in the mood to be the padding for the bonus for some marketing person somewhere. Treat me with respect, and we will have common ground. I've spend thousands of dollars on Microsoft products over the years, including several Windows Phones and whatnot. Not anymore. No settings headerbar rewards, no Edge begging to be default browser, no advertising ID, no cloud this or that, none of that nonsense.

The actual migration is still ahead. And in 2025-2026, I will probably keep an isolated, sandboxed version of Windows 10 past its shelf life here and there, for those hard-to-solve cases, and/or gaming. Maybe spin a VM and use it sporadically when needed. Lots of options that I still need to figure and map out. The important thing is that I've finally made the mental leap needed to complete the journey, and in a way, I need to thank Microsoft's aggressive marketing work for speeding me along the way. If not for the silly-looking Windows 11 and all these must-online nonsense tricks, it might have been another two or three versions of Windows and Office that I'd need to live through to get convinced to migrate away. Well there you go. It's a sad story. But perchance it will have a happy outcome. Stay tuned for many more articles of this nature in the coming years.

Cheers.

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