Elementary OS (Linux): Can it be used for daily productivity?

For the past 30 days, I’ve switched out my Windows 10 PC to take the challenge of working solely on the Linux (Elementary OS) operating system, to see if it was possible to replace my Windows 10 machine. Was it workable? Could I see myself using it in the future? Read on to find out more!

In December last year, I was fortunate enough to receive an Intel Next Unit of Computing (NUC) machine for testing, courtesy of Gerardo from Velocity Host. From the moment I opened the box, I was amazed by the size of the NUC. It’s around the size of a small tissue box but contains a more than adequate Intel i5 processor and 8Gb RAM.

When I received the NUC, it was already pre-installed with Elementary OS, and as this was my first experience using a Linux operating system, I was curious whether it was possible to use Linux as my daily driver. Below is my breakdown of the main aspects.

Operating System

Elementary OS has baked in all the basic software I needed to be productive, such as email/calendar, calculator, notepad, photo viewer, web browser etc. There’s also an AppCentre to find the additional applications required that aren’t pre-installed.

Elementary OS updates came almost daily, but the beauty was they never needed restarts and were seamlessly installed in the background, without the typical slowdown I experience in Windows before the machine is rebooted.

Browser

Much of the software these days is cloud-based. Although the default epiphany browser was adequate, I opted to install Firefox, as I have passwords and bookmarks saved in Firefox for Windows that could be easily synced to eOS. I’m also dependent on a few Firefox Add-ons, to help me work more efficiently.

Verdict

Working in Firefox was identical to Windows.

Office

I’ll start with the caveat that I’m not a heavy Office user and rely mostly on Word and Excel. Although I have an Office 365 subscription, I’m a firm supporter of open source software and have been using Libre Office with a view to switching to it permanently once my Office 365 subscription expires. I was pleasantly surprised that I could do 99% of the tasks that I perform in Word and Excel, without the cost or privacy concerns. The only (minor) issues I experienced in Libre Calc were the lack of functionality to sort by colour highlighting and some issues with the filtering data accurately. With such an active support base, I have no doubt these issues will be rectified in the future versions of Libre Office.

Verdict

Libre office is an excellent software suite that will satisfy most Microsoft Office users and I can see myself switching to it permanently in the near future.

Email

As most PC (and Mac) users would attest, one of the most valuable pieces of software is an email client. Although Microsoft Outlook isn’t perfect, it’s recognised as the de-facto email client standard. There are many email clients for Elementary OS, such as the default client, Thunderbird and Evolution to name a few.

Verdict

Finding an email client that worked as well as Outlook proved challenging. Thunderbird was the closest functionality-wise, but was time-consuming to configure to behave like Outlook.

Out of habit, I use Microsoft/IMAP/Google email and after trying the default email client, I quickly realised it couldn’t sync my Microsoft calendar. I then installed Thunderbird, which worked great, but was complex to configure and felt somewhat dated. I then tried Evolution, which feels modern and fresh, but my Microsoft tasks didn’t sync correctly, so I switched back to Thunderbird.

Applications

As alluded to earlier, most of the software I depend upon is cloud based. I do use Toggl for time tracking as well as a handful of other proprietary apps.

Verdict

All apps that I regularly use have Linux versions, and they performed well on Elementary OS.

Conclusion

In summary, using Elementary OS as my daily driver for a month was breath taking! I feel that I was significantly more productive, as the operating system stayed out of my way and just let me work! There were very minimal distractions from the operating system and the UI was just breathtaking and clean. The only downsides are some of the applications weren’t as robust as Windows, presumably because there is a smaller user base.

Could I use Linux as my daily driver? The answer is a resounding yes! Despite the time taking to setup and configure apps to the way I like them was the only challenge. Once everything was up and running, Elementary OS was a pleasure to use.

Will my next machine be Linux? The jury is still out. Although using Elementary OS has been a pleasant experience, there must be a compelling reason to switch. It would likely come down to cost/benefit for me. If a NUC running elementary OS is significantly cheaper than a Windows PC, then indeed I would switch.

4 comments

  1. ryan

    Its ok for someone that doesnt know linux yet, but after a month of using Elementary I would imagine most users would want to learn something that isnt so shackled in its usage.

  2. Matthias

    Give Mailspring (mailclient) a try! I use it in combination with the elementary os calendar and it works very well

  3. David

    Thanks, Ryan. What do you recommend?

  4. David

    Thanks, Matthias. Will give it a try!

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