Minimalist Alternatives to Popular Applications
This blog post will go through some minimalist alternatives to popular applications. Most or all application mentionned here as alternatives run on linux. Let's start!
Calendar Applications/Google Calendar/Outlook Calendar
Calcurse is a beatiful program to manage your appointments, note the birthdays of everyone you know and keep track of what you have to do.
Task Lists
I was using an application called TaskWarrior to keep track of my tasks. It is really good and I would recommend it to anyone that needs to track a lot of things. Nowadays, I simply use a text file called todo.txt which I edit in neovim. I use the same kind of headers I use for this blog, which you can create using: 80i-<Esc> which inserts 80 times the "-" character. Overall the text file solution is much simpler and portable, but comes at the cost of less features. If you need to keep a specific order in the tasks you do and need priority management, I would suggest using TaskWarrior. Otherwise, a text file is just fine.
Drawing Graphs
For graphs, I use graphviz, which is a collection of different programs that create slightly different graphs depending on your needs. To use it, you create a text file describing the elements of your graph, then use one of the programs to convert that text file into an image. Here's an example of a simplified graph I would use at school: graph Exercise2 { edge [len = 3]; graph [overlap = false]; /* Objects */ advertiser [shape=box,label="Advertiser"]; product [shape=box,label="Product"]; advertiser -- product; } To convert it to a (postscript) image: neato -Tps entity_model.gv -o Of course, it works just fine to create a .png: neato -Tpng entity_model.gv -o entity_model.png
Music Player/Spotify
I download all my music, usually from the artist's bandcamp if there's a download option. There's a lot of different options for music players, but I use mpd+mpc on my desktop and cmus on my laptop. I don't know which one I prefer, but they got the job done: They play music and I'm not dependant on an external service.
Video Player/Youtube
I use a combination of newsboat (a RSS/news reader), youtube-dl (downloads videos from youtube) and mpv OR mplayer (video players). newsboat is used instead of youtube's subscription system or interface since it prevents me from seeing the recommended section and staying on the platform for wayyyy too long. Here's an example of the ~/.newsboat/urls file I use:<channel_id>
I use postfix + dovecot + spamassassin on a scaleway vps as a mailserver. I use neomutt as my mail client. (I intend to try aerc soon.) I would suggest using Luke Smith's mutt wizard program to set things up for you more easily.
Powerpoints/Microsoft Office
I don't actually have to create powerpoints, but if I did I would use suckless' sent program. You can find it on
My needs for spreadsheets is pretty low now that I'm mostly using plain text files instead. The rare times I do need one, I will use sc-im for simple usages or libreoffice's calc for complex usages involving graphs. I should learn gnuplot soon *thinking*.
Image Viewer
If using a windows manager: sxiv If not: fbv (a framebuffer image viewer)
Pdf Reader
If using a windows manager: zathura If not: fbpdf
Text Editor/Code Editor/VS Code/IntelliJ
neovim all the way. Sorry emacs users ;_;
Password Manager/KeepassX
For a password manager with a graphical interface, KeepassX does the job very well. Recently I switched to an application called pash, written by Dylan Araps. It is very to use and runs in the terminal.
Terminal Emulator
Suckless Terminal (st). Available on I only use the alpha patch to see my desktop background.
Disk Space Explorer
ncdu exploring a lot of different folders, du -sh (ships with linux) to get the size of some specific folders.
Window Manager
dwm on my desktop. Also available on the suckless website. :> On my desktop, I decided that I wanted a really minimal install, so I went for a framebuffer-based setup. I'm running tmux inside of a fbpad instance and use framebuffer applications (as listed earlier in this post) to view images/pdfs/videos.
Bookmark Manager
A text file is really all you need, to be honest. I tried spreadsheets, buku, the firefox built-in bookmark manager, but in the end nothing was as simple and efficient as a text file. Also I just stopped using bookmarks and started "scraping" websites. That is, I will download entire websites and keep a copy locally that I can browse offline (prevents getting distracted). The command I use to that effect is: wget -e robots=off -r --level=0 -nc -np <website url> For those website that it makes no sense to scrape (like news website), I will use newsboat to keep track of it.
Background Image Changer
feh --bg-scale <image.png>
If you look hard enough, there's very often a simpler way of doing the things you do. It may be harder to learn, but there will be less "hidden complexity". Complexity that is hidden from you can be both a good and a bad thing. You can be more efficient, but when things break down, you lose all ability to get meaningful work done. What happens if there is an internet outage for two days and all your work is done online? Nothing at all gets done. Even worse: if you use google drive to store all your company's work and for some reason google's storage gets destroyed (an unlikely possibility, I agree), you can say hello to bankrupcy. In the end, whatever applications you use, be sure to keep an open mind and make lots of backups in case things go sour.