Linux virgin - Setting up laptop for Scrivener/Writing only

Hello all,

I am about to purchase a second hand cheap laptop, and free myself from Microsoft’s tyrranic shackles.

I am looking for answers to some questions on how to get a linux based scrivener laptop up and running:
-Am I better off using Wine, or the Scrivener Linux beta?
-Which Linux flavour is best suited to my needs (keeping in mind that I am new to Linux, and will only be using laptop for scrivener / writing related tasks.
-What features should I look for in a second hand laptop? Any minimum memory recommandations, will installing an SSD create any linux hurdles?

Thanks in advance :slight_smile:

If you’re brand new to Linux, I’d recommend one of the easier distros. Which one you pick is a flame-fest that dates back to the early days of Linux and USENET. There are some with “live” distribution media, where you can boot and see if it works on your laptop before actually installing it. They’re a good way of getting a feel for what Linux would be like. (I started on Debian, switched to LFS, then switched to Slackware, and have briefly dabbled with Arch. I don’t know if I’d recommend that path to anyone, but back when I started it was Debian, Slackware, and SuSE. I also have some pretty specific needs that aren’t met by Ubuntu or the like.)

Some newbie friendly distros: Ubuntu, Fedora. I’ve heard good about Mint, too.

WINE vs. native: I prefer the native one although I’ve also used Scrivener on WINE. Font rendering/kerning is better under native. If you haven’t ever used WINE before, it can be tricky. (And most software repos don’t keep it up to date–“stable” is very out of date for WINE. You want to be using the dev version, since it’s improved constantly. Compiling your own isn’t that hard these days.)

Laptops: SecureBoot can still be an issue. Make sure it can be disabled. UEFI can also be tricky, but it’s less of an issue these days. RAM: more is always better, but you don’t need a ton like for Windows. I’d check out whatever laptop you’re thinking about over at They’re a great community, and are very newbie-friendly. (I believe they have a forum just for hardware.)

Oh, if you’re coming from Windows, I’m told that KDE is pretty similar to Windows. (N.B. I haven’t used windows since XP.) Kubuntu might be a good choice. (I’m talking about your window manager…that’s one notable difference to OSX or Windows–you have a choice of several for Linux.) I’ve heard a lot of good about Cinnamon or Mate, too. I used Enlightenment for years, then KDE. I recently switched to XFCE because I got bored of KDE. My SO prefers Unity/GNOME. I think he’s crazy, but it’s not my computer he’s using it on. :slight_smile:

The Windows & Linux versions are fairly similar, I’d say you’d be better of with the Linux beta.

Considering you’d be on a second hand (presumably cheaper) laptop, you’ll want a lightweight flavor. Also, since you’re new to Linux, you’ll want something pretty straight forward. Ubuntu will be straightforward, and either one of it’s derivatives, Lubuntu or Xubuntu, will be lightweight enough.
Lubuntu will feel most similar to Windows out of the box, but Xubuntu is sweeter in my opinion. Either way, both (or any others) will allow you to download the .deb file and install it without trouble.

A screen and a keyboard, a trackpad would be good to have. :stuck_out_tongue: 1GB of RAM should be enough, 2 would be good, the more the merrier. An SSD shouldn’t create any problems and would definitely help things run faster; a 60ish GB SSD should be enough (if only scrivening will happen here, you don’t need all that much space).

Get a cheap laptop and an SSD, put an Ubuntu derivative (L- or Xubuntu) on a flash drive, install the OS then Scrivener, and you’ll be golden.

Another good Linux Distribution to consider that is windows friends would be Linux Mint. It has a lot of built in tool that take the difficulties out of harder to perform tasks.

The Mate version is one of the best light weight desktops that I’ve used.

Over all if you’re looking for small, easy to use, and hard to get lost in then I believe Linux Mint is the best way to go.

Ubuntu is a solid choice, but I advise going with the base install. You will have to find the derivatives to run it on anything remotely older. I don’t even like running it on systems with four gigs of ram sometimes, Lubuntu and Xubuntu are solid though. There’s no need to fear them, I just have a personal preference for Mint because I find it easier to use.

I second Ubuntu Mate or Xubuntu, especially for older hardware or newer hardware if you want your resources working for you and not being wasted on fancy animations and effects. Choose Mate, with the “Redmond” panel layout and you’ll feel right at home.

The Ubuntu family (including Mint and Elementary) is great for newcomers becuase they’re easy to use and are well supported by the community and/or Cannonical.

Good advice here from krncnr.

Linux is very good on older/less capable hardware; certainly much better than OS X and even Windows 10. I’ve heard Windows 10 users crowing about only using 1.2GB of ram on a reboot. I laugh at their 1.2GB :laughing: . My Xubuntu and Ubuntu Mate rigs will boot in 400MB of RAM. My daily driver is a Chromebook I’ve hacked to run Linux. It has paltry specs (1.4ghz CPU, 2GB) I installed a larger SSD and in everyday tasks and writing, it’s more responsive than my Mac mini (i5, 4GB) running El Capitan.

Get yourself a hacker-friendly Chromebook like the Acer C720 or a Thinkpad X220 from ebay and slap in an SSD. Thinkpads run linux flawlessly.

You have some really good advice in this thread. Congratulations on getting off the Windows drug.

I’ve been running a similar set up to what you’re thinking of doing and have found it perfect for portable, dedicated and distraction-free writing. I’m using an 11.6" Thinkpad which has an excellent keyboard and very long battery life. Because the machine was made for schools, it is sturdy and was inexpensive.

The version of Linux I started with was Linux Mint with Cinnamon. I’m now using Linux Mint 17.2 with Mate. It is fast and stable.

The most important part of the whole kit is Scrivener for Linux.

You are in for a treat.


I’m running Lubuntu on an old Acer Aspire One netbook (1.6Ghz, 1.5 gig RAM). I tried a few different distros before settling on Lubuntu. Love Lubuntu. It’s lightweight, a clean desktop, easy to use, and copes with my tiny 8 gig SSD.

One of the really good things about Linux is that you can easily try before committing. I used to create a multiboot flash drive with a few different Linux distros until I settled on Lubuntu. It was then a simple matter to just install my selection from the flash drive.

When the netbooks first came out I bought my Acer machine running a cut down version of Linpus Linux. Didn’t like that much but was sooo excited to be able to buy a machine that started off as a Linux machine out of the box. I’m no Linux expert but I do love it and I love Scrivener in the Linux beta (all hail to the makers!)