Linux for college

Hey guys,

I recently made the switch to Linux as my main OS and I haven’t used it much in the real world for things other than consuming media and my own day to day use ( programming and learning mostly). A bit nervous about using it in a college environment being somewhat of a new Linux user ( and new to college classes). I made the switch about a month ago to Linux full time and have used it for everything except for school since April. Is there anything to worry about or am I just over thinking it being nervous about school in general.

Also I am currently an Arch user, I have had a few issues with stability due to user errors and a few that were hardware issues that I have fixed. I feel comfortable with Arch for the most part, but I am no guru. I am considering switching to something more stable like Fedora, Debian or a Ubuntu flavor. Would this be a good idea or am i once again over thinking it.

I know that I am not the first person to use Linux in college, but just looking to make the college experience as smooth as I can and look out for my privacy and freedom. I have searched online for people with similar situations, but it seems to be mixed. Most people seem to switch to Linux sometime during college and know there work load before switching.

Thanks in advance for suggestions, tips or opinions.

Surprisingly enough, I was first introduced to Arch in college. I have been using Debian full time for 5 years prior. During the great schism that helped start the Ubuntu community in earnest, debian became broken. I then used arch for a year and then went back to debian once they got their house in order. It is the universal OS.

I use Debian Unstable as my current Daily and Arch as my gaming/bleeding edge/testing system.

If arch is not stable enough for you, I would recommend debian testing or unstable. Unstable is actually more stable than not and not at bleeding edge as arch


This is my experience, and my experience only. I am not saying you will experience this or telling you what to do or how to live.

I had professors that required .docx, which was MS Office 2010/2013/2016. When I wrote a couple of things in LibreOffice, the formatting was messed up a couple of times to be embarrassing, but not detrimental to my grade.

With that said, I was told to use Microsoft Office. EVERY school I’ve been to, 1 Community College, 2 Universities, and 1 State College, offered a Dream Spark registration that gave a license of Office for 4 years. There are online versions of Office that are adequate for doing work if you’re 100% opposed to Windows.

If your professor requires Office, just use it. Go on Reddit and bitch about it, fine, but use it, it will save you headaches. If your professor tells you to use Visual Studio, then make a Windows VM or something and use Visual Studio. It is better to use “muh proprietary” than get a failing grade because gcc hates vsc++ or vice versa.

If you take a class that uses Excel, do not use LibreOffice Calc, use Excel. I don’t care what success story you’ve read or who told you what works with what, it doesn’t. I have been playing catch up and entering data all over again because some asshole on Reddit told me this Macro worked or VLookups were the same, etc.

Good luck. Linux is nice, but not when it costs you your GPA, a good grade on a project, or a potential client.


I will look into Debian testing and unstable, I use Arch because i like the bleeding edge until now it was never a problem because I just used it as a hobby, but now looking at using it for important work I trust Arch, but not myself to maintain it properly. I may just read lots about properly maintaining Arch and best practices and stick with it if I feel comfortable when I start classes.

This is one of my larger concerns, I have seen this lots before asking this question on here, the post where from 2009, so I thought things may have changed or have gotten better.

I Have the same experience so far, the last college was all online classes at a local college and they gave me office 365 and 2016 for free. I may look into 365 as an online option did not think of that.

I see your point very clearly, May dual boot so that I can use Linux when it isn’t a issues and windows when must. After reading this and thinking about it, Windows and Linux are both just tools, why not take advantage of both and get the benefits of each, I haven’t had any issues dual booting and I was for nearly 7 months may just go back to that.

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Things are always changing, so you never know. I would try testing it. Write an essay in LibreOffice, save it as docx and open it in Word on one of the lab computers. Do everything you can think of, add headers and footers, bullet points, styling, headings, sub-headings, etc. See if it crosses over with Word. If not, at least you know.

The O365 version has saved by butt more than once lol. It’s basically the Microsoft version of Google Docs. It’s a bit limited, compared to the normal Office suite, but it does the job.

I’ve done dual booting, Linux full time with Windows VM, and Windows full time with Linux VMs. Due to some hiccups as of late, I am back to being Windows (and OS X, shhhh!) full time with 10+ VMs lol.

“Windows and Linux are both just tools…” – Very, very powerful statement. If more people focused on that mentality over distro/platform wars, we’d all be getting a lot more work done. I understand the privacy concerns, I really do. Do not take this as me taking a dig at you or anything like that. But, I got over it. I told a friend, if the CIA is looking at getting into your HDD, you’ve got a lot more to worry about than Windows telemetry. He’s an extreme case, and that makes me sound like a 4th Amendment push over (I’m not), but at the end of the day, he still used Google, Ubuntu, Jet Brains products, Atom, VS Code, Steam, Firefox, Chrome, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter… All of which have the same telemetry features as Windows 10.

Maybe that makes me a hypocrite, I don’t know. But you hit the screw on the head with “Windows and Linux are both just tools” – Never forget that! It will serve you well. Learn how to do great work on ANY platform and you will be forever employable.

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I was always able to get away with Google Docs if I had a professor require me to use the proprietary format. It OpenOffice/LibreOffice or Google Docs did not cut it, I would write up the paper on my machine and then do the final edit at the school library. I have been MS Windows free since 2001. College between 2005 and 2015.


Office runs in the cloud so it doesn’t matter which platform you use, problems may arise when there’s certain programs that runs locally and built just for Windows systems.

The MS Office issue is very real as I discovered when I suddenly found myself looking for employment after a restructuring and subsequently lost my company provided access to Office 365.

Free alternatives just don’t cut it for things like submitting resumes.

Fortunately most students have access to free or discounted Office 365 accounts so you should at least have easy access to the web versions.

Worst case, I would run a VM for Office at least.

You could also use Lotus Notes and Corel software. Those are still things. Product looks just as good as Office or Adobe Suite,

But if you can get Windows for free or super cheap through school or work, then setup a VM. Better that you have that security.


Will do, getting lazy from winter break, why would i not just test it instead of asking others? Should have thought about that or researched it more.

I have used it a few times for papers forgot to install office one semester at my last college it has saved my butt too. (did not have time for install or download, accidentally did wrong prompt)

I have little going experience with the VM route, may try it, but laptop is a i7-7500U not sure how well it would run. Very little experience using VMs for more than just small projects.

See this is kind of where I am at where I want to fully dive in supporting free software, but It seems to be nearly impossible to do it in college.

That may be an option too, Google Docs could work well did not think about it. I will see what happens when I start classes for all I know all my profs could be Linux friendly tho i doubt it.

Office 365? If so i am strongly considering that.

Thanks for that if it is an issues for more than one person recently i would rather not take the chance of lowering my GPA if i want I can move to a fully free GNU/Linux after college.

I should be able to get windows for free or cheap at school. I need to look into VM’s i have little experience with them

Oh man, that is plenty! In Fedora 27 and Ubuntu 18.04 I have a similar, but older processor in my laptop. I would delegate 4GB of RAM and 2 processor cores to a Windows/Linux VM and that would do good for Node/PHP development, Hyper-V controllers, and malware sandbox.

Check out VirtualBox or VMware Player and see how Windows 10 runs on 4GB of RAM and 2 cores.

I love VMs for doing a “test drive”, especially if you have a large enough disk space or live environments.

If KVM is too daunting ( can be for first timers), I would recommend Sun/Oracle’s Virtual Box. Easy to set up and depending on the version of MS Windows, you can run in seamless mode. The big thing being that Virtual Box has a nice GUI. You would need to install Virt Manager for KVM/QEMU

Alright that is what I wanted to hear. I will play with it a bit tonight, I have a 240Gb ssd and a 480Gb usb 3 SSD. I am going to see if i can get it working first.

I have used Virtual box on windows when i first started to switch to Linux, so going to stick to that for now. More than likely windows 10 only because i am guessing that is what my school will have cheapest or at least the most obtainable for me.

It’s sad but true, I prefer using open source software, but the majority of teachers, even in “computer savy” schools will require MS office assignments, even if they require you to purchase the proper licensing.

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I can speak from my experience here in the UK, both in a Computer Science department, and a slightly less tech-savvy Engineering Mathematics department.

In my CS undergrad, apart from the first year using the windows lab for Assembly and Python tutorials, we spent our degrees using the linux lab machines. Given that these systems were provided, it was expected that we familiarized ourselves enough with them, and that we ensured that our projects ran on these systems, as a way to be fair to all students. It meant that we could work on our projects in uni on the “target” platform, and any alterations we made at home for our assignments could still be tested in the labs. Of course, if you’re not doing CS or a related degree, then this is less applicable, but the university tends to give requirements for how your assignment must be formatted. Usually we were fine with PDFs, and most should be fine with that too. Our CS department was keen on LaTeX so PDFs were expected, but you could just export your word document to PDF and all would be well.

Similarly in the Engineering Mathematics department, LaTeX is expected and actually taught in first-year, so most hand-ins were expecting either PDFs or uploaded online for things like MATLAB, Python etc.

LibreOffice will be compatible enough to read Microsoft office documents and make changes, but as another user has said, formatting can be a problem.

The most important thing is you make use of the facilities provided at your university/college, and ensure that you are using a service like Google Docs or Dropbox to back up your work, and also so that you can access it on campus when needed.


I don’t know if it’s 365 or what, but if I must use MS office, the email provider I use,, offers the office programs as a “side product”.
It’s 1 buck per month for the cheapest subscription but a nice feature to have if needed.

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As some have already said, the faffing about required to use Linux in college may indeed be exceedingly superfluous and harmful to your grades. The dual booting or VM ideas may be feasible, but in the end you’re only there for a few years and then you’re free to use whatever software you want.


Yeah office may be what i have to go with.

That is a good point that has not been brought up yet, need to remember to do that. For the rest of what you said I have used LaTeX before so I should be alright with that and I will find out tomorrow more about how the colleges labs work and i will ask lots of questions on them.

Yeah that seems to be what it comes down to, I more than likely will just have to use windows not a big deal, more or less just wanted to see how likely i could just use Linux since i just prefer it, but it is not a massive deal and like you said it is only a few years so meh who cares it will be fine. I may dual boot Linux for person stuff like Photo editing and person projects and Windows for school and what not.


Dude, go for it! Run Linux on the metal; just know where the library, and the campus computer lab that stays open late are on campus. Push your code to github or wherever, and back your stuff up.

Typically they will also accept pdf of the papers.

If the *.docx or other x format are required then one can use WPS office, as it will be able to work with these formats on linux.